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Christiansburg winery owners make plans to open bee sanctuary and research center

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CHRISTIANSBURG (WSLS 10) -- Scientists in the New River Valley are already working on ways to save honey bees through the development of a bee sanctuary and research center in Floyd.

The owners of Whitebarrel Winery in Christiansburg and Avila Scientific in Blacksburg know the importance of bees to the crop.

"Whitebarrel Winery used to have hives on the property and in 2013 lost all its hives," said Dr. Theresa Gallagher.

They were lost in a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists are scrambling to determine the cause. Whitebarrel owners Drs. Gallagher and Richard Obiso want to find the answer as well.

"We're planning on putting up to 50 hives out there and planting very nectar rich flowers and trees in a very seasonal cycle," Gallagher said.

Their goal is to open a bee sanctuary and research center on more than seven acres in Floyd with a satellite at the winery in Christiansburg.

"Not only will this be a sanctuary and research center but we hope that the tourism that's created by this will allow for tours and education," Obiso said.

Nestled near Virginia Tech and Radford, the location, they say, is ideal for university researchers and local bee keepers.

"One in every three bites of your food has been touched by bees at some point," Gallagher said. "So it's a very needed area."

The cost to make it happen--- including establishing 50 beehives -- and planting bee friendly trees and flowers is big with the potential to positively impact the area.

"It will allow us to expand tourism in the area as well because it will be an active farm," Obiso said.

The pair started an Indiegogo campaign to help garner support for the local project with a nationwide goal of increasing the bee population. Project backers get perks for contributing, including sanctuary honey, a wine tasting and even a beehive named in your honor.