Bees pollinate one-third of our food supply, making them invaluable players in how we sustain ourselves. But with a 40% loss of bee colonies nationwide, they could use some help. A Milton 7th grader is doing just that by working to raise a billion bees in his town.

Most 12-year-olds aren’t committed to the plight of the honeybee like Sebastian Wright. He started beekeeping in his backyard in Milton when he was 8 years old. When his first hive died, he wanted to know why.

We think it was either from pesticides or mosquito spraying and so I wanted to do something about it.” Wright said.

He founded Milton’s Billion Backyard Bee Project. What started out as one hive almost 4 years ago has grown to 13 hives throughout town with 20 people on a wait list. Wright manages most of them—with some help from his parents.

I started this project to encourage more people to be beekeepers or host a hive, use less pesticides or plant more bee-friendly flowers.” Wright said.

Although it’s work—real work, Sebastian handles it like a pro. He calms the bees down with some cool smoke before we open the hive.

The buzzing gets louder as we go deeper into the apiary. Sebastian in unfazed. Actually, he looks like he could do this in his sleep.

“We probably won’t find the queen. She’s usually at the bottom.” Wright said.

The queen lays about 1500 to 2000 eggs a day and the brood is usually in the center of a frame. Worker bees make up 98% of the hive, taking on various roles, from scouting for nectar to nursing the brood to housecleaning. It takes about a week for a frame to fill up with honey during the peak season.

“But you also have to leave enough for them to eat.” Wright said.

The bee population continues to struggle for various reasons—mites, viruses, pesticides, and loss of habitat. There is even a Massachusetts House bill pushing to regulate neonicotinoids—a very common pesticide used in fertilizers that have been linked to honeybee population decline.

The growing sustainable food movement is also changing things. There are now over 4000 beekeepers in the state, representing a 20% increase in the past 15 years.

That includes the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, which has hives on its rooftop—one of 40 apiaries they have worldwide.  This is all good news for bees—and for us. The more habitats, the better. Which takes us back to Sebastian and his honey.

In his backyard, his mother, Michelle Urbano, lays out an impressive spread of different kinds of honey.

Wright points to a dish of pale-hued honey. “This is our first extraction, which is gonna be the lightest because it’s the first extraction of the year. And this is our third extraction and it’s darker because it’s later in the year.” Wright said.

The piece de resistance, however, is a frame straight from the hive, filled with honey. Wright sticks his finger and encourages this reporter to do the same. It’s truly delicious. When asked if he ever gets sick of honey, Wright laughs, “Nope.”

And who can blame him.