2023_08_Hives For Heroes Image


A Growing Buzz for Workplace Beekeeping

ISS Guckenheimer Chef Daniel Vercher is partnering with Hives for Heroes to save bees and create an exceptional experience.

Ryan Bryant

Editor-in-Chief, Thought Leadership

Brandi Peasley, a strategy manager for facilities and workplace experience, says she’ll never forget when the first collection of beehives was delivered to her workplace. She remembers donning bee suits alongside her colleagues and watching as beekeepers unloaded and set up hives in the area now known as the Bee Yard.


“Our executive chef arranged for the initial group of hives to come from another chef with a bee farm,” Brandi says. “It was so exciting. It felt almost like a loved one was having a baby, like we were adding a new family member.” 


The idea of keeping bees on their campus, spearheaded by ISS Guckenheimer chef Daniel Vercher, remains popular with employees, as does the Houston-based executive chef’s onsite vegetable garden. However, as the hives were established, the team began to realize that tending to their new insect friends required a specific skillset.


“Chef Daniel and his team are very knowledgeable, but beekeeping requires a tremendous amount of work,” she says. “After a few months on our own, Hives for Heroes came onboard and changed everything for the better.” 


Hives for Heroes, a nonprofit service organization focused on conservation and healthy service transitions for veterans, offers a national network of beekeepers to mentor newcomers and foster connection and purpose for active-duty military, veterans, and first responders. Founded by Steve Jimenez in 2018, Hives for Heroes seeks to increase the overall number of bees and the number of trained beekeepers to tend to colonies effectively. 


Since Hives for Heroes came in to assist the team, the number of hives has grown from four to 14. This new apiary not only provides a source of honey for onsite food preparation, but also offers potential beekeepers a path toward a new passion.


“Every Tuesday, our beekeeper Patrick comes out,” Brandi says. “Many of us often go out with him as he tends to the bees, and he also provides education and classes for our employees and other veterans or first responders who want to come out. This is one of the only veterans’ programs I know of that is so heavily focused on being therapeutic. You’d think that being around a bunch of bees would be a stressful experience, but it’s actually very peaceful.” 


Expanding Opportunities


Collaboration between Daniel Vercher and other Texas-based ISS Guckenheimer chefs has led to Hives for Heroes overseeing apiaries for other area accounts. For example, another nearby site supported by ISS has brought in six beehives after their introduction to the program. 


Because of employees’ ongoing interest, Hives for Heroes began providing educational opportunities for them to learn more about beekeeping. An observation hive was also constructed, allowing a portion of the bees to be temporarily brought indoors with a viewing window for employees to observe their activities and learn about them without having to suit up. Several groups across campus use access to the bees for team building events. Dubbed “The Bee Experience,” employees can sign up to put on a suit and get detailed information on the work involved in maintaining hives, as well as how bees account for a massive part of our global ecosystem. 


“We started the beekeeper classes, and it just grew and grew,” says Chef Daniel. “After that, company investors got interested. Now, the CEO is involved, the client company is involved broadly, guests to our campus love it and we sell the honey we make, which also goes back to the organization. We use honey in our recipes and cooking classes—it’s a huge part of the employee experience here. Our honey-based food events were also a big factor in getting people to come back to the office regularly.” 


Building A More Sustainable Workplace and World


Now that the Bee Yard houses nearly 140,000 bees, Chef Daniel says the next part of his plan is getting employees directly involved in bee conservation. Initially, he brought bees in to boost pollination in his garden, but he became more dedicated after learning more about their impact on our larger food system. 


“Over the past seven years, I’ve realized the vast importance of bees and learned how much they’ve been dying off,” he says. “It’s why the educational component is so important. Beekeeping is the first step because without bees, we’re done for.”


Since 2006, colony collapse disorder has been a serious problem for honeybees—in 2022 alone, U.S. beekeepers lost nearly half of their managed colonies. According to the Department of Agriculture, about one mouthful in three in our diet depends on pollination by bees. As a result, Chef Daniel sees his work as vital for the sustainability of our food supply.


“I’ve had people ask about how they can help pollinators outside of beekeeping,” he says. “Flowers are a big deal and over the next couple of months, we’re going to start planting flowers and sending them home with the workers here so they can start their own pollinator gardens.”


Over the next few years, Chef Daniel says he plans to continue working with Hives for Heroes to create more educational opportunities and spread awareness about why bees matter so much for the stability of our food supply.


“It’s important that we get the word out,” he says. “Whenever we educate people, we talk about sustainability because we want to save the Earth. And I think one of the first steps toward doing that is saving our bees.”


Ryan Bryant

Editor-in-Chief, Thought Leadership

Contact Ryanmailto:ryan.bryant@us.issworld.com?subject=Inquiry