Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Eleanor Carlson & Sarah Higgins

June 2014 -- The Hornets certainly generate their fair share of buzz each year here in Edina, but when was the last time you stopped and spared a thought for the humble honeybee?

Eleanor (Ellie) Carlson and Sarah Higgins, recent graduates of South View Middle School, first began to appreciate this unsung workhorse of the insect world after a weekend trip to the Fulton Farmers Market in Minneapolis.

“Sarah and I became interested in honeybees after seeing an organization called ‘Beez Kneez,’ which has a stand there most Saturdays,” Carlson explained. “They sell homemade honey, but also educate people on the problems bees are facing.”

Those problems are myriad, particularly in areas as well developed as the Twin Cities. Shrinking natural habitat ranks near the top of the list, and popular but overbroad pesticides needlessly kill millions of bees each year. Compounding matters, many cities have ordinances in place prohibiting beekeeping practices that would do much to stem this population decline.

As Carlson and Higgins discovered, these trends bring with them grave repercussions. “Bees do much more than make honey,” Carlson said. Bees are prodigious pollinators, and are indirectly responsible for the production of foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to nuts and legumes. All this adds up – to the tune of $14 billion in annual crop production in the United States alone.

Unfortunately, Carlson said, in the public eye there is little if any difference between benign honeybees and their more aggressive cousins: wasps, hornets and yellow jackets.

When the pair was assigned to take on an advocacy campaign for a capstone school project, they made a beeline for their new pet topic. Carlson and Higgins interviewed experts, compiled research and built a website devoted to rehabilitating the honeybee’s image and stoking conversations about what can be done to save Minnesota’s dwindling number of hives.

Big steps in the right direction include curtailing the use of harmful chemicals and planting gardens with flora conducive to bees’ needs. Perhaps most momentous of all, Carlson and Higgins are also lobbying for Edina “to follow the lead of Minneapolis and neighboring suburbs and remove the injunction against organized beekeeping in the city limits.”

Carlson and Higgins went well beyond the confines of their advocacy assignment’s requirements, even going so far as to bring their case to the Edina City Council during its May 20 meeting at City Hall.

While the semester recently ended, the pair feels that their real work has only just begun. “We definitely intend to continue this advocacy, and to take it a step further,” Higgins said. “This summer, Sarah and I will go to Beez Kneez classes and get some first-hand experience taking care of hives.”

While 10th grade will take Carlson and Higgins to Edina High School, they intend to return to South View Middle School regularly and educate future classes on the vital role of honeybees in Edina's ecosystem.

1 of 54  Heroes

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