What is a “Bee Team”? What is a Pollinator?
We love to support our bees–they help out so much with food production and we love their gentle buzzing–but our team works to support all pollinators, not just bees. A pollinator is any animal that helps to fertilize flowers and includes both invertebrates–bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and other insects–and vertebrates–bats, birds, and even mammals like squirrels, skunks, opossums (marsupial), and lizards! Bees are the most efficient pollinators, but every pollinator has its role to play.
So what does a “Bee Team” do at SOU? Our committee meets regularly to plan events and activities that support pollinators. These include environmental education projects, service learning activities, workshops, and grassroots organizing. Past events have included planting pollinator gardens, rendering honey and beeswax, building a “bee hotel” at SOU’s Farm, watching films, hosting guest speakers, celebrating pollinators during SOU’s Earth Week, lobbying for pollinator-friendly campus practices, and tracking the campus’ commitments to pollinators.
Our next “Bee Team” meeting is Friday, January 19th, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Stevenson Union, Room 313. Current members include representatives of ECOS, SOU Landscape Services, OSPIRG, the Sustainability Council, and other campus groups, but anyone who is interested in working to support pollinators on campus is welcome. SOU was the nation’s first “Bee Campus,” and each year the “Bee Team” documents the campus’ range of “pollinator-friendly” practices to ensure another year of “Bee Campus USA” recognition. Ongoing projects include an effort to renew SOU’s Bee Club. SOU currently hosts nine honey bee hives on campus at the ECOS Community Garden and at the Farm at SOU. Students who are interested in beekeeping, gardening, and environmental issues are encouraged to attend the next “Bee Team” meeting and join in efforts to renew this valuable student organization.
A Brief History of SOU’s Bee Campus USA Committee
In 2014-2015, SOU collaborated with Bee City USA, a national organization based in Asheville, North Carolina, to design a new designation: “Bee Campus USA.” This designation was the brainchild of three key organizers: Michael Oxendine, SOU Landscape Services Supervisor; Phyllis Stiles, Executive Director of Bee City USA; and, Jamie Hickner, SOU University Seminar faculty and a co-founder of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, a local nonprofit (Hickner is on right in photo attached to the previous link). A year-long collaboration among students, staff, faculty, and administrators focused on a key question: What should university campuses do to ensure the health and vitality of pollinators?” The result was a “Bee Campus USA” designation that recognizes campuses that follow an impressive range of practices and policies that support pollinators. Today, there are more than 31 bee campuses around the country, with many more applications under review.
SOU models best practices in its treatment of pollinators on campus. For example, the Landscape Services Department has installed 22 pollinator beds across campus, including new beds planted with the aid of Environmental Science classes last year (as seen in the pictures with this article taken by SOU Landscape Facilities Staff). New pollinator-friendly plant beds are added with each new renovation project on campus. Pollinator-friendly beds include over seventy native plant species and over twenty perennials. SOU’s Landscape Services avoids the use of synthetic insecticides and contributes to community education efforts about the potential harms associated with the misuse of pesticides. These efforts contribute to SOU’s sustainability mission.
The hives around SOU include decaying trees that are preserved as habitats for bees and other wildlife, as well as the managed honey bee hives previously mentioned.
The Rogue Valley is full of people who are enthusiastic hobby and commercial beekeepers. There are numerous opportunities to study beekeeping, through local workshops by Bee Girl, or training through the College of the Melissae. There are also professional organizations that offer training to apprentice and master beekeepers, including the Oregon State Beekeepers Association, the OSU Extension, and the Oregon Master Beekeepers.
Several local communities have been added to the 62 cities around the nation after earning the “Bee City” designation. These local communities include Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, and Gold Hill. These cities have shown their commitment to pollinators by creating sustainable habitats for pollinators, which can include planting pollinator beds, avoiding synthetic pesticides, and educating the public about the importance of pollinators.
By: Michael Jones, PEAK Student for Landscape Services, and Jamie Hickner, Co-chair of SOU Bee Campus USA Committee