WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Downtown Winston-Salem offers more than a place for people to work, live and play; it's also home to an important conservation effort. 

“Bee Our Future” is an urban beekeeping program that aims to bring awareness to the conservation of bees.

The program's founder, Josh Pietrafeso, says right now annual bee losses nationwide are approaching 45-percent, so this program is crucial to bee conservation. 

So, how does it work? The program places beehives on commercial rooftops. Interested businesses pay a fee, and they do the rest. The price range for commercial properties is $250-$450 depending on how much they want to get out of the program. The program offers education for employees, tours, shirts, and honey. 

Since the launch of the program, Pietrafeso says about a dozen businesses have signed up. 

Pietrafeso is taking reservations for the spring, now. You can contact them via email at

With cold temperatures and snow approaching we were curious how winter impacts bees. So, we reached out to Allison Bowling, Josh's wife who also operates the store and helps with 'Bee Our Future,' and asked her more about it: 

Q: How does cold weather impact bees?

A: Bees form a cluster during cold temps, meaning they create a ball surrounding the queen, vibrating their bodies to keep her warm. They usually won't leave the hive when the temperatures are under approximately 45 degrees. This means that they need to have all of the resources for survival inside their hive, which is why bees create honey in the first place! It is nature's perfect non-perishable food source!

​Q: How does the cold weather impact the work you do with the hives?  

A: We try to leave the bees alone during the winter. Opening the hive subjects them directly to the cold - as if someone opened your bedroom window during winter. This is not helpful to their attempts to keep the queen warm, so we really don't mess with them unless there is some vital reason to do so. We spend a lot of time preparing the colonies for winter by adding supplemental food stores (pollen patties), making sure they have enough honey and are in good health, to give them the best chance for survival.

Q: Does snow threaten the hives?

A: Snow does not threaten the hives per se, (think about all of the bees that live in Canada and the Rocky Mountains), but we do have to make a few accommodations to the hive equipment to make sure it is adequate for their winter needs. For instance, we will add an upper exit/entrance to the boxes in case a deep snow was to block the lower one. It also acts as a vent to let the condensation inside the hive escape so the bees aren't living in a humidity dome. For the most part, though, they are perfectly adapted to winter in our climate. There are other factors that threaten the bee’s chances of winter survival more directly, like the varroa mite and other parasites, colony health (they can get viruses just like humans!) and obviously they need to have ample food supply. A common mistake that we see new beekeepers make is getting excited about your first honey harvest and actually taking too much from the hive. They do need a fair amount of food to get through the season.

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