A package of honeybees sits ready to be transferred to one of the two new hives at Normandy Oaks Park in Royal Oak May 5.

A package of honeybees sits ready to be transferred to one of the two new hives at Normandy Oaks Park in Royal Oak May 5.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Honeybees alight on Normandy Oaks Park

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 16, 2021

 Brian Peterson-Roest, CEO and founder of Bees in the D, transfers a package of honeybees into a hive.

Brian Peterson-Roest, CEO and founder of Bees in the D, transfers a package of honeybees into a hive.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Bees in the D board member Melissa Bobowski, left, and Bees in the D CEO and founder Brian Peterson-Roest, stand by the two new honeybee hives at Normandy Oaks Park May 5. The hives are dedicated to longtime Royal Oak conservationist Stephanie Comptois, who died in 2020 and lived across from the park.

Bees in the D board member Melissa Bobowski, left, and Bees in the D CEO and founder Brian Peterson-Roest, stand by the two new honeybee hives at Normandy Oaks Park May 5. The hives are dedicated to longtime Royal Oak conservationist Stephanie Comptois, who died in 2020 and lived across from the park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROYAL OAK — On May 5, two colonies of honeybees and their queens from a bee farm in Ohio arrived early at Normandy Oaks Park, 4234 Delemere Blvd., near Crooks and Normandy roads.

Brian Peterson-Roest, CEO and founder of the nonprofit Bees in the D, carted the two packages of honeybees, each containing approximately 10,000 bees, down to a pair of hives that had already been installed in the nature area of Normandy Oaks Park.

On April 12, the Royal Oak City Commission approved a contract with the organization, based on a recommendation from the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Advisory Board, for $2,440, which includes maintenance and honey collection.

Healthy honeybee colonies aid pollination and maintain the diversity of natural ecosystems. The park’s nature area, an oak savanna habitat, will include a pollinator garden consisting of native plants, and the bees will also fly within a 3-mile radius to pollinate the gardens of nearby residents.

One such resident is Marc Comptois. He and his wife, Stephanie, got married and bought a house across the street from what is now the park in 1989.

The couple avidly participated in the visioning sessions for the future of the park, and the hives are dedicated to Stephanie, a conservationist, beehive advocate and chair of the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Advisory Board, who died in 2020.

“I can keep an eye on them,” Marc said. “It’s kind of nice.”

Melissa Bobowski, a Bees in the D board member and local artist, was on hand to help transfer the bees into the hives. She also hand-painted flowers on the hives in Stephanie’s favorite colors.

Peterson-Roest said he expected the Normandy Oaks Park honeybees to grow to approximately 60,000 by the heat of summer. He added that Bees in the D has already distributed about 80 packages of bees throughout southeastern Michigan, with an estimated more than 1 million bees to be active in the region.

“These are a Russian hybrid honeybee,” Peterson-Roest said May 5. “We really like their temperament. They’re great for public places like this and for educational hives.”

While there are approximately more than 450 species of native bees in Michigan, he said, honeybees are one of the least likely to sting humans unless tread upon barefoot.

Prior to the declaration of the location as a park, the property was a city-owned golf course, but the course did not prove profitable to the city.

In 2014, Royal Oak shuttered the 50-acre golf course and voters approved — with 76% in favor — the sale of a 10-acre parcel to fund the development of the 40-acre park. Robertson Brothers Homes purchased the 10 acres of land to develop townhouses and single-family homes.

Royal Oak Director of Public Service Aaron Filipski said the vote spoke volumes about how the community values its parks and natural resources.

He added that the project gained the attention of Oakland County, and will serve as a future blueprint for other communities in the region that want to create a recreational destination for recycled city-owned land.

For more information, call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000 or visit romi.gov.

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