Why Do Car Companies Keep So Many Bees?

From rehabilitating veterans to filling cars with flowers, automakers are going all-out for bees.

byHazel SouthwellMay 20, 2022 10:03 AM
A beekeeper in a Lamborghini-branded protective suit caring for a bee hive
Lamborghini
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May 20 is World Bee Day, which surprised me last year when car companies suddenly filled my inbox with emails about their bees. I hadn't expected this because I don't particularly associate Lamborghini with bees. Considering that we're talking about millions and millions of bees a question needs answering: Why the hell do automakers have so many?

Alpine, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Lamborghini, Mahindra, Mercedes, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Toyota, Vauxhall, and Volkswagen all have bees. Renault and Aston Martin Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel favor wild bees with promises to plant flowers, too. Renault decked out a Zoe in flora as a commitment to biodiversity, and Vettel promised to pay for 1 million flowers to be planted in Germany to give bees a chance.

The short answer for why car makers have bees is pretty simple: You can get a bunch of bees into some space on your factory campus. Car companies' campuses and facilities include sprawling tracts of land that can be used for sustainability initiatives—like beekeeping. That's good. Plus it doesn't hurt to tell the world about all the good deeds you're doing when the latest environmentally related, black-eye news comes along from time to time. Which might be why the VW Group, in particular, is absolutely bee central. Here's the comprehensive list of what all the automakers are doing with bees:

Ford and Mahindra are working with charities for social and environmental improvements. Mahindra North America partners with Bees In The D, a Detroit-based environmental charity that installs apiaries around Michigan to help pollinators. Ford uses its hives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to help returning servicepeople via Heroes to Hives, a veteran-led charity that provides therapeutic beekeeping experiences.

With Audi's environmental foundation, Lamborghini studies the 600,000 bees that inhabit 13 hives at its Parco Lamborghini site in Italy. The project researches bee behavior to find what can be done to help bee populations worldwide.

Jaguar Land Rover's bees are part of an employee-led program to improve wellbeing. The first hives went in at JLR's Solihull plant, and the plan is to roll them out at all the automaker's U.K. sites. Honda also keeps its bees in the U.K., supporting an environmental program in glamorous Swindon, as does Toyota with the "TGBees" on its Surrey site, just outside London.

Stellantis' two bee projects are a biodiversity program at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port site (also in the U.K, which is apparently crawling with automotive bees), and Chrysler also partners with Bees In The D at its Chrysler Technology Center in Detroit. The two queens for the Chrysler hives were named via an employee competition (apparently) and are called Stella and Aunt Tess, as a play on Stellantis.

Bentley and Rolls Royce's bees compete for most luxuriously accommodated, with Rolls Royce probably coming out on top. Bentley's bees are described as part of its production line workforce in Crewe, a northern English town I mostly remember for having a very windswept rail station. Rolls Royce keeps 300,000 bees on-site at the Goodwood estate, where they can enjoy classic motorsport events as well as hives made out of mahogany with butler service, presumably.

Audi's bees are wild, on 17 hectares of land on its site in Münchsmünster near Ingolstadt, Germany. Apparently there are 90 species of wild bees on the site, which isn't a maintained park but Audi tends to it to try to encourage biodiversity.

Porsche has the most bees of any automaker, with 3 million honey bees on its site in Leipzig as part of an extensive eco-park. The bees have been moved a few times, and 3 million is the most Porsche has ever had. Other inhabitants of the 132-hectare site include 25 wild ponies and, bear with me here, 75 aurochs, which are a prehistoric, extinct breed of cattle that was genetically worked back to with breeding a few years back. I will have to follow up on that, now that we've solved the bees.

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