Posted January 20, 2017
by Hilary

Kate Franzman of Bee Public

I’m back with another inspiring beekeeper! Kate Franzman of Bee Public. Kate is fighting for bees and educating along the way. Read on to find out more about her!

  • Tell us about yourself. Where do you live? How did you get into beekeeping?

  • I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Despite the reputation Indiana may have for being behind the times, Indianapolis is fairly progressive. Farm-to-table, urban farming, urban homesteading, etc. became the norm here I’d say five or six years ago. Before that, I followed blogs about rooftop beekeepers in NYC and fantasized about doing that here. The next year, backyard chickens became a huge thing here and I lamented one day at lunch, “Why doesn’t anyone do that with bees? We really *need* them, and they’re in trouble. That’s where the idea for Bee Public was born and I started keeping bees the following spring.
What kind of programs are you running at Bee Public?
Youth education is where I spend most of my energy. I visit classrooms and sometimes host visits to one of the urban farms where I have a hive to talk about why bees are important, why they’re in trouble, and what we can do to help. It helps to ease kids’ fears of being stung when they see how gentle honeybees can be. Sometimes we make bee art. I also try to make the connection between pollinators and food. I’ve had a lot of great partnerships over the years including Earth Charter Indiana, which does a lot of youth education on climate change, and a local restaurant group that sources locally and runs an urban farm. I also do beekeeping classes for adults.
  • How many hives do you manage? How many apiary sites?

  • This past year I had four hives at schools and four at urban farms. I choose my hive placement strategically- I want them to be seen by as many people as possible. (Hence the “Public” in Bee Public).
  • How do you keep track of your hives? Do you take notes?

  • I’m generally checking on all the hives myself and tend to keep it all up in my head. Note-taking will be my New Year’s Resolution.

Kate Franzman of Bee Public


  • What’s the best part of beekeeping?

  •  I could sit and watch them for hours, just coming and going and minding their own business. Encountering them buzzing from flower to flower is also magical. Bees are just magical and we often take them for granted.
  • What’s the worst part of beekeeping?

  • Sometimes you just don’t know why your hive didn’t survive, and a lot of times it’s out of your control. It’s also hard to hear people, often well-meaning, intelligent people say things like “I kill a bee whenever I see it.” It breaks my heart.
  • All new beekeepers make mistakes, can you share one you made when you were a beginner?

  • I was so curious and enthusiastic my first season of beekeeping. I opened up the hive way too often. The bees didn’t take well to it and the hive remained weak and eventually got robbed out by a neighboring hive.
  • Tell us about something funny/interesting/crazy that has happened to you since you became a beekeeper.

  •  My first season beekeeping, I was visited by multiple swarms. The most remarkable came when I was working on the urban farm, washing lettuce, and in the distance I saw what looked like a giant cloud of gnats hovering over the farm. As it got closer, I realized it was a swarm of bees – I’d never seen so many in the air at once. The cloud converged and landed on the tree right next to me. I stood beneath it and they hummed and I could feel the breeze from their wings. Over the course of maybe 10 minutes, the swarm condensed to the size of maybe a watermelon. Incredible. We ended up catching that swarm and placing them in a hive.
  • What accomplishment (so far) are you most proud of?

  • Last summer we were able to get a resolution passed through City Council, stating that the city of Indianapolis recognizes that bees and pollinators are important, that they are dying at an alarming rate, that neonicotinoids kill bees, and urging all departments in the city to refrain from using neonicotinoids. Now, this was not a law or ordinance, so it’s not enforcible, but Indy is on the cutting edge here — at the time, only 25 other localities had passed any kind of pollinator legislation. Indianapolis has a lot of bee allies- I worked with our City-County council VP who keeps bees in his backyard, the executive director of Earth Charter, and we had some guidance from My next goal will be to work with the city to pass something more strict to protect pollinators.

Kate Franzman of Bee Public

  • Is there anything new you are working on now that you’re excited about?

I’m working on a partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. They have an amazing garden and orchard on campus. They have their own beehives and I’ve taught some classes there to both kids and adults. We’re working on solidifying a partnership next year. I also plan on releasing more t-shirt designs this year. It feels a little weird to push merch, but it’s all part of getting the word out about how desperatley we need to protect bees.

  • What challenges have you faced as a female beekeeper/entrepreneur?

In the beginning, it was hard for me to find a bee suit, gloves, etc. in my size, everything was made for large dudes. Now, it’s much easier. In the beginning, I also felt a little shut-out by the beekeeping clubs that meet in my area. I wanted to be taken seriously as a beekeeper, and sometimes I felt condescended to.

  • How did you or do you overcome those challenges?

  • Feeling a little like an outsider really forced me to find a different angle with what I was doing and hone it. Education, especially youth education, has become the cornerstone of this project. Beekeeping is almost secondary. That’s why I brought on other beekeepers to help with that aspect.

filed under: Hive Mates


  1. lizbateman

    I’m new to beekeeping, live in Northern VA and my bees are all right despite some really cold temps. Am hoping the varroa mite treatment in the fall didn’t weaken the hive. I am halfway through a beekeeping class and they said that hive beetles are attracted to the substitute pollen cakes. I have one in my nuc and while the bees don’t seem to need it yet, I don’t want to encourage the beetles.Should I make sugar candy?Do you have a recipe for that? Should I remove the pollen cakes until later? Thanks!

    • Hilary


      I don’t have a real winter here in San Diego, CA. I only ever feed pollen as a last resort. I have never fed sugar candy. I think the answer to your questions depend on how much stores the bees had going into winter? How many frames of honey/pollen did they have?

  2. 'Totty'. Debra Cruttenden

    Hi , just read this in bed sitting in England ,the tech which allows us to read and chat with follow beeks and encourage them is amazing . Here I do a similar thing ,saving bees ,spreading the bee love to old and young alight . I used to run a pre school many years ago so being able to show the children the wonders of bees is marvelous .here we have the BBKA and they had a new version of Winnie the Pooh commissioned , this is a fantastic starting block to engage any children .if you would like to see the things we get up to ? Go to Facebook ….Totty’s Good life . Where snippets of activities and info can be found. Carry on the good work your side of the world and I will mine . Buzz buzz


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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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