Bee Downtown spreads hives across the Triangle

The Root Cellar at 750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is one of the many local businesses collaborating with Bee Downtown, installing beehives to increase the honey bee population across the United States. 

Bee Downtown is a Durham startup that spreads awareness about food sustainability through the implementation of beehives in local businesses.

Bee Downtown was founded by Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, who started the business as a junior at N.C. State University. 

Bonner said that when she interned at the American Tobacco Campus as a junior, she decided to ask the owner if she could install a beehive on the rooftop, as a result of bee’s reproduction success in urban environments.

She said that when she began receiving phone calls from other local businesses to implement beehives, she decided to make it her full time job.

The Root Cellar was founded by Sera Cuni and is an environmentally friendly restaurant with solar-paneled rooftops and a pollinator garden. 

Cuni said that she became interested in having a beehive installation and reached out to Bonner about the prospect of having hives at The Root Cellar. These hives should be installed within the week.

“Without honeybees we wouldn’t even have coffee in the world, we would lose wine and beer and chicken would become crazy expensive," Cuni said. "I think it’s one of those things that we can stop if everybody took the time to put out beehives, supported the bees and didn’t use the pesticides.”

Honeybee farmers have lost over half of their hives worldwide and are currently under a colony collapse disaster even though honeybees contribute $15 billion to the world economy. 

Bee Downtown focuses two percent of their proceeds on educating children on the importance of the dynamic between honeybees, agriculture and the benefits to the environment. 

By 2015, one dozen hives had already been installed across Durham and Raleigh, and by April 7th Bee Downtown said that another dozen hives would be installed in Durham, three in Chapel Hill and three in Raleigh. 

Bee Downtown’s also installed the state’s largest observational hive at Burt’s Bees headquarters in the American Tobacco Campus.

“We can put as many hives we want on rooftops, but if the community isn't actively trying to support the bees as well by doing things like planting pollination-friendly gardens or keeping their pesticides used on their yards to a minimum, we aren't solving the problem of honeybee decline,” Bonner said.

UNC first-year Morgan Johnson said that the beehive installments were something local businesses should be doing because they're a better alternative to pesticides. 

"Pesticides often can have unwanted and unintended consequences, and can damage ecosystems whereas honeybees are natural and beneficial to the environment," Johnson said.

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