Osmia Bee Company puts our pollinating friends front and center
Are you concerned about the dwindling population of bees but don’t feel like you can help turn the tide for our buzzing friends? One Cincinnati startup may have a solution. Osmia Bee Company was founded as a labor of love for Justina Block, a longtime bee keeper who decided to take her hobby to the masses in 2017. Named after a genus of bee, the Osmia Bee Company creates and sells sustainable bee habitats that allow almost anyone to help provide homes for bees. The company also distributes cocoons from a local bee bank and ensures that all habitats are built in the best interests of the bees themselves.
“We build homes for bees, the most powerful pollinators in the world, and introduce our customers to native bees and how to support them,” said Block. “We want to help people create a pollination space and provide a habitat and shelter for native bees, harvesting the cocoons from their artificial habitat. Our mission is to actually increase the number of bees in your area and raise awareness of the importance of those bees. We also help people store them and let the life cycle begin again the following spring rather than having to buy bees again.”
Block is a certified bee lover, but she knows not everyone comes from the same background. Rather than seeing that as a hindrance, she said she’s found that introducing her beloved bees to people who are unsure or afraid of them has become one of her favorite parts of the job.
“I start crying when I’m talking about it,” said Block with a laugh. “It’s this little, hardworking bee. I’m so impressed by its tireless work ethic to hatch and go out and pollinate without question. Some people are afraid because it’s a bee, but I convince them to hold it and when this little thing hatches in their hand, it completely changes their perspective and how they view insects. These complicated little bees are a wonder, and they’re really the things that power our planet. So sharing this with others has been very rewarding.
Sharing with others isn’t just good for Block’s morale, it’s good for business too. The company is building an impressive list of partners around the Cincinnati area, and has plans to expand further into the Midwest. And to counteract the loss of many honey bees, Block is working on a program to raise more bees and build a large bank of cocoons to share with farmers throughout the country.
“I live in Cincinnati and I love it here; the community has been so wonderful,” said Block. “Everyone’s embraced this idea and my company. I’m constantly getting images with messages like, ‘What else can I do?’ People are excited. We’re working with the Cincinnati Zoo, the Greenacres Foundation, the Spring Grove Arboretum and the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Louisville creating programs and building habitats. So this has been a great place to start our important work.”
For Block, the success of Osmia Bee Company will always depend on the willingness of customers to save the bees she loves. And as more and more people get interested in her mission, Block said she hopes her community can serve as an example of what’s possible throughout the country.
“My goal is to make Cincinnati a model that other cities can use to implement support for pollinators,” said Block. “Before we clear a lot or a farm to build homes, we should really take into account what’s already thriving there. Before there were buildings, there were insects and wildlife. I want to help provide space to plant and support the pollinators that are there. We’ve lost so many bees, but we can turn it around. It really begins with the public. Scientists can provide us with information, but it’s the people who are going to make a difference for our insects and wildlife.”