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The Bee Collective

#TraditionsTuesday: The Bee Collective

A photo of Luke Howard holding a leaf cutter bee. Photo by Rachel Meirling.Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest and all the hard work that went in to growing our food throughout the year. It’s also a time to celebrate our community. But have you thanked one of the hardest working and most community-minded forces behind the harvest? Have you thanked a bee lately?

Bees and other pollinators are an integral part of our food supply chain, and the Bee Collective is working to make Columbus a pollinator sanctuary. The Collective also happens to be a productive collaborator with artists throughout the Central Ohio region. From murals to merch to comedy shows, the Bee Collective loves to welcome artists to its hive of like-minded creatives.

Bee Collective founder Luke Howard was immediately drawn to the pollinators upon his graduation from the Ohio State University's Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability program. He then turned to artists, creatives, and communicators to help him spread the word. Howard isn’t just interested in the serious business of helping preserve the food chain, but also in the cross-pollination of ideas. Artists, he says, are the communicators he needs to help get the word out and encourage open minds toward the bees and the Collective’s Wildspots.

A wildspot, according to the Collective, is “an urban plot where the natural ecosystem and biodiversity are encouraged and celebrated.” There are more than 20 of these natural sanctuaries across Columbus, and the number is growing. Also growing is the way the Bee Collective collaborates. They just launched a small-batch beer with local brewery Land Grant Brewing called HopBee, which utilizes some of the honey harvested from the Collective's wildspots.

ees and other pollinators are an integral part of our food supply chain, and the Bee Collective is working to make Columbus a pollinator sanctuary. Photo by Marcy Harris Ortiz.Beekeeping itself is both an art and a science, and it is steeped in folklore and tradition. Bees are artists, Howard explains, evident in how they build gloriously geometric structures, dance to share information with one another, and subsist by helping things grow and spread. 

One of Howard's favorite traditions is “the telling of the bees,” a ceremony held by a family after a beekeeper has died or is no longer able to care for the hive. The family visits the hive and formally tells the bees of this seismic change in their world. Oftentimes, the hive is actually turned to face a new direction, alerting the bees that their human support system is reorienting. The family then introduces the bees to their new caretaker. This poetic ceremony is emblematic of Howard's fascination with the bees and what he calls our mutual “morbid intimacy” with them: They need our protection, and we need them to survive. After all, Flower + Bee = Food.       

Take up the #TraditionTuesday:

EXPAND: Visit to learn more about the Collective, Luke Howard, and the bees. The Bee Collective occasionally offers classes and experiences, so keep an eye out for those in the spring.

EXPERIENCE: If you are in Columbus, you can visit the wildspots, and even become a caretaker to one yourself. You can find the list here: Not in Columbus? You can still help the pollinators in your area! 

EXPLORE:  Learn more about the bees in Ohio and how you can get involved by visiting the Ohio Beekeepers Association ( and the Ohio State University’s Bee Lab online at

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Amy Ruggaber, Ohio Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Contractor
Featured photo by Rachel Meiring 

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