Ylitalo, who has battled PTSD after serving nearly 40 years in the military including two tours in Iraq, didn’t seem bothered by the bees swarming around his head or crawling all over the entrance to their hive. Instead, the 57-year-old logistics expert said the several hours spent working on the two hives each week at the Manchester VA Medical Center in New Hampshire was a respite of sorts from his anxiety and depression. Known as an apiary, the hives are located next to a lilac garden off a busy street.

“I’m in this program to help me get out of the thought process of all those problems that I have,” said Ylitalo, who has struggled since leaving the Army in 2017. “It helps me think of something completely different. … I’m just thinking about bees.”