LEIGH-KATHRYN BONNER

A Passion to Help Save the Planet by Saving the Bees

“If I’m fearless about anything, it’s to protect and grow the honey bee population. Did you know, every third bite of food you eat is thanks to the humble pollination work of a honey bee? And they’re dying at alarming rates. Last year alone, the United States lost 44% of its honey bees. But there is reason for hope. Recent studies show honey bees can thrive in urban environments. So we have a chance to save them (and our food supply)!”

“These studies led to an idea that blossomed during college at NC State. Inspired by my family’s history of beekeeping, I started my own company, Bee Downtown. We install urban beehives to help rebuild healthy honey bee populations. We started in 2015, during which we installed over 50 beehives sponsored by 18 businesses across the Triangle. Our model is simple and turn-key; we provide all the maintenance a beehive needs to stay healthy. 2017 is turning out to be our busiest year yet; we’re attracting more corporate sponsors faster than ever.”

“Honestly I’m amazed how quickly this has taken off. At 24 I feel young to be running my own business. And it was daunting to launch it, because beekeeping is a traditionally male pursuit. If I look back, I see two pivotal moments that helped me. The first came in the words of a physician. Grade school was never easy for me. Senior year in high school, I was finally diagnosed with ADD, and my doctor said, ‘Typical learning, standardized test-taking and the like will always be a challenge for you. BUT, when you start studying what you love, you will thrive.’ Her words really freed me and encouraged me to find my passion. And she was right. When I discovered my passion for saving honey bees, everything came into place.”


“Typical learning will always be a challenge for you. But when you start studying what you love, you will thrive.”


“The other crucial factor for me has been the support of mentors. I had an amazing management internship while at NC State, working for Michael Goodmon and Jesica Averhart at American Tobacco Campus. They offered me an exciting job that would start right after college. When I asked if I could accept the job and also work on my honey bee project part-time, Michael responded, ‘You have to commit to one thing full on, or you won’t succeed at it.’ I took his advice to heart. I knew if I didn’t try Bee Downtown, I would always wonder…what if? When I sat down with Michael to tell him I would be pursing Bee Downtown full-time, he leaned in and said, ‘I was hoping you would choose that. Know that I am here for you and will support you in any way I can as you start this adventure.’”

“I hope I can win YOU over to the cause too. Did you know, by herself one honey bee makes only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire life, but working together, a hive can generate over 80 pounds of honey in just a few months? Our hope with Bee Downtown is to create a human community that cares, so that just like a healthy beehive, we can work together to create lasting change.”



 leigh-kathryn checking on a bee hive

“Did you know, by herself one honey bee makes only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire life, but working together, a hive can generate over 80 pounds of honey in just a few months?”


Blue Cross NC is proud to “bee” doing our part to help save the bees. We’re sponsoring Bee Downtown’s installation of bee hives along the Blue Loop walking trail at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Come by and see the bees at work!

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