“What would happen to us if things didn’t pollinate?” That’s a question Shafeeqa Small asks while smoking bees to keep them calm. Her day job is running PlantChicks, the vegetarian meal-prepping and catering service she owns in Dallas. In her spare time, Small is an urban beekeeper.
Her hive is located in the Oak Cliff Gardens neighborhood, near I-45. The space, now vacant, used to be the home of her friend’s grandmother. When the dilapidated house on the lot was knocked down by the city, the grandmother turned the empty space into a community garden and invited friends to join. Small knew it was the right spot for the needs of her bees.
“They’re located just miles from the Trinity River preserve in the ’hood, where overgrown vacant fields boast a variety of wildflowers, poison ivy, and pollen- and nectar-rich unspoiled foliage,” she says. “Most yards have not been artificially landscaped with out-of-region plants, so the bees enjoy more native varieties that are growing in their natural state and season.”
While Small’s beekeeping footprint might be, well, small, the importance of propagating bees is bigger than you’d think. “We are agitated by the infrastructure being stretched, but we don’t think about what counters that,” she says. “Nature will bring itself into a balance, but because we’re so aggressive as humans, pursuing the growth and trying to support the infrastructure, we are creating the issues that keep our ecosystem out of balance.”