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Bee City USA Begins a New Chapter

By Scott Hoffman Black on 15. November 2019
Scott Hoffman Black

We're celebrating the achievements of Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles as she moves on to a well-deserved retirement and passes the torch to Bee City USA Coordinator Molly Martin.

A nationwide network of nearly two hundred cities and college campuses is working toward the shared goal of protecting pollinators. A decade ago I am not sure anyone would have thought this was possible—except for Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles. In 2012 she began with a great concept, tangible ways to engage communities to move this concept forward, and a ton of determination. In the years since, Bee City USA (augmented in 2015 by Bee Campus USA) has become the gold standard for pollinator conservation in cities, towns, and colleges across the United States. This work has been a labor of love for Phyllis, sustained by her boundless energy and creativity. She took Bee City USA from idea to reality with an all-volunteer effort sustained by just a few people and no funding.


A tall woman with short, white hair poses with two children by a sign with the Bee City USA logo, that reads "founded in Asheville in 2012."
Phyllis Stiles began Bee City USA in 2012 in Asheville, North Carolina. Since then, it has grown into a nationwide network of nearly two hundred cities and college campuses spanning 41 states and Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Phyllis Stiles)


Asheville, North Carolina, became the first Bee City USA in 2012, but then there was a nervous two-year wait for the second—Talent, Oregon. Phyllis mentioned to me that as the wait grew she worried there would not be a second affiliate! Finally, with these two cities on board, others began to follow their example of supporting pollinators, and Phyllis built this idea into a nationwide initiative that now spans 41 states and Washington, D.C.

In 2017, Phyllis approached the Xerces Society to talk about joining forces—an obvious step since Xerces staff has been providing guidance and advice to Phyllis since the early days of Bee City USA. All of us at Xerces loved the idea and believed that this was such a good fit that we jumped at the opportunity. In June 2018, Xerces officially adopted Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA, and Phyllis joined our staff to ensure a smooth transition. Since then, dozens of new cities and campuses have joined. We also have integrated Bee City USA into our conservation programs, ensuring affiliates get support on outreach and education, and technical assistance to enable them to successfully support pollinators.


A woman in a colorful outfit dances with kids at an outdoor event.
Phyllis Stiles (left) has inspired countless communities with her tireless advocacy for pollinators. (Photo courtesy of Phyllis Stiles)


Phyllis is now moving on to a well-deserved retirement. As she steps away from Bee City USA, Phyllis offers the following reflection: “Pollinator champions who volunteer their time and amazing talents to recruit their friends and neighbors into the pollinator conservation cause have always been my inspiration. I have gotten up every morning with a smile on my face in anticipation of hearing the next success story about new habitat, pesticide reduction, or educational outreach. Who knew these fuzzy little insects could bring out the best in so many people?”

Although Phyllis will be sorely missed, I am pleased to announce that we have hired Molly Martin to continue the work of growing and supporting our network of city and campus affiliates. Molly brings a diverse skill set with a master’s of science focused on the study of native bees from San Francisco State University, teaching for the Teton Science School, and coordinating trips for Outward Bound. Like Phyllis, Molly brings a passion for pollinators and engaging people in conserving them.


A tall woman with short, white hair who is holding a Xerces pollinator habitat sign stands next to a woman with dark hair and a dark down coat, in the entrance to a garden.
Passing the torch: Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles (left) and Xerces' new Bee City USA Coordinator, Molly Martin (right) recently visited affiliates in southern Oregon. (Photo: Kristina LeFever)


Going forward, our focus remains the same: Galvanizing communities to take action to help pollinators and ensuring that they have the tools and information to do just that. Working with Xerces’ director of communications and outreach, and staff from our community engagement, pollinator, and pesticide programs, Molly will lead all aspects of Bee City USA, from welcoming new city and campus affiliates into the network to providing the information any affiliate needs to achieve change.

None of this would be possible without Phyllis’s initial inspiration and her tireless effort to give back to the pollinators that do so much for us. Our goal is that her vision and passion will live on as we take the next steps with this already-successful program.


Further Reading

Read Phyllis Stiles' farewell letter on the Bee City USA blog.

Visit Bee City USA's website.


Scott Black is an internationally renowned conservationist who has been at the forefront of the conservation movement for three decades. Scott’s work has led to protection and restoration of habitat on millions of acres of rangelands, forests, and farmland as well as protection for many endangered species. He is an author of the best-selling Attracting Native Pollinators and Gardening for Butterflies and has written more than two hundred other publications including a recent chapter on climate change and insects. Scott serves on the science advisory committee of Nature-Based Climate Solutions, which brings together stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of carbon removal strategies that simultaneously improve the social, economic, and environmental resilience of local communities.

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