Last year, Michelle Lee Urbano and her husband Ray Wright began raising bees in their backyard in Milton as a project with their son Sebastian.
Urbano had tended hives 25 years ago on a Peace Corps mission in Jamaica and was glad to work with Sebastian raising bees in a wooden hive in their backyard on Hawthorn Road.
This summer, after leaving her longtime position with the Boston Public Health Commission, Urbano dedicated herself to helping Sebastian with his "Milton's Billion Backyard Bee Project."
Sebastian, 9 years old, is going into fourth grade at Glover Elementary School. He wants to start a hive at his school, add two more on his street and connect with at least 20 additional backyard hives throughout Milton to help build up a population of bees threatened by Colony Collapse Disorder.
Using a top-bar hive, a relatively rare type used in non-traditional settings, the family has raised thousands of bees over the last two seasons. They have produced honey at times, and have seen it eaten by the bees.
The billion – or perhaps million depending on logistics – bee project will have several phases. First is starting the count. Urbano and her husband are working on developing a method for estimating the number of bees in Milton, and counting them as the project grows.
Alongside that will be a mentoring project, matching senior beekeepers with beginners, and a wider community education aspect, to inform people about the benefits of bees and how they are threatened by pesticides.