Western North Carolina Nature Writer George Ellison Writes Weekly Nature Column, Oftentimes, About Plants & Their Pollinators
As wild bees begin to prepare for the winter, those individuals that will "hibernate" to ensure the continuation of the species the next spring, do their very best to gather all of the pollen and nectar they can to fatten up. That's why fall flowers, like goldenrod, are such welcome sights.
For many years, naturalist George Ellison has contributed a weekly column to the Asheville Citizen-Times, illustrated by his wife, Elizabeth Ellison. Here is the most recent column about the many species of goldenrod.
The Washington Post reports that a new study finds in areas where neonicotinoid pesticides are used heavily for agriculture which is foraged on by bees, there is strong correlational evidence that they are contributing to local wild bee extinctions in tandem with habitat loss and diseases.
This story from the Los Angeles Times shares very encouraging news about retailers making a conscious effort to supply plants that have not been treated with neonicotinoid insecticides: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bees-pesticides-20160816-snap-story.html
Under the leadership of Roderick Simmons, the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department has been moving away from synthetic chemicals for pest management and fertilization to completely organic landscape management during the past two years.
On August 10 after spending all day training Asheville Parks and Recreation staff in organic lawn care methods, Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, and Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, led a 2+ hour public workshop at Lenoir Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies. The workshop was sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, the City of Asheville, Toxic Free NC, Bee City USA, and the Asheville Alternative to Pesticides Coalition.
About 50 people, many of them from the plant retailer or landscaping industry, attended the very informative workshop where Feldman summarized the origins of our national pesticide treadmill and Osborne explained working WITH nature and soil biology to maintain healthy turf lawns.
Cities maintain large expanses of turf lawns in public parks and athletic fields. As the inaugural affiliate of Bee City USA, the City of Asheville was selected by Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics to not only engage in this training, but also to test the methodology at three city-owned sites: Martin Luther KIng Park, Pack Square Park, and a new community garden. They have tested soil samples from each location and designed a management strategy in response. This coming year they will collaborate on implementing the plan.
The Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs encourage affiliates to practice organic, "least toxic," integrated pest management as espoused by Osborne Organics and Beyond Pesticides. It was encouraging to hear Chip Osborne support reducing lawns and expanding flower beds generally for the health of pollinators and other wildlife, and explain that including clover in lawns is good for soil, since clover is "nitrogen-fixing." Indeed, until the 1950's, grass seed mixes included clover!
Thanks to City Council's unanimous vote on June 6, Ann Arbor has met the requirements for becoming an affiliate of Bee City USA.
Numerous efforts are underway in Ann Arbor to have homeowners pledge not to use pesticides that are harmful to bees and to plant a diversity of flowers to meet their year-round needs for nectar and pollen.
Ryan Stanton wrote a well researched article for MLIVE quoted here: "Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, shared some of her own thoughts as the City Council approved the Bee City USA resolution.
She said it's important to recognize the relationship between what people grow and what products they use and the impact on insects and small animals.
'Part of what makes Bee City USA as important an effort as it is, is that while it focuses on bees, it doesn't limit itself to honey bees,' she said. 'It instead encourages people to promote habitats for bees and other pollinators.'"
The Environmental Commission led by the Deputy Manager for Parks & Recreation Services, Dave Borneman, has been charged with facilitating the city's efforts to be more pollinator-friendly along with Germaine Smith, Pollinator Policy Action Team Chair for the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council, and Eileen Dickinson, a leader in the Bee Safe Neighborhoods movement.
Anne Arundel County+Annapolis+Highland Beach Certified as Bee City USA Affiliate--First City/County Partnership To Do So!
Good things are happening for pollinators in Maryland! The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act recently banned neonicotinoid pesticide sales to people who are not certified as pesticide applicators, AND Anne Arundel County joined forces with its municipalities--Annapolis and Highland Beach, to apply for Bee City USA certification.
In addition to the county commissioners and city council members who voted in favor of protecting pollinators, thanks to the leadership of Anna Chaney (owner of Honey's Harvest Farm), Lisa Barge (Agricultural Marketing & Development Manager for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation) and Maria Broadbent (Director of the City of Annapolis Department of Neighborhood & Environmental Programs) for building the coalition to make this innovative collaboration happen.
On June 20, the Decatur City Commission voted unanimously to become the first Bee City USA affiliate in Georgia.
Watch the Commission's 10 minute discussion of the Bee City USA resolution (at the very beginning of the meeting) to see how beekeeper Deborah Palmer turned her anger to activism for pollinators.
Deborah's "show and tell" of a basket of food items that don't require pollinators and a basket of food items that do require pollinators really drove the message of pollinators' role in food security home!
Decatur's process is similar to most affiliates:
1) A local champion asked fellow citizens to endorse an application to Bee City USA and formed a steering committee.
2) They completed an application, indicating who would be their city liaison.
3) They shared a draft resolution and application with Bee City USA and city officials for their review.
4) The city considered and adopted the resolution.
Kudos to Decatur for committing to sustain pollinators.
Located in Portland, Oregon, Portland State University applied to be certified as a Bee Campus USA in spring 2016 because they are committed to modeling landscaping and teaching practices that encourage the larger community to do what they can to sustain vital pollinators.
Heather Spalding, Coordinator of the Student Sustainability Center explains, "PSU plants mostly natives and edibles on campus and our Landscaping department uses an Integrated Pest Management Plan that includes minimizing the use of pesticides."
PSU has a variety of student focused gardens, which include pollinators, natives, and edibles, and provides opportunities for students to participate in garden education activities through their Garden Task Force.
Right in the middle of PSU's campus, their Oak Savanna is a minimally managed outdoor classroom that is protected from foot and dog traffic. The space includes oaks and sparse understory (including plants like camas, grasses, oregon grape, and serviceberry) that increases the biodiversity of our campus ecosystem. The space is mowed just once in August in accordance with local indigenous management practices so that plants can complete their bloom cycle. Hundreds of dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees are found there in spring and summer.
Congratulations President Wiewel and the faculty, staff and students of Portland State University!
Bee Campus USA has certified the Medical University of South Carolina as the 11th affiliate in the nation and the first in South Carolina. To qualify for certification, a university or educational institution must make several commitments. They must establish and maintain a committee comprised of groundskeeping staff, faculty, administrators and students to develop a Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan that will incorporate native pollinator-friendly plants and a least toxic integrated pest management plan. They must hold annual campus events to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and sponsor service–learning projects to enhance pollinator habitats on and off campus. They must offer a course or workshop on pollinator ecology and integrated pest management that provides continuing education credits for professional pesticide applicators and landscape designers. Institutions must also take steps to educate the campus and broader community about the importance of pollinator–friendly landscaping principles.
Already thinking about the future, Carmen Ketron, the educator for MUSC’s Urban Farm, said, "Her goal is to use MUSC’s Bee Campus certification to develop a model for The Citadel and the College of Charleston to follow. Eventually, she hopes the city of Charleston itself will apply for Bee City USA status."
Read the entire announcement here.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA director and board.