It’s a Good Time To Be a Bee at 3M
May 16, 2019

With new bee hives going up at 3M’s global headquarters, new groundskeeping tactics being used to promote pollinators, and wildflower seeds being distributed to 3M employees in Central Europe, 3M is buzzing with bee-friendly activity.

“Pollinators are critical to our ecosystem and to maintaining our food supply,” said Mandy Hulke, business development specialist at 3M’s corporate headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota. “Having honeybees on campus enables us to educate 3M employees on the issues pollinators are facing.”

Bees at 3M

Employees have been able to see bees boarding on campus for four years, thanks to a growing apiary tucked behind the 3M Customer Innovation Center as part of a partnership with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad.

This spring, another two hives have been added to a green roof on campus after 3M Facilities and Services decided to get in on the beekeeping game.

It’s part of a larger movement Facilities has undertaken to transform greenspaces and gardens at 3M’s headquarters into a welcoming landscape for pollinators. That includes putting in native flora, using mechanical weed control instead of chemical and making sure bees have access to housing.

“Over the last five to six years, we’ve been doing away with annuals and putting in a lot more pollinator-friendly plants,” said Kari Samuel, a supervisor with 3M Facilities.


Replanting for pollinators

That’s obvious in a 4.5-acre garden fronting 3M’s main headquarters building, where once-prominent grass-like sedges have been removed, replaced by patches of swamp milkweed, summer beauty allium and liatris. It’s the largest continuous perennial garden north of Chicago, Kari said.

Justin Watkins, a groundskeeper at 3M, knows it’s a big garden. His team is responsible for maintaining it and are trying to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. They’ve done away with insecticides and do all they can to avoid herbicides, including mechanical over chemical weeding.

“We use Dutch hoes. They have longer handles so you don’t have to bend over as much and you can cover a lot more ground,” he said.

He’ll also leave plant stem stubble a little longer in the fall so native, solitary bees have a place to nest over the winter. While they don’t form colonies or make honey, the native bees are still important pollinators.

And if stems aren’t up to their liking, the native bees have another housing option in the garden: bee boxes. The small wooden boxes are stuffed with hollow sticks and set amongst the native plants. The bees use the cavities in the sticks as nests. The boxes were brought to campus by local nonprofit Bee Kind Minnesota, whose goal is to provide sustainable homes for the region’s declining native bee population.

Act local, bee global

The bee bug has caught on elsewhere in 3M, with hives going up at plants in Ohio and Oklahoma, and employees in Central Europe receiving wildflower seeds in mid-April for planting in their home gardens.

“The goal was to grow employee engagement and at the same time do something good for nature,” said project organizer Liesbeth Clemens, a marketing communications manager based in the Netherlands. “The employees were very enthusiastic about it.”

They’re enthusiastic back in Maplewood, too, with a honey sale from 3M’s bees netting more than $5,000. The money will go to a local organic urban farm which is planning to add bee hives this summer.

“These small changes can add up,” said Mandy. “They all help to make a larger positive impact on the pollinator community.”

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