Franklin County Landfill adds 12,000 bees to increase biodiversity


The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, or SWACO, is expanding its sustainability programs by putting beehives in the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill

Two beehives were put on the landfill in Grove City in April to support the site’s two acres of pollinator gardens. The hives house about 12,000 Italian honeybees that SWACO is tasked with pollinating the landfill’s gardens and the surrounding area to increase biodiversity. 

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio welcomed more than 12,000 honey bees to two hives in designated pollinator gardens at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. Currently, SWACO has almost two acres of pollinator gardens on its property, with plans to expand.

The hives sit at the edge of the landfill’s property, next to its pollinator gardens, and about 2,000 feet away from landfill waste. The bees are not interested in the trash but roam two to three miles, pollinating plants in the gardens and surrounding farms and plants. 

Putting in the beehives was heavy equipment operator and hobbyist beekeeper Jim McGee’s idea. He owns 30 hives in various parts of Zanesville, where he lives. 

SWACO heavy equipment operator and hobbyist beekeeper Jim McGee came up with the idea of putting beehives next to the landfill. McGee owns 30 hives in various parts of Zanesville where he lives.

“I really enjoy working with them,” McGee said. “That’s my best part (of beekeeping), really, making them thrive.” 

McGee said beehive boxes the size the landfill owns cost SWACO about $200 to $250 each. SWACO bought two boxes and a package of bees, which McGee said cost another $250. 

McGee’s work with this batch is not too involved in these early days. Springtime means the bees can go out and get their own food, so his work involves checking for hive invaders, ensuring the bees are healthy, and cleaning up any mistakes the bees make while building their broods. 

In all, he spends about an hour every week with the bees at the landfill. 

Hannah Greer-Brown, SWACO’s director of communications, said one of the authority’s missions is to reduce people’s reliance on the landfill and help them live sustainable lives. Brown said the bees fit the mission because they care for plants in the surrounding area and the landfill’s green space. 

A group of second graders from Harmon Elementary in the South-Western City School District was one of the first groups to learn about the new hives. The tour guides invited the students to name the queen bees, and after a morning of debate, they settled on Beetrix and Cardi Bee. 

The landfill hosts about 4,500 people on free tours every year. Brown said guides have already stopped showing off the bees on a handful of tours. 

More than 12,000 honeybees swarm two hives at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill.

“It is an educational opportunity that we talk about how important pollinators are and what honeybees do,” Brown said. 

McGee said SWACO plans to divide the honey the bees make among landfill workers and is confident there will be no problems with it coming from a landfill. 

Operations manager Adam Burleson said SWACO plans to expand the pollinator gardens, but that process could take years. The current gardens were planted about two years ago and include 27 flower species. 

“When you see the flowers on the trees and the flowers growing… and the fruits, the apples, that’s when you know there’s success,” McGee said.