DowntownDC Buzzing With New Urban Beehives at 650 Mass Ave

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

By Rachel Rose Hartman

DowntownDC gained 20,000 new tenants this week.

Beekeeper Jeff Miller of DC Honeybees on Monday installed two beehives on the roof of the Brookfield Office Properties' building at 650 Massachusetts Avenue NW in Downtown. 

After setting up their new wood habitats overlooking 6th Street and filling them with sugar solution for sustenance and pollen for protein, Miller tipped the carrying containers over as 20,000 bees streamed into their new homes. 

Each hive contains 10,000 live bees with one queen bee between them. Miller provides his beekeeping services to buildings and schools as part of a larger effort to promote beekeeping in the city to help sustain the global honeybee population, which has been under threat due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Low honeybee bee populations negatively impact our ecosystem, agriculture and other necessary systems for life. 

"Urban beekeeping directly supports DowntownDC's health communities initiative, and is an exciting and fun way to promote sustainability," said BID Executive Director Richard H. Bradley. "Plus, it gets people buzzing," he laughed. 

Bradley added that he hopes Brookfield Office Properties' willingness to take part in urban beekeeping encourages other property managers to do the same. The DowntownDC BID, in cooperation with Miller, is actively promoting an initiative to encourage beekeeping in Downtown.

Miller will return to feed the bees (which come from Jj's Honey in Patterson, Georgia) every two weeks as they begin to leave the hives to pollinate. Miller said the bees will travel 3-5 miles from their hive, so these specimens might take a trip to the National Mall, a local flower box or other grassy area in Downtown.

When the bees start producing honey next spring, Miller will draw out the comb at the beginning of summer to harvest it. Each hive can eventually produce 100 pounds of honey a year. 

Urban beekeeping may seem odd, but the conditions actually make for positive bee pollination. Rooftops are ideal locations, Miller said, and unlike farming areas dominated by cash crops such as corn which don't feed bees, urban settings, especially the District, have significant foraging opportunities to support bee life. The District's long and diverse growing season helps build strong and productive colonies, according to Miller. 

Brookfield and its building, 650 Mass, are the first to participate in the DowntownDC BID's beekeeping initiative. "We are very excited to be at the forefront as part of our bigger sustainability initiatives and hope to grow the program to our other D.C. buildings," said Jackie Duke, Brookfield Vice President for the D.C. region.

National Public Radio (NPR) received wide attention last fall for having Miller install bees on the green roof of their new building at 1111 North Capitol Street and Miller works with numerous D.C. schools, residents and business owners to create urban hives.

The cities of Chicago and London have also extensively promoted urban beekeeping. 

For more information on DC Honeybees, please visit their website or contact Miller at