The University of Utah has become certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators. The U joins many other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.
According to Amy Sibul, the U’s Bee Campus USA committee chair, a group of dedicated students, faculty, and staff have implemented multiple pollinator-friendly initiatives at the institution for the past several years. “We have been working to build bee-friendly habitat and raise awareness about pollinator conservation on campus and beyond for years. We’re so happy that the University of Utah is recognized for this work and can serve as a role model for including pollinators in the planning of urban spaces and infrastructure. It is essential that humans pay attention to these vital insects as we look to the future. They are an integral part of food webs and ecosystem functioning in both urban and wild spaces.”
The backbone of the U Bee Campus USA Committee has a Beekeepers’ Association, for which Sibul serves as the faculty advisor. This student organization has maintained honeybee hives on campus since 2012 and hosted pollinator awareness events, public school classroom visits, and lectures on campus to educate people about the importance of bees and other pollinators. The U of U Beekeeper’s Association worked with campus facilities, the College of Architecture, and the Office of Sustainability to plan, fund, and install a Pollinator Conservation Garden, which was completed in April of 2019.
Multiple campus partners have provided support in the Bee Campus USA designation, including the School of Biological Sciences Community Engaged Learning Program, the Office of Sustainability, Red Butte Garden, and the Natural History Museum of Utah. The U is lucky—it has an affiliated botanical garden, Red Butte Garden, which has incorporated multiple pollinator-friendly spaces and awareness campaigns into their efforts and an affiliated natural history museum, which maintains an extensive insect collection managed by Bee Campus USA Committee member Christy Bills, and leads multiple insect-oriented outreach events for the public.
Sue Pope, the campus open space manager and committee member, takes pride in the U’s commitment to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoid pesticides, glyphosate herbicide, or other potentially dangerous pesticides. The U’s integrated pest management plan can be viewed here.
The U’s Beekeeper’s Association and Bee Campus USA Committee will continue to promote awareness about the importance of pollinators and methods to protect and provide habitat for them. Over the next year, they will work with the School of Biological Sciences’ Community Engaged Learning Program to create a Bee Campus USA website that will allow the public to access information about Utah’s native bees and pollinator conservation. Utah is a bee biodiversity hotspot, with over 1100 species of bees identified in the state. The website will include information about these important insects, and will also include a list of native pollinator-friendly plants, simple landscaping techniques to provide habitat for them, and links to current pollinator awareness events and active research at the U.
Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA are initiatives 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 like bumblebees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and many others are responsible for the reproduction of almost ninety 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,” said 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.”
According to Bee Campus USA coordinator Molly Martin, “Each certified campus must renew their certification each year and report on accomplishments from the previous year. Other institutions of higher education are invited to explore completing the application process outlined at beecityusa.org.”
For more information about the University of Utah’s Bee Campus USA program, contact Amy Sibul at firstname.lastname@example.org.