Tanger Outlets Fort Worth installed a rooftop honey bee colony just over one year ago to increase pollinator populations in north Fort Worth and educate the public on the importance of bees. After a productive year, the hive is healthy and growing.

Honey bees are pivotal members of the agriculture community. In the U.S., more than one-third of all crop production requires insect pollination. Managed honey bee colonies are the country’s primary pollinators, adding $15 billion per year by increasing yields and quality harvests, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tanger Outlets Fort Worth, located just south of Texas Motor Speedway, partnered with Alvéole, an international urban beekeeping company that brings bees to buildings to connect humans with nature and raise awareness to the importance of bees. The company assigns a beekeeper to regularly tend to the hive.

Every few weeks, Matt Hill, the head beekeeper at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth, visits the hive to make sure the bees are taken care of.

“The hive goes through different cycles throughout the year, so we have different goals to help the hive,” Hill said. “Right now, we’re focusing on giving the hive more resources so they can survive until the fall when the flowers start blooming and they can get natural resources.” 

The hive also serves as an educational tool to teach shoppers about the bees. Shoppers can come face-to-face with the working hive multiple times per year when the mall hosts community outreach events.

Alvéole works with Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica), one of the most docile species of bees. The mild nature of the bees makes them the perfect candidate for close human interaction. 

“We have workshops in the common area of our shopping center where shoppers can come and go,” said Holly Conner, marketing director at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth. “Matt will bring down a portion of the hive behind plexiglass and point out the different bees and their roles.” 

Tanger Outlets Fort Worth sees over 4.5 million visitors annually, Conner said, which makes this location an ideal place to educate the masses. 

There have been two workshops already this year, with one final workshop coming up on Aug. 20 in honor of National Honey Bee Day. 

National Honey Bee Day

Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Near Polo Ralph Lauren

“It has been very exciting to see the community come out for these events,” Conner said. “People are excited to know that we are supporting this initiative and helping with the bee population.” 

The hive’s location, on top of the roof of the Tommy Hilfiger store, keeps the bees from bothering shoppers but also protects the bees from human interference. So far, there have been no community complaints, and shoppers have been overwhelmingly positive about the mall’s efforts, Conner said. 

Installing an urban hive is a positive way to support the ecology of a community, said Bob Byers, executive vice president of horticulture for the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. 

“It’s also a good marketing opportunity – it’s a good way to position yourself with the public about being proactive in addressing environmental issues,” Byers said. 

The bee colony is located on top of the Tommy Hilfiger Store at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth. The top of the hive can be seen through the square holes on top of the building. (Izzy Acheson | Fort Worth Report)

After losing the original hive to extreme winter weather earlier this year, the newest hive was installed this spring, which proved to be a successful period.

The hive grew so fast, it split into two colonies in a process called swarming, Hill said. Tanger kept one hive and Alvéole took the other. The newest queen is named Queen Phoebe, after a community-naming contest took place. 

The summer weather also has posed challenges for keeping the bees cool through endless days of 100-degree weather. So far, the current colony has withstood the unrelenting summer heat. Hill is currently experimenting with a metal structure on the top and bottom of the hive to reflect sunlight. 

“Due to the heat, the bees will also line up outside of the hive and they’ll flap their wings to cool off but to also regulate the temperature within the hive,” Hill said. 

The bee colony has metal structures on the rooftop that reflect sunlight to keep the hive cool during hot weather. (Courtesy Photo | Matt Hill)

Once temperatures decrease and wildflowers begin to bloom, the bees will begin to venture out to gather resources and pollinate the flowers in return. Tanger has plants scattered throughout the property to aid the bees in gathering nectar close to home. 

The bees can fly up to a three mile radius around the hive. When they arrive at a flower to gather nectar, they pollinate the plant. 

“Fort Worth is a really important pollinator area. We are in the runway of a lot of pollinator migration paths in the United States,” Hill said. “North Texas has a lot of prairies with wildflowers, which are very important.” 

Wildflowers provide seeds, nectar, pollen and leaves as a source of food and life, especially for pollinators that have small home ranges, according to Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

“Texas is blessed with a really diverse flora palette,” Byers said. “Supporting honey bees is wonderful, but we also need to be thinking about supporting native species.”

One native species, the iconic American bumblebee, has experienced population decline. Across the Midwest and Southwest, as many as one in every two American bumblebees have disappeared, according to Environment Texas.

“Honey bees can’t pollinate every plant – some plants can only be pollinated by bumblebees because they are heavy enough to open up the flower,” Byers said. “Making sure our native species stay healthy is an important aspect of beekeeping in Texas.” 

Alvéole works specifically with honey bees for the time being, but the company just designed a native bee pollinator hotel that is being placed around Canada and hopefully soon in Texas, Hill said.

Alvéole has partnered with multiple businesses across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to bring hives into developed areas. Currently, there are hives in south Fort Worth, downtown Fort Worth and one private residence with hopes to further expand across the city in the future, Hill said. 

“Everybody has got to play a part – even if it’s individual action – to support the pollinators,” Byers said. 

Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at izzy.acheson@fortworthreport.org.

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Izzy Acheson

Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated from Texas Christian University in 2022 with a double major in journalism and environmental...