The Senator Group Adds Bees To Monclova Township Property

The Senator Group’s North American Headquarters in Monclova Township is now home to nearly a quarter-million honeybees that aid with pollination in the area. Above, beekeeper Kent Ramge joins The Senator Group’s marketing director Katie Yarder near the three hives that were added earlier this year. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — On a warm, sunny day, the traffic outside The Senator Group’s Monclova Township furniture manufacturing facility can be heavy – not with trucks or cars, but with bees.

“It can look like a busy airport,” said Kent Ramge, a beekeeper with Ramge Acres, as he watched honeybees flying in and out of three hives that were added in the spring.

Standing back from the hives, Ramge and Katie Yarder, The Senator Group’s marketing manager of North America, looked around at the 40-acre parcel. Located at the corner of North Jerome Road and Technology Drive, the corporate headquarters is surrounded by a wooded lot, an open meadow full of wildflowers and milkweed, and 20 acres of soybeans – an ideal setting for honeybees.

“We’re waiting to see whether he gets a higher yield out of his crops because of this,” said Yarder, referring to local farmer Jim Gase. Studies have shown that the presence of bees increases soybean yields by up to 30 percent, she noted.

Starting 10 years ago, when he saw a need for pollination to improve the yield in his home garden, Ramge began raising honeybees. Seeing success, he began offering his services to what is now a clientele of 75 mostly agricultural customers who rent the hives and his service as a beekeeper.

“Beekeeping is a very specialized industry. It’s a partnership where I come in and maintain, manage and keep the bees healthy,” said Ramge. “Caring for honeybees is like owning livestock – you can’t just set out a hive. You have to do some husbandry and look to make sure nothing is wrong, like disease or insects.”

Seeing the impact of having beehives at the global headquarters in the United Kingdom, The Senator Group’s president Roger Stempky suggested adding hives to the Ohio location. 

“They started doing this on their acreage to help with pollination and the climate challenges we’re facing,” Yarder said, explaining that increasing pollination positively impacts the environment and food resources. 

A queen bee will lay 1,000 to 2,000 eggs each day. With three hives, that means up to 6,000 bees are born every day, said Ramge, estimating a population of 250,000 bees on The Senator Group’s site. Bees live about four to six weeks, but the queen can live several years, kept alive in the winter by bees consuming the honey and vibrating to raise the internal temperature around her.

To feed the queen, the bees roam in a 5-mile radius, carrying pollen on their bodies and transferring it to other plants. This transfer of genetic material is critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants, including fruits, vegetables and nuts, while increasing carbon sequestration.

“One third of the Earth’s population depends on pollination. That’s why there’s been so much emphasis on providing an education that honeybees are critical to food in the world,” Ramge said.

Hives can be placed in all sorts of locations, even on rooftops in cities. Locally, Yarder credits the Metroparks and the Toledo Zoo for planting pollinator gardens to aid that cause. Before delivering the hives, Ramge and Yarder walked the property, looking for a spot that would provide access to the natural resources. 

An area was cleared on a rise behind the loading docks, facing southeast, so the bees’ flight path is away from the building.

“Honeybees are vegetarians. They don’t have any interest in us or our food,” Yarder said, noting that while the company brings in food trucks every Thursday, the honeybees don’t have any interest.

The hives are nestled on a bed of mulch created by grinding up wood pieces that are no longer needed in the warehouse, thus preventing material from going into the landfill, Yarder said. 

As the project is progressing, Yarder and Ramge are providing the 120 employees with honey and educational experiences such as making lip balm with the product or suiting up in special gear to learn more about beekeeping next spring.

“This becomes a way for our employees to feel like they’re an important part of giving back to the community,” Yarder said. “We’re hoping that other businesses are interested in doing the same thing,” she said.

The beehives have also become a stop on tours given to groups that come to see the North American headquarters.

“We take them through our showroom, factory and to see the hives and will provide them with jars of honey to either mix in a cocktail or put out on a charcuterie board,” Yarder said.

The bee project isn’t the only environmentally friendly move by The Senator Group. This fall, a solar array will be added to the rooftop to increase sustainability and clean energy. With the factory producing contract furniture for offices, hotels and higher-end spaces, it’s important for the manufacturing to be deemed “clean.”

“Otherwise, when it goes to Marriott or Google offices, it would release toxins into the air and would not pass an indoor air quality test,” she explained. “Our facility has to be free of odors that could be absorbed in foams and materials.”

Creating a sustainable, environmentally friendly facility is at the core of The Senator Group’s values, said Yarder. Being able to enjoy the results of those efforts in the form of honey just sweetens the deal.

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