Guest Blog by Kelly Clark, Committee Chair, Bee Campus USA - Carson City, Nevada
Carson City, Nevada, became a Bee City USA affiliate in 2018 and has since worked to make pollinator conservation a community-wide endeavor. Pollinator conservation has become a key component of the city’s education and outreach, habitat enhancement, and policies and practices. Carson City’s Bee City USA committee has become a focal point for pollinator related activities in the community, bringing together a variety of groups already working to spread awareness, improve habitat, and reduce pesticide use and adding to their efforts. Continue reading to learn more about the great work taking place to make Carson City a better place for bees and other native pollinators. Download Carson City's renewal report at the end of this blog for a complete list of their 2019 activities.
Education & Outreach
Getting the word out about pollinator conservation is an essential component of the Carson City Bee City USA group’s work. An aware and engaged community is crucial for getting people to adopt changes in their own homes and yards to preserve and protect pollinators. In 2019, approximately 25 pollinator events were held, ranging from Earth Day activities to guided hikes, beekeeping classes to gardening workshops. Carson City’s Bee City committee is especially proud of the outreach they have done this year and look forward to getting even more involved with the community in 2020.
Earth Day: 2019 Earth Day activities were co-sponsored by the Great Basin Beekeepers of Nevada and the Carson City Historical Society, with the theme “Celebrating Pollinators” to teach residents and children about Carson City’s recent Bee City USA designation, as well as pollinator conservation practices. The Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority sponsored the creation of pollinator information cards and printed fliers that were distributed to fifth grade students in the Carson City School District. This celebration of pollinators featured guest speakers who gave presentations about Integrated Pest Management and chemical reduction strategies, planting for pollinators, and climate change impacts on pollinator conservation. It was a fun time and educational for the whole community!
Farm Days: Farm Days is an annual education event for pre-kindergarten to elementary-aged children. With a focus on animal husbandry and agriculture, this event is very important for groups like the Great Basin Beekeepers of Nevada (GBBN). Approximately 2,000 children participate in the event each year. With the help of GBBN, children learn the important role bees play in the pollination of plants. This is a great opportunity for children to learn about the differences between native bees and honey bees. Participants even got the opportunity to taste some delicious local honey.
Interpretive Hikes: Throughout 2019, Carson City sponsored several guided interpretive hikes for children and adults, covering a variety of pollinator topics. Sponsored hikes included: “Pollinator Tot Trek”, a scavenger hunt for young children where they got to spot a bee, butterfly, or flower in nature, and “Wildflower Walk”, where leaders highlighted and identified local plant species and discussed the importance of pollinators.
This was an exciting year for Carson City in terms of public engagement; we hope to continue this momentum into 2020! The committee has also purchased two additional Bee City USA signs and is working with the Nevada Division of Transportation (NDOT) to get permits to have them placed along the roadway entering and exiting Carson City.
Pollinator Health & Habitat
In 2019, Carson City seeded approximately 240 acres of disturbed land with a pollinator-friendly seed blend. This acreage primarily consisted of areas that had been burned by wildfire in previous years. In addition to seeding activities, Carson City worked to establish specific areas of new pollinator habitat – including a Pollinator Garden and the Carson City Chamber Leadership ‘Bee Hotel’ at the Foothill Garden. Carson City’s Bee City USA Committee would especially like to thank their partners including Carson City Parks, Recreation & Open Space Department, The Greenhouse Project, Carson-Tahoe Cancer Center, and the 2019 Carson City Chamber Leadership Group for their efforts in establishing this new pollinator habitat in Carson City. None of these events were specifically sponsored by the committee, but rather independent community engagement on pollinator conservation!
Chamber Leadership Bee Hotel: Following Carson City’s designation as a Bee City USA in 2018, the Carson City Chamber Leadership group wanted to complete a project dedicated to pollinator conservation. As a result, they designed and installed a Bee Hotel at the Foothill Garden Site, an area that already supported sustainable agriculture and food production in Carson City. Now, with the inclusion of the Bee Hotel, the Foothill Garden has become an amazing site for children and adults alike to learn more about the connection between food and pollinators.
Foothill Pollinator Garden: In conjunction with the Bee Hotel, Carson City staff worked with the Carson-Tahoe Cancer Center and The Greenhouse Project to grow native flowers and plant them in a garden adjacent to the new Bee Hotel to provide forage for the bees. This garden is also adjacent to the Serenity Trail, which is prescribed as a wellness trail by the Carson-Tahoe Cancer Center.
Restoration Activities: The Carson City Parks, Recreation & Open Space Department completes restoration on disturbed areas every year. These are areas where weeds have been eradicated, fires have taken place, or volunteers have worked to establish more native vegetation. Since becoming a Bee City USA, City staff have worked to incorporate pollinator-friendly plant species into all seed blends. The photo at the beginning of this blog shows flowers that started to come back after a 220-acre wildfire. Some of these flowers established naturally, while some were included in the seed blend that was used to restore the disturbed area. This area is located adjacent to the Carson River and is an important natural resource for pollinators.
Carson City is very excited about the pollinator enhancement activities that took place in 2019. Through future volunteer and education events the Carson City Bee City USA Committee hopes to create even more habitat in 2020.
Policies & Practices
While Carson City’s Integrated Pest Management Plan is still in progress, the city has continued to implement a variety of IPM principles in Parks and Open Spaces. Specifically, plants are removed by hand when appropriate. In 2019, species removed by hand included puncturevine, bull thistle, poison hemlock, and various aquatic invasive plants. Additionally, Carson City worked with the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) to conduct a biocontrol release of a naturally occurring rust fungus to target the noxious weed Canada thistle through non-chemical means. Carson City also worked with the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) to complete corridor clearing by hand along a trail that would have been previously treated with chemical herbicides. Carson City also completed solarization on noxious weeds occurring adjacent to organic farms and gardens -- including the Foothill Garden -- in order to avoid using herbicides in these sensitive food-production locations. These are all practices that have been implemented in the past and will continue to be implemented and expanded upon in order to reduce the dependence on chemical herbicides in the future.
Carson City’s Bee City USA Committee has been drafting an Integrated Pest Management plan throughout the year and is gathering input from all City Departments who engage in invasive plant management.
Guest Blog by Megan McManamen, Committee Chair, Bee Campus USA - Gillette, Wyoming
Campbell County Master Gardener, Keep Gillette Beautiful Steering Committee
Gillette, Wyoming, marked its fourth year as a Bee City USA affiliate by hosting a variety of outreach and education activities for the community, creating and protecting pollinator habitat, and incorporating pollinator conservation into city policies and practices. Gillette community members participate in a variety of conservation programs including Bee City USA, collaborating on activities to reach shared conservation goals.
Education & Outreach
This past spring Gillette hosted their annual Gillette Pollinator Day Celebration at the Garden and Landscape Educational Expo. During this day-long educational event over 250 community members attended workshops and lectures free of charge to learn about Wyoming’s native pollinators and planting for pollinators. In between lectures, participants were invited to take pictures with the bumble bee photo board and praying mantis, and stroll through educational booths which featured information about native bees, monarchs and milkweed, and native pollinator-friendly plants. The Northeast Wyoming Seed Library also gave away free packets of native wildflower seed. All attendees received a copy of the “Bee a Friend to Pollinators” brochure as well as the “Promoting Pollinators on Your Place” handbook, a free publication produced by the University of Wyoming Extension and Barnyards and Backyards.
During National Pollinator Week, the Gillette Bee City teamed up with the Urban Orchard -- a community fruit tree orchard where residents can harvest fruit for free -- and Campbell County Public Library to host a celebration of Wyoming’s native bees. The event was opened by Christy Bell, a PhD student in Zoology at the University of Wyoming, who introduced participants to the fascinating world of Wyoming’s native bees and led attendees through a crash course on how to identify them. After the workshop, participants were invited to the Urban Orchard to participate in the June pollinator count, set out butterfly puddlers, and install Gold-level Habitat Hero signage. With Christy’s help, participants were able to locate a thriving sweat bee nest complete with a cuckoo bee!
During May, June, July, and August, Gillette Bee City conducted pollinator surveys at the Urban Orchard. This involved counting the number of native bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, flies, and wasps. During the July 2019 count, participants documented a two-fold increase in pollinator activity when compared to 2018 and during the August 2019 count, the number of pollinators at the Urban Orchard had tripled when compared to last year!
Gillette Bee City also collaborated with the Master Gardeners and Campbell County Extension to have a booth at the 2019 Campbell County Ag Expo. Over 700 third graders visited the booth to look at insect cases featuring native pollinators, view pollinators under microscopes, and take pictures with the bumble bee photo board.
During the Campbell County Master Gardeners Annual Tree Sale, Gillette Bee City partnered with the Campbell County Conservation District to provide free copies of the "Promoting Pollinators on Your Place" handbook. The Tree Sale Committee also worked with Gillette Bee City to highlight pollinator friendly trees and educate visitors about the importance of providing trees for pollinators.
Pollinator Health & Habitat
In 2019, the Gillette Bee City teamed up with the City of Gillette Parks Division to encourage Adopt-A-Planter participants to select pollinator-friendly plants for the fourth year in a row. Each summer, the City of Gillette invites local nonprofits, civic groups, businesses, and individuals to adopt and care for one of the community’s 96 beautification planters throughout the summer. Adopt-A-Planter participants were able to easily locate pollinator-friendly plants by looking for the bee symbol placed next to pollinator friendly species on the pre-selected Adopt-A-Planter plant list, and they received an electronic version of the pollinator-friendly planting guide.
Gillette Bee City also worked to protect and create new pollinator habitat this year. An area of native showy milkweed along one of Gillette’s major roads was designated as a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch. The Bee City committee teamed up with Campbell County Parks and Recreation to expand the pollinator garden at the Urban Orchard. Two pollinator gardens in town also earned certifications through Audubon’s Habitat Hero program.
The North Community Garden installed a new pollinator garden to delight its volunteers with spring and summer blooms, and provide habitat and forage for native pollinators. Gillette Bee City also worked with Gillette College to complete the installation of a demonstration pollinator rain garden in front of the Gillette College Technical Education Center. This garden features educational signage and benches to encourage community members to linger and learn about pollinators and urban water runoff in the community.
Policies & Practices
Gillette Bee City worked with the City of Gillette Parks and Beautification Board to add a new “Go Green” category to the city’s annual Landscape Beautification Awards. This new category recognizes Gillette’s status as a Bee City and Tree City and acknowledges those homeowners, businesses, institutions, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations that have made sustainability a key feature of their landscape design by incorporating wildlife or pollinator habitat, water-wise gardening techniques (rain barrels, cisterns, drip irrigation), use of native plants, low-impact development practices, along with other sustainability-minded landscape-design features.
On March 19, 2019 the City of Gillette proclaimed April 6 as Gillette Pollinator Day and recognized Gillette as an affiliate of Bee City USA and a signatory of the National WIldlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge. The City of Gillette in conjunction with Gillette Bee City and the Campbell County Master Gardeners worked together to complete the requirements of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and Gillette was recognized as part of the Leadership Circle by taking 8 or more actions to protect the monarch butterfly.
Gillette Bee City looks forward to another year of bringing the community together to learn about and take steps to conserve native pollinators.
When people hear the word “bee” they often think of a single bee species, the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). However, the United States is also home to just over 3,600 native (wild) bee species such as bumble bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, mason bees, longhorn bees, and mining bees! Native pollinators are particularly important because they evolved alongside native plants and in many cases are the most effective pollinators -- and in a few cases, the only pollinators. Pollinators are keystone species in essentially every terrestrial ecosystem on earth, assisting in plant reproduction and supporting other species of wildlife. Pollinators touch our lives in numerous ways each day, including being responsible for approximately one third of the food and drink we consume. The value of crop pollination has been estimated between $18 and $27 billion annually in the U.S.
Research has shown significant declines in native pollinator population sizes and ranges globally. In fact, up to 40% of pollinator species on earth may be at risk of extinction in the coming years as a result of habitat loss, the use of harmful pesticides, and climate change.
Are you interested in working with your community to reverse these declines and support our (in)valuable pollinators? Thinking globally and acting locally, Bee City USA provides a framework for communities to come together to conserve native pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat that is rich in a variety of native plants, provides nest sites, and is protected from pesticides.
As the name suggests, the focus of Bee City USA is bees, and primarily our native species. The steps that affiliates take to conserve our native bees, including creating safe habitats and hosting community events, will also help butterflies and moths as well as the nonnative honey bee. One of the most impactful actions any affiliate can take is to encourage others to think beyond the honey bee and recognize the true diversity of bees that sustain our communities.
Joining the cities and campuses across the country rallying to protect pollinators is a great way to bring your community together to create positive change!
Who Can Become an Affiliate of Bee City USA?
Cities and towns that are incorporated municipalities can work to reverse pollinator declines in their communities by becoming affiliates of Bee City USA. Bee City USA’s sister initiative, Bee Campus USA, works with institutions of higher education, including colleges and universities. See below for more details on each of these designations!
If you don’t fit into one of these categories but would like to commit to conserve native pollinators, the Xerces Society’s Bring Back the Pollinators campaign and its Pollinator Protection Pledge might be a good choice for you. Signing the pledge means making a commitment to growing pollinator-friendly flowers, providing nest sites, avoiding pesticides, and spreading the word. With these core values, pollinator conservation can be adapted to any location, whether you tend an urban community garden or a suburban yard, or work in a city park or on a farm.
Benefits to Your Community:
Bee City USA
So what does becoming a Bee City entail? The Bee City USA program endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for native pollinators. Incorporated cities, towns, and communities across the country are invited to make these commitments and become a Bee City USA affiliate.
Bee City USA Commitments:
Bee City USA Application Process:
Bee Campus USA
Structured similarly to Bee City USA, the Bee Campus USA program endorses a set of commitments, defined in an application, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators. College students, faculty, administrators, and staff have long been among the nation's most tenacious champions for sustainable environmental practices.
Bee Campus USA Commitments:
Bee Campus USA Application Process:
Thank you for your interest in engaging your community in conserving the many species of native pollinators that share our parks, neighborhoods, and backyards. Whether you encourage your city or campus to join Bee City USA, participate in the Bring Back the Pollinators campaign, or simply take small steps in your daily life to increase habitat, reduce pesticide use, or spread awareness, you are contributing to a global effort to protect pollinators.
Guest Blog by Patrick McKee, Committee Chair, Bee Campus USA - University of Connecticut Storrs
Sustainability Program Manager, Office of Sustainability, University of Connecticut Storrs
In 2018 the University of Connecticut Storrs became the first certified Bee Campus in the state of Connecticut. UConn’s Bee Campus application was primarily student-driven, spearheaded by UConnPIRG (Public Interest Research Group), a student activist organization on campus. The current Bee Campus USA Committee is comprised of faculty, staff, and students that have integrated pollinator protection throughout campus activities by bringing together the campus community around a shared goal. Throughout the year, campus groups including the Spring Valley Student Farm, Eco Garden club, and UConn Extension host pollinator-related events and outreach and work to make UConn a more pollinator-friendly campus. In 2019, UConn invited the campus community and general public to join them for a variety of exciting pollinator education, outreach, and habitat enhancement activities.
UConn is home to the Spring Valley Student Farm, which welcomes students and other volunteers to grow sustainable produce. Students help plant, weed, and harvest a variety of flowers, food crops, and forest plants, with the help of the 11 farm residents and volunteers. This past year, in addition to a variety of other flower species, milkweed was planted to provide habitat to pollinators. The farm uses organic fertilizers and non-chemical pest prevention. On Thursdays, from May through September, UConn’s Spring Valley Student Farm participated in the Farm Fresh Market, a farmers market located on campus where students sell flowers, vegetables, and other produce.
In addition to working at the Spring Valley Student Farm, UConn students and volunteers completed invasive species removal and trail maintenance in the Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP) on campus. HEEP consists of uplands, meadows, woodlands, wetlands, and riparian zones and includes a network of hiking trails.
The EcoGarden Club, comprised of about 15 students, also planted new pollinator plants at the Mansfield Community Eco Garden, which they work on between May and October. This garden includes herbs, vegetables, and a variety of flower species.
In October 2019, UConn hosted a Native Plants and Pollinators Conference. This exciting day of presentations featured current science-based research and information on supporting pollinators in managed landscapes. The program was designed for growers and other green industry professionals, landscape service providers, landscape architects and designers, town commissions, municipalities, schools, and homeowners to learn how to utilize native plants to provide the greatest value for pollinators throughout the year. Session topics included: Monarch Waystation; Asters & Goldenrods: Autumn’s Pollinator Banquet; Evaluating Pollinator Attraction of Herbaceous Perennial Nativars; Aronia Up Close: Built in Complexity and Potential; and What We Know About Nativars, Pollinators, and the Nursery Industry: Making Informed Decisions.
Other outreach activities hosted by UConn included free pollinator puppet-building workshops, an Earth Day spring fling, and most recently a screening of the documentary “Pollinators” followed by a Q&A with the director and producer.
UConn also works to integrate pollinator conservation into service learning opportunities and curriculum. In the fall 2019 service learning course, Insects, Food, and Culture, students developed group projects on various insect-related topics. Students developed posters focusing on the questions, 1) what are pollinators and how do we interact with them, and
2) problems that pollinators face. Students also shared information about pollinators at a local after-school program.
Other courses incorporated information on plant ecology, pollinator biology, integrated pest management practices, pollinators in agriculture, and landscaping for pollinators. You can find a full list of these courses in UConn’s renewal report.
Throughout the year, UConn Public Interest Research Group (UConnPIRG) used signage to promote bee conservation and raise awareness about their Save the Bees Campaign. Flyers and permanently installed signs shared information and facts about the protection of pollinators. These signs included information on the foods that require pollination and the fact that 1 out of 3 forkfuls of food are a product of pollination. Ten signs permanently installed in the dining halls remind students of the importance of pollinators everyday. These signs and flyers help raise awareness about the role of pollinators in our food systems and ecosystems.
UConn’s Bee Campus committee has harnessed existing enthusiasm for environmental stewardship on campus and added to the positive momentum. Through education, outreach, and habitat enhancement, UConn has worked throughout 2019 to bring together the campus and broader community to make UConn’s campus a better place for pollinators. UConn looks forward to continuing its work to reverse pollinator declines in the years ahead.
By Phyllis Stiles, Founder & Director Emeritus of Bee City USA and co-chair of Bee City Asheville
Why Convene a “Great Buzz Gathering”?
As scientists announce increasingly dire alarms about the future of insects and pollinators, the need for action at every level--public, private, individual, organizational, institutional, and governmental--continues to escalate. Fortunately, people of good will are voluntarily using their expertise, assets, creativity, and connections to change our landscaping paradigms to welcome pollinators into the places we live, work, and play. Pollinators make great neighbors!
In 2012, Asheville, North Carolina, became the first affiliate of Bee City USA. Thanks to relentless local and national communication about the role of pollinators in sustaining our planet these past eight years, a wide variety of people and groups have gotten involved in local pollinator conservation work. Efforts have involved establishing more native plants, monitoring butterfly and bee populations, hosting educational programs for children and adults, and modifying pest management practices.
Inspire Broad-based Pollinator Conservation Efforts
In December 2019, the Bee City USA - Asheville leadership committee at Asheville GreenWorks posed the question, can we have even more impact by connecting local pollinator conservation efforts? After all, Bee City USA was founded to galvanize communities to sustain pollinators. With that in mind, we hosted our first Great Buzz Gathering in January 2020.
We had several goals for this gathering. We wanted to develop an agenda for 2020, collaborate with more organizations, and recruit volunteers.
How to Host a Gathering
Using email, we invited anyone who had done pollinators conservation work and encouraged them to invite others who were advocating for pollinators. We also promoted the gathering to the public on social media. If participants did not register online, they did so at the door to provide their contact information for future communications.
Thirty-four people showed up and four others sent their reports to be read during the meeting. Each attendee shared what they had done in 2019 and what they planned to do in 2020. We recorded the reports on a smartphone and several notetakers captured as much information as they could. The notes are being shared with all attendees, as well as those who did not come.
The Highlights: What We Learned
Not only did participants meet new pollinator enthusiasts, they began to recognize ways they might help each other. Shared activities included establishing a pollinator garden and Bee Day event at a local school; US Fish and Wildlife’s bee and butterfly monitoring; and pollinator plantings at New Belgium Brewing Company’s 18-acre Asheville campus. Learn more about the exciting and varied activities that took place in 2019 to conserve pollinators by reading our renewal report below.
Changing Pest Management Paradigms
Of the 38 participants, seven had native plant nurseries. Each year we ask nurseries and plant retailers to update our recommended species list to let us know which plants they carry and to recommend native plants that should be added. Whether large or small, nurseries reported they use virtually no neonicotinoid pesticides and they are trying to learn more about harnessing the power of beneficial insects in the war on pests. Some Master Gardeners in attendance raved about how they were solving pest problems in their vegetable gardens by integrating more insect-attracting flowers.
It’s extremely exciting to see how interest in conserving pollinators in the greater Asheville area has grown in a relatively short time. This gathering provided us with the opportunity to better coordinate our efforts and support one another in 2020. We easily gathered information to include in our Bee City USA renewal report and also coalesced existing efforts, which will make Asheville’s annual Pollination Celebration! month, and 2020 generally, resounding successes. Most importantly, we’re helping promote pollinator conservation in our community.
Guest Blog by Peter Helfrich, Committee Chair Bee City USA - Decatur, GA
Urban environments like Decatur provide critical habitat for pollinators. In 2019, Bee City USA® - Decatur, GA (affectionately known as “Beecatur”) spearheaded a number of new programs and events designed to educate city residents about the importance of bees and other beneficial insect species, and to demonstrate how Decaturites can play an active role in protecting them.
ADDITIONAL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMING
Other programming presented to groups in and around Decatur during 2019 included:
• “Bee-Yond Honey Bees: Meet Your Native Bees,” at Avon Garden Club (Avondale, GA)
• “3 Spring Bees” at Little Forest Pre-School (Decatur, GA)
• “Pollinator Power!” at The Museum School, 6th Grade Environmental Education class (Avondale)
• “Pollinator Power!” at Oak Grove Elementary, pre-K classes (DeKalb County)
• “Bee-Yond Honey Bees: Meet Your Native Bees” at Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, Dekalb County Women Educators’ Honor Society
Learn more about Decatur's 2019 Pollinator Conservation activities by reading their renewal report or visiting their website!
By Rachel Dunham, Community Engagement Coordinator, The Xerces Society
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
Five years ago, I started working with volunteers and in many ways it changed my life. I discovered a community of people who were eager to freely give of their time, experience, and hearts. It was inspiring and motivating, and eventually I focused my career on volunteer management. This has allowed me to continue to cultivate, and take part in, a community of incredible people.
Since 2018, I have been building an exciting new volunteer program for the Xerces Society. With a high demand for our presence at events across the country and a passionate community of potential volunteers, we developed the Xerces Ambassador Volunteer Program. This program aims to engage audiences in towns and cities through education and inspiring action around invertebrate conservation.
The benefits of this program are three-fold: It engages communities through volunteerism and connects Xerces to new communities; it provides an opportunity for the public to learn about invertebrate conservation and a new way to connect to nature; and it encourages action through participation in community science, changing gardening practices, nature exploration, and more.
Two of our key audiences are youth and gardeners. Gardeners are the perfect audience to engage with because they already have a unique connection with nature. With resources like plant lists and pesticide alternatives education, Xerces can help support gardeners to provide and improve habitat for pollinators.
Youth are our future—let’s face it, without their engagement in conservation, invertebrates and our planet as a whole will be in much more danger than it is today. By fostering a connection to nature through education and inspiration, it is our hope that youth will take action to steward the natural world around them. While Xerces has previously worked on projects with youth, this program will provide more time and resources to reach the next generation in a more significant way.
The ambassador outreach kit includes everything our Xerces Ambassadors need to participate in an event, which can range from plant sales and farmers’ markets to family-oriented, themed events such as Earth Day and pollinator week celebrations. To ensure that our outreach is engaging and accessible to all ages and backgrounds, we created activities that are visual, hands-on, and can be done independently or with a group. One of the activities is a card game where the participant matches the picture of the pollinator to the picture of the plant it pollinates. Many of the plants produce common food products such as chocolate, figs, and tomatoes. For younger kids, we have butterfly masks they can color while their guardians play trivia.
The most popular activity involves matching 10 bee specimens, a wasp, and a fly suspended in hand sanitizer inside bottles to their corresponding picture. Traditionally, bees are displayed on pins, often inside a box. The bottles however, allow kids and adults to easily handle the bees and most importantly, it displays them in such a way that makes them more animal like, fostering an emotional connection to these creatures that are often seen as creepy and strange.
Since training in March, the ambassadors have engaged over 4,500 people in 9 cities from Monmouth, Oregon to Ridgefield, Washington. We were able to participate in events such as Discount Days at the Oregon Zoo, Explorando el Columbia Slough, and the Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair, making connections with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Visitors learned about Xerces and our work, participated in one of our engaging activities, and left with an action item: to explore butterflies and bees in their backyard or a local park, participate in community science programs, plant more pollinator friendly plants, and/or share this new information with friends and neighbors.
So, what’s next? For the Portland program, we are developing activities with the outreach kit that can be taken into schools, libraries, and other community centers. Ambassadors will be able to engage with youth in greater depth and continue to build deeper community support around invertebrate conservation. As for the rest of the country, get ready! In spring 2020 the ambassador program will be expanding beyond Portland, engaging three new cities: Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas, City, Missouri; and Nashville, Tennessee. It is our hope that these cities can serve as hubs for surrounding areas, and we invite anyone interested in the program and able to attend the in-person trainings to apply—see details below.
Before coming to Xerces, it was my dream to build a volunteer program. What I’ve learned through the process is that with a strong foundation, it is truly the volunteers that make a program extraordinary. This program is no exception. I have been inspired and filled with hope countless times because of the passion, drive, and desire that Xerces Ambassadors have to change the world. For that, I am forever grateful, and excited for what lies ahead.
Do you have a passion for conservation and working with the public? To learn more about the Omaha, Kansas City, Nashville, and Portland Xerces Ambassador Programs, and to apply, click here.
Learn more about the Xerces Society’s volunteer program, and view our full list of opportunities.
Community Engagement Coordinator
As the Xerces Society’s first Community Engagement Coordinator, Rachel has built our volunteer program from the ground up and is finding new ways for Xerces to connect to communities. As an Oregonian, she has always loved wildlife and being outdoors. Rachel pursued her passion for nature at Seattle Pacific University, graduating with a bachelor's in ecology, and earning a master's of wildlife conservation from the University of Maine. She spent years traveling between Alaska and Hawaii, working as a naturalist for the National Park Service, U.S.
By Molly Martin, Bee City USA Coordinator, The Xerces Society
Like many others, my introduction to the world of native bees began with their nonnative relative, the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Four hives were neatly arranged on the patch of grass between my bedroom window and the Asian pear tree that failed to produce fruit throughout my childhood despite a private brigade of pollinators. From observing my bee-suited parents tend to our flying friends from the safe confines of a backpacking tent set up in our yard to watching for swarms in the trees around our home, bees became a part of my daily life. Since then my interest has migrated from honey bees to native bees, a subset of fauna that I find myself focusing most of my professional time on as the new coordinator of Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society.
This account of my journey to native bee conservation is of course a simplified one, skipping over many twists and turns in my interests and engagements, a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Whitman College with a focus on the link between silviculture and songbirds in Oregon’s Coast Range forests, and more recently a master’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University.
The combination of climate change and long-term fire suppression have led to fire regimes marked by large, high-intensity burns. In the fall of 2017, Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California experienced unusually large and severe wildfires. In the early 2000s, the LeBuhn Lab sampled bee and plant communities at sites located in oak woodlands in both Sonoma and Napa Valleys; about half of these sites burned in the fall 2017 wildfires—but this provided the opportunity to study how fires impact bees.
While in California I was also involved in a project to complete the first survey of native pollinators on Mount Tamalpais. The project was a partnership between San Francisco State University, the Marin Municipal Water District, and California State Parks. I particularly enjoyed the community engagement aspect of the project. I helped train volunteers, worked with volunteers in the field, and coordinated community outreach events.
Joining the Xerces’ staff as the Bee City USA Coordinator has provided me with an opportunity to integrate my interest in scientific research with my excitement to work with individuals and communities to conserve pollinators. I look forward to working with our existing affiliates and continuing to expand the Bee City USA program to support pollinator conservation across the country.
Molly coordinates the Xerces Society’s Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs, initiatives of Xerces that support communities in their commitment to creating sustainable habitat for pollinators. Before joining the team at Xerces, Molly worked on a variety of projects across the western U.S., ranging from research to restoration, from environmental and outdoor education, to data analysis and visualization. She earned her master's degree in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology from San Francisco State University and her bachelor's degree in biology and environmental studies from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. When not working to conserve pollinators, Molly can be found romping in her garden; honing her cake baking skills; and exploring wild places by foot, bike, boat, or ski.
Guest Blog by Meilee D. Bridges, PhD, Southwestern University
Southwestern University has become the 87th educational institution in the nation to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program. Southwestern joins more than 150 other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.
The Bee Campus USA program is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, with offices across the country. Bee City USA’s mission is to galvanize communities and campuses to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free of pesticides. Pollinators such as bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds, and many others are responsible for the reproduction of almost 90% percent of the world’s flowering plant species and one in every three bites of food we consume.
“The program aspires to make people more PC—pollinator conscious, that is,” says Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces’ executive director. “If lots of individuals and communities begin planting native, pesticide-free flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials, it will help to sustain many, many species of pollinators.”
Like so many of the University’s sustainability projects, the intention to apply for Bee Campus USA affiliation was initiated by undergraduates. In summer 2019, Josh Long, SU associate professor of environmental studies, approached Veronica Johnson, Southwestern’s sustainability coordinator, about research projects his capstone students might pursue, and Johnson suggested that they investigate ways to make the Southwestern campus more sustainable, such as greywater irrigation, integrated pest management, on-campus composting, green roofs, or Bee Campus USA certification. Sam Buehler ’20, Karonech Chreng ’20, Katey Ewton ’20, Spencer Kleypas ’20, and Abbey Lloyd ’20 were inspired by the last recommendation in particular because, as Buehler recounts, “it seemed like a fun project that would have immediate effects, whereas other topics would not necessarily come to fruition for a few years.”
The group put together a detailed proposal, which they titled “#BeeSouthwestern: Bee Campus USA and Pollinator Protection at Southwestern University” and presented to the campus community. “The students not only guided the University through the necessary steps to achieve Bee Campus USA certification; they also did a great deal of research on campus biodiversity and the promotion of pollinator habitat on college campuses at large. Their final thesis was over 60 pages!” says Long.
“It was amazing to be a part of this project,” Buehler reflects. “Most capstones tend to be research intensive, but this had a very clear and tangible goal with clear steps and was very communication and collaboration focused. We worked a lot with Facilities and Marketing, as well as the Sustainability Committee, and I am incredibly thankful for their help and support in this project, as well as for Veronica Johnson and, of course, our advisor, Dr. Long.”
Most capstones tend to be research intensive, but this had a very clear and tangible goal with clear steps and was very communication and collaboration focused.
Thanks to the group’s efforts, pollinator-conservation events and plans are already in motion. In October, the Southwestern Garden Club hosted a workday in the campus community garden, planting pollinator-friendly, drought-resistant plants in one of the main beds. That same month, during Sustainability Week, the students participated in Sustainability Fun on the Mall, raising awareness by handing out pollinator plant seeds and informational handouts to SU community members. And during the fall semester, the undergraduates collaborated with Facilities Management to have an area east of the athletic fields and bordering the walking trail officially designated as a protected native habitat.
The students also created a webpage to disseminate information to the campus and external communities; the site includes an updated list of native plants incorporated into the campus landscape, including their bloom time and habitat needs, and features Southwestern’s Integrated Pest Management Plan, which describes how Facilities Management already takes steps to minimize hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoid pesticides, glyphosate herbicide, or other potentially dangerous pesticides. Over the next year, the website will grow to highlight links to student and faculty research into pollinator issues and information about future related events. For example, the students in the fall 2019 first-year seminar From Farm to Table is in part dedicated to the importance of pollinators in worldwide food production; the course included community-engaged learning projects, with two groups weeding and removing invasive plants from the community garden so that natural pollinator species could move in. As for future Bee Campus USA–affiliated events, SU community members can look forward to the Bat House Reveal Ceremony in spring 2020, which Johnson says will include an educational lunchtime talk about the winged mammals by local experts from Bat Conservation International and Austin Bat Refuge as well as a celebration of the University’s recently purchased bat houses.
Johnson appreciates that the students made the Bee Campus USA application their priority. “One of my core job responsibilities is to embed sustainability throughout Southwestern’s facilities services,” she comments. “Since starting in February, I have focused on our recycling and zero-waste efforts and developing a campus furniture standard. Since those have been my primary focus, I haven’t had the bandwidth to dive into the grounds side of things as much as I would like. Luckily, the environmental studies capstone group was able to take on the Bee Campus certification and make it happen.”
Although the #BeeSouthwestern group will be graduating in May, the University’s Sustainability Committee has assumed oversight of SU’s Bee Campus USA affiliation, which will assure that the campus continues to meet the program requirements and applies for renewal each year. “The Sustainability Committee expressed their appreciation for the thoughtful proposal by the students and appreciates their role in looking toward Southwestern’s future in building a reputation as the greenest college campus in Texas,” says Professor of Biology Romi Burks, who chairs the committee. So Buehler, Chreng, Ewton, Kleypas, and Lloyd can rest assured that their commitment to pollinator conservation specifically and sustainability more broadly will live on at Southwestern for years to come.
By Cornelia Reynolds, Chair, Bee City USA - Fort Bragg Committee
In 2016, Fort Bragg became the first city in California to become certified as a Bee City USA affiliate. As a small city of 7,300 in a rural county, everything we know about being a successful Bee City USA, we learned in retrospect. Recognizing our successes and weaknesses has helped us improve our conservation efforts, and we hope that other Bee Cities and Bee Campuses may learn from our experience. Here’s what worked for us.
1. Focus on a Specific Goal
When writing the point above, I kept adding and subtracting “s” to the word goal. While narrowing your focus to a single goal may be a challenge, we have benefited from focusing on one clear goal that embodies identity, strength, and planned impact.
Rather than guiding our intentions from the start, our goal grew as we recognized the strengths of our small community. Gardening is a natural part of rural culture; our city and region are filled with knowledgeable gardeners and small organic farmers. Gardening has even infiltrated our schools, which are known for their award-winning garden programs. One of our first projects after becoming a Bee City was a bee garden in a downtown park.
We recognized that we can help pollinators best by fostering bee gardening. Today our goal is to ensure every garden is a Bee Garden.
You can learn about our approach, Pro-Pollinator Planting, on the new website we’ve developed with our partner Bee Bold Mendocino, the local nonprofit which originally proposed Fort Bragg become a Bee City USA.
2. Don’t Organize, Inspire
The activities we organize are valuable, but the ones we inspire are the most effective.
Proud to be the first Bee City USA in California, the community pursued its own ideas about the meaning of Bee City USA. Civic organizations sponsored educational presentations, teachers incorporated pollinators into classes, the Fort Bragg Garden Club established an Annual Pollinator Garden Award, and the theme of the City’s recent 130th birthday party was Bee City USA.
Without anyone organizing it, opposition to pesticides grew. Citizens declared a Bee City must have pollinator friendly practices. Fort Bragg adopted an Integrated Pest Management policy in November, 2019.
Through our example we hope to inspire others to join in our goal of ensuring that every garden is a Bee Garden.
3. Involve your Community in Fundraising
Yes, in-kind donations and volunteer labor are critical to getting started, but it requires money to get more done. We make fundraising fun-raising, with lots of people involved in projects of their own making.
A dedicated knitter created dozens of bee caps, which we sold for a price, and sometimes auctioned for more, or awarded for services rendered to pollinators. A boutique held a Bee Art Sale of works donated by the artists to benefit local pollinator programs. A middle-schooler donated money from flowers he sold at school for Mother’s Day. An interior design store features regular bee education events and serves and sells Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s Bee Bold Coffee, popular with locals because our bee projects have received a percentage of local sales since 2017.
Our budget is small, yet we manage to fund many small projects, scholarships, plants for our Bee City Garden, flyers for local gardeners, educational materials for schools, and displays for local organizations and events. The Cause Coffee program is now open to other Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA organizations to include in their fundraising programs.
As we all know, our work to save pollinators has only just begun. The Fort Bragg Bee City USA newsletter shares bee gardening tips, how to gardens without pesticides, and more. Sign up today to receive twice monthly ideas on how to support pollinators.
And remember, every garden is a bee garden.
An initiative of the Xerces Society, Bee City USA's conservation work is powered by our donors. Your tax deductible donation will help us to protect the life that sustains us.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA coordinator and Xerces Society.