Our History and Mission

The Honeybee Conservancy was founded in 2009 by Guillermo Fernandez in response to the news that bees across the globe were in crisis. In fall of 2020, The Honeybee Conservancy relaunched as The Bee Conservancy to better capture our work protecting all bees and securing environmental and food justice through education, research, habitat creation, and advocacy.

As a child immigrant from Cuba, Guillermo grew up in a crowded, multi-ethnic urban area where one-third of the community lived in poverty. His neighborhood, like so many others, was a food desert; fresh fruit and vegetables were near impossible to find, supermarkets stocked mostly processed food, and local restaurants were all fast food chains. There was little-to-no green space, just concrete as far as the eye could see, and the community suffered from rampant health issues that were the result of poor nutrition and degraded environment.  

Decades later, Guillermo started The Honeybee Conservancy for two reasons. First, he wanted to help save the bees, who pollinate 1 in 3 bites of food we eat and are vital to healthy ecology. Second, he hoped to find ways to empower underserved communities like the one he grew up in to produce healthy food and build green spaces. 

Our initiatives, such as our flagship program Sponsor-a-Hive, have served hundreds of thousands of people across the United States, and protected an estimated 10 million bees to date.

Key Milestones

  • Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) first reported, bringing the plight of honeybees to the world’s attention. 
  • An Inconvenient Truth, featuring former United States Vice President Al Gore, is released to raise international awareness of global warming.
  • U.S. farmers told a U.S. House Agriculture subcommittee that the bee crisis could result in up to a ten-fold increase in food prices. 
  • The American Museum of Natural History determines there are more than 19,200 described bee species – this outnumbers mammal and bird species combined. This is the first global accounting of bee species in over a hundred years, and adds 2,000 species to the list (an increase of 11%).
  • A United Nations report, “How to Feed the World in 2050”, shares that globally, 815 million people are hungry today; an additional 2 billion people are expected to be undernourished by 20501.  In order to feed this growing population, food production must increase 70%.
  • Catalyzed by the reports of CCD and the belief that individual beekeepers can help declining honeybee populations, Guillermo began urban beekeeping training and founded The Honeybee Conservancy as a project of the nonprofit Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs.
  • THBC hosts a screening of Vanishing of the Bees. 

 

  • Urban beekeeping legalized in New York City in March of 2010.
  • Guillermo completes urban beekeeping training and searches for an apiary location. He’s rejected by many gardens across the densely populated city. Eventually, The Battery Conservancy, now known as The Battery, welcomes him to keep beehives at their location at the southern tip of Manhattan.
  • THBC partners with The Art Institute of NYC to create a series of PSAs to raise awareness about the plight of bees.
  • THBC’s first Bee Sanctuary opens at The Battery.  
  • Silence of the Bees (March 2011) is a part of PBS’ groundbreaking Nature television series, exploring Colony Collapse Disorder and bringing supplementary bee lesson plans into the classroom.  
  • The American Museum of Natural History announces the discovery of eleven new species of bees, including four from New York City and its suburbs. 
  • THBC’s Bee Sanctuary at the Cathedral St. John the Divine opens with a ‘Blessing of the Bees’ from the Bishop.
  • Hurricane Sandy sweeps away two beehives at The Battery.
  • THBC hosts the NYC screening of More than Honey, a 2012 documentary that examines the relationship between humans and bees, and explores the possible causes of CCD.
  • THBC participates in educational events around NYC including Harvest Fest at The Battery.
  • Research is released that shows that climate change is causing habitat loss across North America and Europe as bumblebees fail to migrate to cooler areas and establish new hives.
  • Our flagship program, Sponsor-a-Hive launches and places 15 honeybee hives in community gardens, school gardens, and urban farms across 10 states. 
  • The United States Department of Agriculture states that the honeybee die-off threatens nearly 100 commercial crops worth $15 billion.
  • Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are officially added to the U.S. endangered species list for federal protection. 
  • Sponsor-a-Hive begins distributing native bee houses alongside honeybee hives. 
  • THBC delivers its 100th native bee home or honey bee hive.
  • U.S. puts a North American bee on the endangered species list for the first time: the rusty patched bumble bee.
  • A report by the Center for Biological Diversity shows that of the 4,000+ known species of native North American and Hawaiian bees, over half the species with available data are declining, and 1 in 4 is at growing risk of extinction. 
  • The United Nations proclaims May 20 as World Bee Day. 
  • The Bee Sanctuary at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City opens.
  • TBC produces Abuzz! News From The Hive, a fun, educational magazine that teaches children about environmental stewardship and the lives of bees. The Abuzz! Educator’s Guide accompanies it.
  • New York Times published “The New York Times Magazine publishes The Insect Apocalypse is Here, which details the largely unnoticed collapse of bee and other insect populations worldwide.  
  • THBC’s Bee Sanctuary on Governors Island opens.
  • THBC delivers its 200th native bee home or honey bee hive.
  • THBC gifts the Empire State Building beehive, designed by COOKFOX Architects, to HKP in honor of THBC’s 10-Year Anniversary.
  • Bee Sanctuaries open at the Queens Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and Staten Island Zoo.
  • THBC beekeepers begin managing the hives at International Relief Committee’s New Roots Community Farm in the South Bronx.
  • THBC’s Beekeeping Apprenticeship, a 15-week training program, launches at our training apiary at the Queens Zoo.  
  • BeeBlitz, a citizen science event that invites people to photograph pollinators in public green spaces and share them to the iNaturalist app to provide data to global scientists. 
  • THBC appears on Bravo’s smash hit Project Runway’s “What Do You Care About” episode, as the inspiration for designer Garo Sparo’s dress and t-shirt creations. 
  • THBC and Earth Matter host Lavender Festival on Governors Island at NYC’s only lavender garden.
  • THBC’s team grows with the addition of Rebecca Louie as Managing Director.  
  • THBC opens a Bee Sanctuary at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic impacts three apiaries, as location hours are severely restricted and beekeepers refrain from using public transportation: Central Park Zoo, Governors Island, Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project (opening postponed)
  • Google partners with The Honeybee Conservancy to develop a Google Doodle game about the humble honeybee. 
  • The Honeybee Conservancy relaunches as The Bee Conservancy in October to better capture our work and mission to protect all bee species.
  • Eataly NYC launches a honey-themed rooftop restaurant Serra D’Autunno and donates proceeds to The Bee Conservancy.