Is it the Nation’s Newest Highway? It Could Bee!

There's now a highway for bees across the Triangle

October 4, 2019 

Bees are in decline, but a "Bee Highway" can help

Interstate 95. Interstate 75. Interstate 70. U.S. Route 1, Highway 101. The Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s time to add another name to the list of well-known roadways in the United States. Introducing the Bee Highway. Actually, there are two of them. The first stretches some 60-miles across the Raleigh-Durham area. The second runs about 36 miles across Atlanta.

Okay, so it’s not a stretch of concrete. The bee highways are interconnected groups of hives located on corporate campuses or building rooftops, all within a three-mile radius of each other. Both highways grew out of Bee Downtown; a Durham based for-profit company that started with a focus on urban beekeeping. The group now also uses bees as an example to teach executive leadership courses and encourage conservation efforts.

“The bees and the rest of the world are telling us we need to start taking better care of the Earth and the communities we have,” said Bee Downtown founder and CEO Leigh-Kathryn Bonner. “Everything we know about pollinator health and habitat is that there needs to be healthy corridors for all pollinators to travel through.”

It all began when Bonner was told she couldn’t keep her beehives at her apartment complex. She then asked the American Tobacco Campus in Durham if she could put the hives on top of their building. Bonner was interning there while a student at NC State University. Companies noticed, and now hundreds of Bee Downtown’s hives can be found at corporate offices from Garner to Chapel Hill in the Triangle; meaning beehives at SAS in Cary will be connected to a beehive at RTI International in Research Triangle Park.

Bonner says the added benefit of the hives is that once they are installed; companies and their employees begin asking what else can be done to become more environmentally friendly. That leads to more sustainable landscaping and more pollinator friendly plants. Bee populations are facing sharp declines, due to disease, habitat loss, harmful pesticides and climate change. Honeybees are vitally important because they are one of the world’s largest pollinators, helping many agriculture plants produce the food that we eat.

By he way, there isn’t a speed limit on the bee highway. However honeybees are known to fly between 15-22 miles per hour. They flap their wings approximately 11,000 times per minute to keep their pollen-laden bodies aloft. They may not be fast, but honeybees have a range of roughly three-to-five miles from the hive to collect pollen.latrin

—Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.