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Climate and Environment

The TikTok Beekeeper Who Hopes To Depict The 'Relentless Workers Of The Animal Kingdom' In A New Light

A close-up shot of a single honeybee next to a purple flower.
A honeybee flies next to a lamb's ear plant last May in San Anselmo, California. The state has experienced steep losses in the bee population, which is critical for agriculture.
(Justin Sullivan
Getty Images)
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When Michael Pusateri took up beekeeping, he expected to get stung a couple of times and maybe score some honey. But he never expected to stir up such a buzz with his TikTok videos.

“I've been on the internet for a very, very long time, since before there was a worldwide web,” he said. “And the thing I've learned is you can never predict exactly what is going to be popular on social media.”

The professional broadcast engineer began rescuing bees as a hobby in 2018, after his two daughters grew up and left home. What began as a casual pastime, though, quickly bloomed into a following of more than 74,000 people on TikTok, where he posts as @cruftbox.

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“I didn't think beekeeping would be a big thing,” he said. “I didn't think people would be that interested … but I think the last time I looked on TikTok, it was over 10 million views of just one of the videos I made.”

'Busy As A Bee'

A man wearing a white beekeeing jacket, netted hood and yellow gloves steps over a low retaining wall, upon which a beekeeping tool is perched. On the hill he's stepping towards, small flower plants are planted in the dirt as well as a tree.
Michael Pusateri has been practicing beekeeping since 2018.
(Courtesy Michael Pusateri)

Pusateri’s videos depict everything from feeding the insects to honey extraction to building wooden hives. He’s also helped save wayward hives trapped in water meters, abandoned buildings and flower pots all over South Pasadena.

These are the most relentless workers in all of the animal kingdom.
— Michael Pusateri
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Working so closely with the insects has provided him with a new understanding of the phrase “busy as a bee.”

“These are the most relentless workers in all of the animal kingdom,” he said. “They don't stop. They're constantly building new homes. All of the intensity they go to build, survive, and procreate is just amazing.”

His work also serves a larger purpose; some of the bee colonies he rescues would otherwise be exterminated at a time when bee numbers are on the decline in California. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state has lost nearly 300,000 honeybee colonies since 2015 — around 22% of the state’s total honeybee population.

The loss of bees, which are critical to pollinating crops, is such a serious concern for the state that funds for habitats to protect them were included in Gov. Newsom's 2021 budget.

Pusateri hopes his videos can introduce people to hive rescue, and maybe inspire them to try a new adventure themselves.

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“I'm encouraging people to go outside their normal boundaries,” he said. “People get in loops of how they think their life should be, and it's okay to try some new things.”

What questions do you have about Southern California?