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This Earth Week, Let's Bring Communities Together to Protect Pollinators

By Molly Martin on 20 April 2020
Molly Martin

Bee City USA provides a framework for communities to work together to conserve native pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants, and free to nearly free of pesticides.

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 around 3,600 native (wild) bee species! Native pollinators are particularly important because they evolved alongside native plants and are therefore, in many cases, the most effective pollinators.

 

A fuzzy, primarily yellow, bee flies towards a purple sprig of flowers. The bee and the flowers are in sharp focus. The background, made up of purples and reds, is blurred.

The yellow bumble bee (Bombus fervidus) is one of the nearly 3,600 native bee species native to the United States. (Photo: Kara Keating-Stuart)

 

Pollinators are a keystone species in essentially every ecosystem on earth, assisting in plant reproduction and supporting other species of wildlife. In fact, pollinators are 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 US.

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 work together to conserve native pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants, and free to nearly free of pesticides.

​Bee City USA affiliates take steps to conserve our native pollinators including bees, butterflies, and moths. The focus of Bee City USA is not honey bees; however steps to conserve our native pollinators including habitat enhancement and pesticide reduction also benefit honey bees. 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!

 

A gray butterfly with dark circles outlined in yellow on its wing alights on a yellow, daisy-like flower. This garden has many red and yellow flowers.

Common buckeye (Junonia coenia) visiting Randolph College's pollinator garden. (Photo: Allison Brooks)

 

Who Can Become an Affiliate of Bee City USA?

Cities and towns that are incorporated municipalities can become affiliates of Bee City USA, working to reverse pollinator declines in their communities. 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 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

  • Ensure survival of vital animal species: ​Help to ensure the survival of vital animal species crucial to our planet's functioning ecosystems.
  • Build community locally and nationally: Bring your community together around a positive, shared cause and connect with communities across the country that have made the same commitment.
  • Improve local food production: Raise community awareness of how our food grows and improve local food production through expanded pollination.
  • Support small businesses: Support the growth of local businesses, including native plant nurseries and pollinator-friendly landscaping companies.
  • Address pest problems with fewer pesticides: Raise community awareness of the least toxic ways to tackle home and garden pest problems. Mobilize your community to remove non-native invasive plants to make way for locally native plants.
  • Heighten awareness of biological diversity: Raise community awareness of the local environment’s diversity of plant and pollinator species.

 

A colorful garden with plants of various heights and flower colors has a sign in front with the Bee City USA's green, circular logo with bees in the middle.

A stop on Ashland, Oregon's Pollinator Garden Tour features a pollinator-friendly front yard. (Photo: Kristina Lefever)

 

 

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

  • Establish a standing Bee City USA committee to advocate for pollinators.
  • Create and enhance pollinator habitat on public and private land by increasing the abundance of native plants and reducing the use of pesticides.
  • Incorporate pollinator-conscious practices into city policies and plans.
  • Host annual pollinator awareness events.
  • Publicly acknowledge Bee City USA affiliation with signs and with an online presence.
  • Pay an initial application fee and then the annual renewal fee.
  • Annually apply for renewal and report on the previous year’s activities.

 

Bee City USA Application Process

  1. Form a Bee City USA Committee.
  2. Complete an online application.
  3. Have your city council adopt the Bee City USA resolution (following our template) and receive the approval of the highest elected official.
  4. Pay the application fee, which is scaled to your population.

 


A group of college students dig holes in a flat, open area. In the foreground of the image are many small plants in pots, waiting to be planted.

 Students plant a pollinator garden at the University of California, Davis. (Photo: Katie Hetrick)

 

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

  • Establish a standing Bee Campus USA committee to advocate for pollinators.
  • Create and enhance pollinator habitat on campus through increasing the abundance of native plants and reducing the use of pesticides.
  • Offer service-learning projects to enhance pollinator habitat.
  • Display signage focused on pollinator conservation.
  • Offer courses or continuing education opportunities that incorporate pollinator conservation.
  • Maintain an online presence for your Bee Campus USA activities.
  • Annually apply for renewal and report on the previous year’s activities.
  • Pay an initial application fee and annual renewal fee​.

 

Bee Campus USA Application Process

  1. Form a Bee Campus USA committee. 
  2. Complete an online application.
  3. Receive approval of your president or chancellor.
  4. Pay the application fee (scaled to student enrollment)​.

 

Thank you for your interest in engaging your community in conserving the many species of native pollinators that share our parks, neighborhoods, and yards. Whether you encourage your city or campus to join Bee City USA, sign the Pollinator Protection Pledge, 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.

 

Further Reading

Learn more about Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA.

Check out some of the most recent spotlight blogs, detailing updates from Bee City and Bee Campus affiliates:

Find more ways to support conservation this Earth Week!

 

Authors

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.

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