All butterflies make the stunning transition from determined caterpillar to striking adult. But the eastern monarch's epic migration from Canada to Mexico’s high elevation fir forests piques our collective imaginations, reminding us of nature’s brilliant complexity and capacity to innovate. The notion of a small butterfly, weighing only a half gram, riding air currents as much as 11,000 feet in the air, and somehow locating relatively small, high-elevation forests 3,000 miles away, is very empowering. It makes us feel almost anything is possible—even reversing global pollinator declines.
The monarch butterfly symbolizes both change and hope. Bee City USA was much like that small butterfly traveling to parts unknown back in 2012, but the program has seen astounding and determined growth over a relatively short period of time. Today, there are 115 certified city and campus affiliates across the nation. Now Bee City/Campus USA is joining forces with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest pollinator protection organization in the world! As of June 30, 2018, Bee City USA will formally become an initiative of Xerces, leveraging Xerces’ 46-year history in support of Bee City USA’s continued growth.
What does this mean for Bee City/Campus USA affiliates?
With Bee City USA as part of the Xerces Society’s programs, there will be benefits for both organizations—and for pollinators and their advocates. Currently Xerces has more than 20 staff in their Portland headquarters and almost 30 staff in regional offices across the country. To ensure this change is smooth, Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles is joining the Xerces Society staff as Bee City USA Pollinator Champion with the goal of fully transitioning management of the Bee City/Campus USA programs over to other Xerces staff during the next couple of years. She will continue to work from her office in Asheville, North Carolina.
In the future, instead of relying solely on the generosity of passionate, capable volunteers, Bee City USA will be managed by Xerces’ capable, committed staff, however, Bee City USA’s Internet address is still www.beecityusa.org.
From its launch in 2012, Bee City USA’s strategic plan was to someday be adopted by an established pollinator conservation organization. The Xerces Society was at the top of a short list of prospects. Xerces’ work is based on the latest science and is increasingly recognized as the worldwide standard for pollinator conservation. In the last decade, Xerces’ efforts have culminated in the restoration or protection of pollinator habitat on 692,000 acres of U.S. farmland, with thousands more acres in development. Xerces has also directly reached more than 100,000 people through workshops, farm field days, conferences, invited talks, and short courses on pollinator conservation and other beneficial insects in all 50 states. Xerces offers a growing number of workshops and other events, continues to expand their library of fact sheets and guidelines, hosts citizen science projects like Bumble Bee Watch, and certifies pollinator-conscious agricultural operations through their Bee Better Certified program.
This transition felt very natural to both parties because Bee City USA and the Xerces Society have partnered for many years. Indeed, Xerces’ senior pollinator conservation specialist for the Southeastern region, Nancy Lee Adamson was Bee City USA’s informal, and later formal, science advisor, and Mace Vaughan, co-director of Xerces’ pollinator conservation program, has advised Bee City USA for years. Bee City USA hosted a Xerces short course in 2014 and Bee City USA affiliates have been drawing on Xerces materials to inform their activities.
This next step will further solidify an already strong, complementary relationship. While Xerces may be best known for its work with farmers, government agencies, and public land managers, urban areas are increasingly a focus for Xerces. Bee City USA’s programming meshes quite naturally with this new priority area.
A Bright Future
Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates are amassing a distinguished record of pollinator conservation achievements. Driven by a grassroots desire to engage friends and neighbors to organize events and make pollinator habitat improvements, they are changing their communities’ landscaping paradigms where they live, work, learn and recreate. With affiliates’ demonstrated commitment to pollinator conservation, it’s no wonder the Xerces Society was attracted to Bee City USA. Bee City USA and the Xerces Society can build on the considerable interest in pollinator conservation from cities, colleges and universities, corporate campuses, schools, and other similar groups, to achieve more than either group could alone.
Making Your Campus A Bee Campus USA Affiliate Webinar June 20
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is hosting a free webinar entitled "Making Your Campus A Bee Campus USA Affiliate" on June 20 at 3:00-4:30 Eastern Standard Time.
Here's the webinar description: "While we need pollinators for the reproduction of 90% of the world's wild plant species and three-quarters of crops, announcements of their national and global staggering declines seem relentless. College campuses can help! They can serve not only as models for pollinator-friendly landscaping practices, but also education and outreach centers for changing our landscaping paradigms. This webinar will explain the application process for becoming a Bee Campus USA affiliate and the commitments entailed. Examples of how current affiliates are fulfilling their commitments will be featured." Register for the webinar here.
From left to right, the presenters are Elaine Cole, PhD, Portland Community College-Rock Creek, Sustainability Coordinator; Jackie Hamstead, Bee Campus USA-University of North Carolina Asheville, Environmental Specialist; Emily O'Hara, University of Connecticut-Storrs, UConnPIRG Secretary and Save the Bees Campaign Coordinator; and Phyllis Stiles, Executive Director of Bee City USA.
Bee City USA also hosts its own occasional webinars, some of which are available here. Here is a current list of all Bee Campus USA affiliates.
Monarch Joint Venture Webinars
Other Notable Webinar Series
"The Guardians" documentary about the precarious state of monarchs' overwintering habitat in Mexico to release during National Pollinator Week
Many affiliates have hosted screenings of awe-inspiring, and sometimes disturbing, films like Wings of Life; Flight of the Butterflies; A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee; Queen of the Sun; Hometown Habitat, Stories of Bringing Nature Home; Vanishing of the Bees; and Bee Movie.
Now, there is a new, quieter film, about the challenges of preserving the monarchs' overwintering sanctuaries while sustaining human communities. Monarch ecologist Dr. Lincoln Brower calls it "an eye-opener for conservation advocates."
The producers are releasing this documentary, The Guardians, this summer in honor of National Pollinator Week.
Bee City USA has partnered with the filmmakers on their national screening tour. They are offering our Bee Cities and Campuses a 30% discount on the screening kit, which includes everything you need to a host a successful screening event centered on pollinator conservation--a license to screen the film, printed posters and postcards, a DVD & digital file of the film, discussion guide and digital promotional materials.with an exciting new documentary film.
We think the film is a powerful tool for Bee City/Campus USA affiliates to engage their communities in discussion about pollinator conservation. Already, Bee Campuses and Cities in Washington, New Mexico, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon and New Jersey have lined up to host screenings. Because the film is in Spanish with English subtitles, it offers a rare opportunity to engage local Latino communities in conversation about pollinator conservation.
To see a private screener of the film to inform your decision or if you just have questions, please email the film's director at email@example.com.
While Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates can (and do) host pollinator conservation awareness events throughout the year, many choose to take advantage of National Pollinator Week, June 18-24 (this year's third full week in June).
Across America, affiliates are asking their city councils to make proclamations for National Pollinator Week as well as hosting educational garden walks, inspiring and informative movies, expert presentations, habitat enhancement events, or scavenger hunts at farmers markets to link pollinators to our diets.
Consider registering your event(s) on the Pollinator Partnership's National Pollinator Week calendar here.
You can get full instructions and supplies for leading a scavenger hunt at your local farmers market from a previous Bee City USA E-News here.
Need attractive educational resources for your pollinator awareness activities? In partnership with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), NRCS (the Natural Resources Conservation Service) will ship up to 5 free (no shipping costs either) gorgeous Pollinator Week posters. This year's theme is Pollinators and Seeds. Order your 18" x 36" posters here. Past posters are available here (use "pollinator" as the keyword). Some may be downloaded as PDFs, while other hard copies can be ordered FREE OF CHARGE. For example, the fabulous “Trees for Bees” poster, one of the series the Pollinator Partnership produces each year, is available in boxes of 10. We laminate our posters and bring them to our events.
By Phyllis Stiles,
Director, Bee City USA
Thanks to volunteer Scott Offord at beepods, Bee City USA realized a longstanding dream this year. When cities/counties and institutions of higher education become certified as Bee City USA or Bee Campus USA affiliates, one of the commitments they make is to provide an annual report that is published each January summarizing their previous year’s accomplishments in pollinator conservation and awareness.
We had always wanted Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates to know about the innovative work their counterparts were doing. While at Bee City USA headquarters we hear incredible stories of winning new friends for pollinators and enhancing habitat for pollinators from our affiliates on a daily basis, there is simply no way we can communicate the ingenuity and joy expressed in each of those stories. We've always known the affiliates need to be able to tell their own stories. But how?
Experienced webmaster Scott Offord had the answer. He created a website just for annual reports, with a template page dedicated to each affiliate's story. Simple! The affiliates just place their text and photos into the "slots" provided, and Voila!, they communicate their year of achievements on a single webpage, available 24/7 around the world, complete with contact information if the reader wants to get in touch directly with the affiliate for more information. How empowering!
While city and college staff lead or support many of these efforts, passionate volunteers are at the forefront of most. These reports are bursting with inspiring stories of communities planting pesticide-free habitat rich in a diversity of locally native plants, discussing their community’s pest management policies with pollinators in mind, and hosting events for young and old to create awe for and greater understanding of the plant-pollinator collaboration that makes our planet bloom and fruit.
These reports inspire our national network of Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates with new, more efficient, more cost effective, more creative, or generally more impactful approaches. Thanks to Scott Offord for making our dream a reality!
By Diane Almond, Bee City USA Founding Steering Committee Member and Education Advisor
Did you know that after more than three years of efforts by the Republic of Slovenia, the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring May 20 as World Bee Day? Passed unanimously in November 2017, the resolution was co-sponsored by 115 member states including some of the largest: USA, Canada, China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India and all EU Member States.
Slovenia’s proposal to the UN addressed the need to raise awareness of honey bees’ essential role as pollinators for ecological balance (biodiversity) and food security and to acknowledge the urgent need to address growing worldwide challenges especially sustainable, sufficient food production; adaptation to climate change; and diminishing natural resources such as arable land and water supply.
The Slovenian proposal summarized that over the last 50 years, “…bees have become increasingly endangered, particularly in the areas with intense agriculture. Shrinking habitat along with negative effects of expanding monoculture areas as well as modified and intensified grassland cultivation technology have led to declines in the development of bee colonies. The situation is made worse by new bee diseases and pests, whose impacts are aggravated by deteriorating resistance of bee colonies and impacts of globalization that allows for the transfer of pests over long distances.”
Why Slovenia? On the sunny southern side of the Alps, Slovenia is rich in natural resources with a long and rich history of beekeeping. It is known for its unique beekeeping method, wide varieties of honey, but mostly for its indigenous honey bee, the Carniolan bee, which is protected.
Why May 20? May 20 is the birthday of Anton Jansa, appointed by the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa in 1753 as teacher at the first beekeeping school in Vienna. May 20 in the northern hemisphere marks the full development and reproduction (swarming) of bee colonies; in the southern hemisphere it is autumn when bee products are harvested and the days of honey begin.
Why do we need World Bee Day? The original proposal says it best: “…Contribute significantly to international cooperation in tackling global challenges in terms of global food security, eradication of hunger and malnutrition and preserving the environment from further losses in biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services.”
So, while challenges and issues for communities around the world differ vastly in their intensity and immediacy, the unanimous support for World Bee Day is an indication of how essential, how integral bees are to the future of our planet. And while the Republic of Slovenia’s proposal was largely focused on the importance of the managed honey bee and our food systems, the importance of the other 20,000 bee species, many of which are currently at risk, cannot be overstated.
Consider celebrating all 20,000 bee species on May 20, 2018, and every year. Consider dedicating May 20 to furthering the good work of the Republic of Slovenia.
In the words of Slovenia’s Deputy Prime Minister: “We have a moral obligation to ensure our future generations have a clean and healthy environment and diverse, nutrient-rich foods, for which bees and other pollinators play a vital role….Let World Bee Day unite us and bring the world together.”
Bee City USA®, a national nonprofit organization founded in 2012 to make America’s landscaping paradigm more PC (“pollinator conscious”), has reached a major milestone. They have just certified their 100th affiliate--Salisbury, Maryland!
At the highest levels, certified cities and institutions of higher education have committed to reviewing their landscape design and maintenance plans with pollinators in mind. But their commitment extends well beyond simply reviewing those plans.
Whether a Bee City USA or a Bee Campus USA affiliate, they have agreed to develop and publish a recommended species list of plants, trees and shrubs that are locally native species, rather than the exotic plants that tend to dominate American landscapes. They also have agreed to develop and publish a least toxic Integrated Pest Management plan that instructs city and campus landscaping maintenance staff to seek biological controls for managing pests, using chemical inputs only as a last resort. According to Bee City USA founder and director, Phyllis Stiles, “The goal is to allow nature to find balance between predatory and prey insects. While dogs don’t eat dogs, bugs do eat bugs when given the chance!”
These plant lists and pest management plans should be integrated into certified city and campus comprehensive plans, in order to become policy. The goal is for the cities and campuses to provide demonstration sites of pollinator-friendly landscaping for their communities, to inspire the public at large to adopt these same landscaping principles, all directed at reversing national and global pollinator declines.
Salisbury, Maryland, Mayor Jacob Day, said, “We feel like we’ve won the lottery! Not only are we excited to embark on this new campaign to welcome vital pollinators to Salisbury, we were lucky enough to be the 100th affiliate to be certified. We’re really buzzing now!”
Each affiliate is required to have a committee, endorsed by the city or campus leadership, to serve as pollinator advocates. Ann Barklow, Horticulturist and GreenHouse Grower for the City of Greenwood, and chair of Greenwood, South Carolina’s committee, said, “Bee City USA certification has given us a structure for organizing a broad cross-section of community members, educators, and businesses interested in supporting pollinator conservation. The Bee City USA designation has lit Greenwood on fire about pollinators. I’ve never see the community embrace a program as warmly as this.”
Danielle Trevino, Environmental Protection Specialist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said, “We were the first military installation to become a Bee City USA affiliate. We are especially proud of our 100-acre restored prairie, teeming with native wildflowers and their pollinators on the site where the Wright Brothers tested flight in 1904. We are hoping more military bases will apply for Bee City USA certification.”
Educational campus affiliates are required to incorporate pollinator conservation into their service-learning programs and curriculum, and place interpretive signs around their campus to explain the role pollinators play in sustaining life on Earth and providing some of the most nutritious foods in our diets.
Mike Oxendine, Landscape Supervisor at Southern Oregon University said, “We approached Bee City USA about launching a campus program in 2015 because there were several certified Bee City USA affiliates around us (Talent, Ashland and Phoenix). We recognized the urgency for pollinator conservation and the opportunity a Bee Campus USA program would offer for engaging not only thousands of college students, faculty, staff and administrators in pollinator conservation, but also visitors to our campuses. We are thrilled to have helped in designing the program and becoming the first certified Bee Campus USA affiliate in the nation.”
The program focuses on hope for our environment and respects and celebrates volunteers. That message resonates outside our borders. In 2016, Bee City USA helped to launch Bee City Canada! Shelly Candel, now director of Bee City Canada, happened to have a second home in Ashland, Oregon, where she met with local pollinator conservation leaders in a tea shop to talk about Bee City USA. She learned how the program worked from Dolly Warden, chair of Talent's Bee City committee and Kristina Lefever, chair of Ashland's Bee City committee.
Talent was the second city after Asheville, North Carolina, to be certified in the nation. "Shelly was so fascinated by what we were doing in Oregon that she contacted Bee City USA headquarters and got busy introducing the program in Toronto, which happened to be her home and Canada's largest city," said Dolly.
In Cortland, New York, SUNY-Cortland has held numerous awareness events since the campus was certified in 2016. Said Bee Campus USA committee member Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, Assistant Director of Disability Resources Office, “SUNY Cortland has held several events to educate the campus and the larger community about pollinator health and habitat. These events have included a native plant fair, a workshop on caterpillar gardening, a lecture on the use of native plants on a college campus, a talk on milkweed pollination, and several events highlighting our model urban garden, which includes many native perennials in addition to annual vegetables.”
Inspiring annual reports for 2017 from certified cities and campuses are available here.
To apply for certification, visit Bee City USA's application webpage or Bee Campus USA's application webpage.
By Phyllis Stiles, with editorial support from Sam Droege and Mace Vaughn
It's just human nature to want to be first, and you can! You can be the first in your area to record a monarch returning from her overwintering refuge, or the first to record a hummingbird returning from her winter jaunt to Central America. The Journey North site lets you easily record Nature's firsts each spring.
But have you thought about posting your first bumble bee sighting in 2018? You can at Bumble Bee Watch.
Spring means bumble bee queens are emerging after their winter hibernation. They are mated and ready to start their colonies. Unlike honey bee queens attended by worker bees through the winter, a queen bumble bee survived the winter all alone, and now it's up to her to start a new colony and continue her species. Other than honey bees, bumble bees are the most well known social bees in the temperate world. They live in small colonies where the worker bees tend to the colony’s need for food, cleaning, and caring for baby bees. Most of the other nearly 20,000 species of bees around the world live solitary lives.
In the spring, a bumble bee queen is looking for a suitable nesting site in an undisturbed area, possibly under a clump of native grass or in an abandoned rodent burrow. She wants a place that is dry, in a private, sunny spot, and away from people or other critters that might accidentally step on her nest or intentionally try to eat her protein-rich cache of larvae. Frequently, she looks for nests along tree lines or old stone walls.
In the United States, we have about 48 native species of bumble bees. In parts of Great Britain, the bumble bee is also called the humble bee or dumbledor (like Harry Potter’s most powerful wizard of the world). Because bumble bees are larger and slower than most other bee species, even novice “entomologists” have a pretty good chance of determining their species with the aid of pictures. Their “bumbling” makes them easy to capture in small glass jars or gallon plastic bags long enough to identify them.
There are a few simple clues for bumble bee identification: their overall size; the color and number of yellow, orange or white bands on their abdomen; and the coloration on their fuzzy backs (thoraxes). According to Sam Droege, a leading bee taxonomist at the US Geological Survey, “Within a species, size may vary a lot, and males may look different than workers of the same species. But you still have a pretty good chance of identifying a bumble bee with the help of picture guides for your part of the country.”
Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide is an excellent field guide available to purchase online and in print. The US Forest Service has free downloadable posters. They also have the 122-page Bumble Bees of the Western United States Guide and Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States Guide.
If you’re worried about stings, don’t be. When bumble bees are out foraging around flowers for food, not defending their nests, they are very gentle. No male bees even have stingers. In fact, in the fall, when bumble bee colonies produce males, they may be found taking a snooze in a flower early in the morning while they await their lady love!
Report your bumble bee sightings to Bumble Bee Watch where you can upload photos, start a virtual bumble bee collection, have your identifications verified by experts, and interact with other citizen scientists. They even have an IPhone and IPad app to download. If you hurry, you may be the first to report a bumble in your area this spring!
Artist Jim Thompson had no idea that befriending his neighbor, Dolly Warden, in 2015, would soon lead him to building 16" x 16" honeybees.
Dolly is the passionate bee advocate who spearheaded the certification of Talent, Oregon, the nation’s second Bee City USA affiliate. As her community can attest, her love of bees is contagious. Jim serves on Talent’s Bee City USA committee and is very active in enhancing pollinator habitat.
Says Jim after launching into his second large bee project, “Through extensive online research on bee anatomy I've discovered lots more interesting and common features of honeybees. Things like finer compound eyes, different hair characteristics and hair distribution over a bee's body, wax extrusion glands on the underside of the abdomen, different color tones and markings, wing tints and vein patterns, variable mouth and leg parts, etc.”
Rather than being easier, the second giant honeybee turned out to be more challenging for Jim than his first because the more he learns about these ever fascinating creatures, the more accurate he wants his models to be. He even attached the bee’s hairs almost one at a time, a torturous, time-consuming and tedious endeavor requiring extraordinary patience and a very steady hand.
Jim said, “I'm finding through necessity how subtle differences from bee to bee are more common that many of us realize. Perhaps this could be compared to genetic traits in us, slight differences in our facial features, body types, height, body mass, skin colors. There is apparently no such thing as a generic insect or human or anything. Where to draw the lines of detail on a specific bee species is more complex than I originally thought. Aside from what vital roles bees play in our sustainability and quality of life, we can now see that in the insect world there are subtle variations as well as complexities, like in us, or other animals.”
Jim continued, “It's an interesting planet and it takes a lot of work, enthusiasm, passion, insight and science to appreciate the biodiversity we mostly don't see and often take for granted. I hope our species can come to its senses and perhaps save itself, too, by a growing awareness of how vital it is that we pay attention to the busy, unseen world all around us every day.”
Jim’s journey is now connecting him with other insect model makers around the world. Who knew there were insect model makers?
Thanks to Jim and the other artists who help us to better “see” the small creatures that make our planet bloom and fruit. You can see Jim’s bee at Bee-Licious Honey in Portland, Oregon and his online gallery here.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA director and board.