Photo by Iza Wojciechowska
Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, handling a hive at The Hub Farm in Durham
On Thursday morning, Leigh-Kathryn Bonner piled a bunch of beehives into her car and drove out to The Hub Farm, a seeming oasis of vegetable gardens, a pond, and crowing roosters off of Durham’s Roxboro Road. Once there, Bonner set up two hives on a patch of grass, donned a beekeeper’s hood, and unsealed the hives for the first time this season. She pulled frames from the hive, each one crawling with thousands of bees. Some of them were already starting to make honey. Bonner sampled it with her finger and let a small group that had gathered do the same. Then she fed the bees a solution of water and sugar.
“If you can make a daiquiri,” she exclaimed, “you can feed bees.”
Bonner is the founder of Bee Downtown, a Durham startup that focuses on developing the honeybee population and educating the public about bees and environmental conservation. Bee Downtown installs and maintains beehives at urban businesses around the Triangle; the Hub was one of nine businesses to get two of nineteen beehives this week. Bonner installed twelve hives last year at Durham and Raleigh businesses and says they’ve already proven successful in raising awareness, increasing pollination, and supporting the area’s population of healthy honeybees.
“Honeybees contribute over $153 billion annually to the world’s economy, and they are the world’s number-one pollinator,” Bonner said, explaining that 80 percent of the world’s top hundred crops are pollinated by honeybees. “In recent years, however, honeybees have been dying around the world at alarming rates. Recent studies, though, show that honeybees thrive in urban environments. We are so excited to be working with such great companies that are all committed to the environment and sustainability efforts.”
Other businesses who had beehives installed this week included Common Ground Green, the East Durham Recreation Center, Honeygirl Meadery, the Frontier, and RTP Headquarters in Durham; the Root Cellar and The Barn in Chapel Hill; and Murphy’s Naturals in Raleigh.
The Hub Farm, which is run by Durham Public Schools, hopes its new hives will attract locals and students alike who want to learn about honeybees.
“We’re very, very excited,” says Melissa Keeney, an AmeriCorps service member serving at the Hub Farm through the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. “To have Leigh-Kathryn bring her beehives here, it brings in a lot more of the community from her tours, and we can use them as an educational component for the students, which we’re really excited about.”
Photo by Iza Wojciechowska
Leigh-Kathryn Bonner installs a hive at Durham's The Hive Farm
Paul Toma of Common Ground Green, which sells environmentally responsible building materials, shares that enthusiasm: “Once I was contacted by Bee Downtown and told what they were doing, I emailed them back before I even finished reading the email. People have to understand that bees and other very vital insects are canaries in a coal mine.”
Having Bee Downtown’s hives at his store, Toma says, lets him to do a small part to help the local environment, and he hopes the hives will educate the community about the necessity of preserving bee populations.
Diane Currier, the owner and mead-maker at Honeygirl Meadery, said that though she doesn’t expect her Bee Downtown hive to produce enough extra honey to make more mead, she wanted to sponsor one to raise awareness, anyway.
“We hope that our hive sponsorship will encourage other groups and businesses to help subsidize the expensive and important work of beekeeping," she says, "so that more beekeepers can flourish, more bees can flourish, and our communities can become more bee friendly, more beautiful and more sustainable."