Summer 2019

Heros and hives

Bee Veterans participants and their instructor inspect honey bee colonies at the airport apiary.

Honey bees fascinated Vietnam veteran and U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Michael Roche. He appreciated how they work for the welfare of the hive. And beekeeping—a lifelong interest he pursued in earnest after he and his wife, Diane, retired in 2011—brought him great joy. 

Two years later, the Roches met Rebecca Masterman, a U of M Extension educator and director of the Bee Squad, an outreach arm of the University’s Bee Lab. When Masterman mentioned the idea of a free beekeeping program for veterans, Michael provided the initial funding and Bee Veterans was born. 

Held on the grounds of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Bee Veterans is a six-class program that covers topics ranging from bee biology to harvesting honey. The first session was held in 2016. After Michael died in 2017, Diane directed memorials to Bee Veterans. 

To date, 110 veterans have participated. Some, who have self-reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have said beekeeping helps them feel better. Masterman recently submitted agrant proposal to formally study the effects of beekeeping on PTSD. 

 “It started with Michael,” she says. “It shows the difference one person can make.”