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Former Developer Seeks To Build Buzz For Bees

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Jeff Miller, director and president of D.C. Honeybees, takes stock of the honeycomb in  one of the hives.
Jessica Gould
Jeff Miller, director and president of D.C. Honeybees, takes stock of the honeycomb in one of the hives.

"I've worked with some of the largest developers here building mixed use and high rise condominium apartment complexes in the city," he says.

That was a few years ago. Then the commercial lending market took a big hit, and Miller's work dried up.

"I am a very engaged person and some would describe that as Type A. To have less to do was troubling for me," he says.

So the Type A Miller turned to bees. He installed a hive at his home in Georgetown, studied bees' impact on agriculture, and learned about the challenges they face.

"Colony collapse disorder remains a mysterious malady where bees abscond or just leave the hive mysteriously never to return," he says.

Scientists think a parasite or pathogen may be killing the bees. But no one knows for sure. So Miller is on a mission.

Miller is the founder of D.C. Honeybees, a nonprofit dedicated to populating bee hives across the city. He's already installed 25 hives, including two at Walker Jones Education Campus in Mount Vernon Triangle.

The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District, which has two of Miller's hives on its roof, donated the hives to the urban farm at Walker Jones. Carlos Colbey, who is in pre-k at the school, was visiting the bees as part of his program one morning this week.

"They eat honey and they give us honey," he says. "But they also sting."

Carlos is right: Miller says he gets stung once or twice for every hive he installs.

But the stings don't bother him much. The recent changes in his life have stung a lot more, he says.

"Going from being a producer of multimillion dollar projects to helping people set up a couple hundred dollar hive has brought me and my family some significant humility," he says.

And yet, Miller says his new calling isn't so different from his old one.

"Populating the city with humans," he says, "and populating the city with honeybees."

Miller would like to see more hives on city rooftops, but D.C. law is a little unclear on where hives are allowed. So, for now, he's just minding his beeswax.

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