Bee Downtown, a new nonprofit located in Durham, NC that aims to increase the popularity of urban beekeeping through education and access to resources, has partnered with Abundance North Carolina, who will act as fiscal sponsor.
According to Bee Downtown’s Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, “the number of managed honey bee populations in the United States has decreased by 50 percent since the 1940s… This is not just bad for the bees – it’s bad for us.”
This decline is attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) the term scientists use to describe the combination of stressors that has caused the dramatic drop in bee populations. Though more research is needed to better understand the phenomenon, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) identifies “pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees’ immune systems.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside $20 million beginning in 2007 for research and, the Huffington Post reports, added an additional $3 million earlier this year to assist farmers and ranchers who have been adversely affected by the loss of honey bees.
Enter Leigh Bonner, a graduate student at NC State University studying honey bee population decline, whose vision for local solutions to address the crisis inspired Bee Downtown. On abundancenc.org, Bonner writes that CCD
has created major problems for crops that depend solely on honey bees to pollinate their plants. …The honey bee population accounts for more than $15 billion in crop value each year. Every third bite of food we eat comes from a honey bee, and honey bees are responsible for pollinating over 80 percent of the flowering crops in the United States. With such drastic declines in recent years, it is important, now more than ever, to try to understand what is happening to the honey bees.
By focusing “on creating healthy sustainable environments for honey bees, as well as creating a community that understands and supports their local bees and beekeepers,” Bee Downtown hopes to contribute to reversing this troubling trend. They are focusing on urban environments, Bonner says, because
studies show that bees in urban environments are healthier than bees in more rural environments. Instead of a monoculture of crop to pollinate, like rural bees have, urban bees are able to pollinate a variety of different floral sources, as well as ingest smaller amounts of pesticides. Bees in urban areas also have a stable environment and are not subject to being moved across the country during peak pollination season.
To learn more, and find out how you can help support their organization, visit http://beedowntown.org.