Bee City USA brings a unique approach that encourages cities and college campuses across the United States to develop and implement a plan for helping pollinators
For over 45 years, the Xerces Society has worked to make a better world for bees, butterflies, tiger beetles, snails, mussels, and many other invertebrates, and ultimately, to make a better world for us. We have worked to protect the most vulnerable animals on the planet, provided information on how to protect these animals to land managers responsible for millions of acres of wildlands, and helped create and restore more than 700,000 acres of habitat on farms. We have also engaged with people in towns and cities, providing information on how to best care for invertebrates in these built landscapes. In the last year, however, we have greatly expanded our efforts in urban and suburban areas, offering even more resources and training to park managers, gardeners, and others.
Fitting perfectly with this increased presence in urban areas, I am excited to announce that Bee City USA is becoming part of the Xerces Society. Bee City USA brings a unique approach that encourages cities and college campuses across the United States to develop and implement a plan for helping pollinators and then receive recognition for their efforts through becoming a “Bee City” or “Bee Campus.” Under the direction of Phyllis Stiles, a tireless advocate for pollinators who founded Bee City USA in 2012, scores of cities and campuses across the US have become affiliates, each making a public commitment to support bees and improving their landscapes for these and other pollinators.
Bee City USA has achieved great success. Just a few weeks ago Phyllis announced the 115th affiliate—70 cities and 45 campuses—and there are more joining each month.
I am delighted to also announce that Phyllis will continue this effort as a Xerces employee.
Why the focus on cities and towns?
Invertebrates—including bees and butterflies—have many of the same challenges in urban and suburban landscapes that they have elsewhere. They lack quality habitat and what habitat remains is often degraded or fragmented, limiting pollinators ability to move between patches across the landscape. Pesticides are also a significant issue in these areas. Many studies have shown more pesticides are used in neighborhoods than in most agricultural areas. Couple these issues with urban lighting, which negatively affects night-flying moths, as well as climate change, and you can see that there is plenty of work to do.
On the flip side, there is evidence that we can make a difference. Restoring areas of habitat in towns and cities and protecting these areas from pesticides leads to greater diversity and abundance of pollinators and other beneficial insects. A recent study showed that if urban parks are managed with biodiversity in mind they can have just as many pollinators as natural areas out in the countryside. In short, if you plant flowers and make sure they are protected from pesticides, these small but hugely important animals will come.
Anyone can take action to help. Parks are an important part of this effort because they are relatively large, but backyards, roadsides, and even green roofs can be part of making our neighborhoods friendlier to the insects that pollinate, control pests, eat detritus, and beautify our lives.
These areas are also vital for bringing other nature back to communities. The benefits of daily contact with nature are profound, including improved mental and emotional health. Many kids in cities do not have access to green and wild areas. Pollinator conservation can provide places where wildlife and people can mix for underserved communities.
And that brings me back to Bee City USA. Bringing Bee City into the Xerces family, and having Phyllis to continue leading it, provides one more important avenue to make a difference in towns and cities across the US. Working together, we can do much more to integrate pollinator conservation and all of the benefits it brings to communities big and small, rich and poor, and seamlessly provide high-quality resources and training directly to city and campus staff and many community members.
Thanks to Bee City USA, there is now a coast-to-coast network of pollinator enthusiasts and advocates, a remarkable achievement in only six years. The union with Xerces will enable the Bee City movement to grow even further and create stable, long-lasting change that will make the world a better place for pollinators and people.