Worker Bee | Midwest Living

Worker Bee

An Indianapolis beekeeper fights for honeybees.

Since 2012, Kate Franzman has lobbied on the honeybee’s behalf by installing beehives around Indianapolis and teaching students about their plight through her group, Bee Public. After winning a grant from SustainIndy, she (with Earth Charter Indiana) created Save the Bees Indiana to extend her outreach and set up hives in schools.

First off, aren’t you worried about getting stung?

It is a myth that honeybees sting a lot. They are incredibly gentle. When I do a presentation, one of the first slides is me holding a frame covered in thousands of bees close to my face. They recognize my scent, and bees and wasps learn to recognize faces. You can build a relationship with bees. Although they only live three to four weeks, the hive is one organism; they pass information along and become noticeably OK with a person.

Photo courtesy of

Why are you putting hives at schools and in public places?

The hives are strategically placed in high-traffic areas (along the Monon Trail and others) because I realized that if I put hives along a busy street it was impacting more people. People see a hive in a public place and realize they didn’t get stung. They become more curious and less afraid. I have placed beehives at 6 Indianapolis schools and we are currently exhibiting an art show of bee sculptures made by 4th and 5th gradersThe kids just get it. I see the light bulbs. I get notes promising to help bees. 

Photo courtesy of Joe Dudeck

How else are you helping?

I am working with the City Council and the Department of Public Works to discontinue the use of neonicotinoid insecticides because it is systemic—in the seed and staying in the plant. It’s used to treat emerald ash borer, but pesticides can’t differentiate between good and bad bugs. I want us to be a city that doesn’t want to use pesticides. On Earth Day 2016, Mayor Joe Hogsett declared "Indianapolis: A Bee-Friendly City Day. " So we're making some headway.

Is this your passion?

Passion is the wrong word. My passion crossed over into a feeling of obligation. I have to do it because no one else is and it’s important. I feel not only passion but also frustration and sadness.

Why is it an obligation?

Because it's so incredibly important to our survival. We rely on bees for a third of our food supply—our fruits and vegetables. But also the alfalfa for cows we eat, and the cotton for the clothes we wear.

What is your dream?

The thing I want people to know is that the most important thing you can do is plant flowers for more food for pollinators. It helps bees, hummingbirds, bats, butterflies. It is about keeping the ecosystem balanced.

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