On the Job

His firm helps keep Boston buzzing

Noah Wilson-Rich maintains, delivers, and installs beehives at his company, Best Bees Co.
Wendy Maeda/Globe staff
Noah Wilson-Rich maintains, delivers, and installs beehives at his company, Best Bees Co.

Every city needs healthy honeybees, said Noah Wilson-Rich, who founded Best Bees Co. to provide beekeeping services for urban residences and businesses. The apiary business, which delivers and installs hives, is currently managing 200 hives in places you’d least expect a colony — apartment rooftops, high-rise hotels, cosmopolitan restaurants, and inner-city schools.

Wilson-Rich, 31, a behavioral ecologist, uses company proceeds to fund research to improve honey bee health.

Why would someone want a honeybee hive?

Honeybee hives are so easy to do, and very little space is needed — maybe a 2-by-3-foot space. Local honey is hard to come by, and it doesn’t get more local than your own backyard. Many of our clients know bees have very important roles as pollinators, and it’s their way of recognizing their contribution to our food production.

How do you build the beehives?


All our beehives are constructed by hand. We build a wooden box with frames that hang inside; on each frame are sheets of wax with hexagon patterns indented on the wax. In the springtime, we’ll take about 10,000 bees and one queen and essentially dump the bees into the hives. They crawl down, settle in, and build out the beeswax comb from the wax foundation.

Won’t the bees possibly sting people if they’re near homes or businesses?

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Bees have a typical flight path, and there are ways to encourage bees to go directly to “highway in the sky” that leads to a garden — and away from where people are standing or sitting. The main idea is to put some sort of barrier, such as a lattice fence, about a foot away from the beehive opening, which encourages bees to fly straight up instead of directly out. Honeybees die when they sting, so they don’t want to be aggressive. These are the good guys.

You say that beehives are both fascinating and fickle. Why fickle?

I have a PhD in honeybee biology, but still some hives will die no matter what we do. With lots of disease and infection, these are tough times for honeybees. We guarantee live, healthy bees, so we replace bees, but it’s very sad when a hive dies.

Is beekeeping legal in Boston?

In the oldest parts of the city, beekeeping is explicitly allowed, while other parts, the city code says it is forbidden. The Boston Redevelopment Authority and the mayor are working on fixing the legislation. Article 89 will create clarity and consistency regarding urban agriculture, including beekeeping in the city.

How many bee stings would you say you’ve gotten?

To be totally honest, I can’t even count. Definitely thousands. But I don’t want that to scare anyone, because I tend not to wear full protective gear as recommended by beekeepers. I actually find mosquito bites much worse than a bee bite. Those hurt like hell for days.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at