Virginia Western Community College has become the first Virginia Community College System (VCCS) affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators. Virginia Western joins many other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.
Virginia Western’s Bee Campus Committee consists of a multidisciplinary team of faculty and staff, as well as an enthusiastic group of students, according to Heather Butler, Biology program head and committee chair of the Bee Campus Committee. The committee has been awarded an Innovation Grant for the upcoming academic year to develop a Bee Campus website, campus and community outreach activities, and an inventory of the campus’ native plants and pollinator-friendly landscaping. The group has also established three beehive colonies on campus, which are thriving in their new location.
Tonya Judd of the Horticulture program and Mark Cohen of Facilities Management, both members of the Bee Campus Committee, take pride in the college’s commitment to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoids or other potentially dangerous pesticides. To raise awareness about the plight of pollinators, Virginia Western’s newly established Bee Campus Committee plans to publish a webpage to disseminate information to the campus and external communities including Virginia Western’s Integrated Pest Management Plan, a list of native plants incorporated into the campus landscape including their bloom time and habitat needs, links to student and faculty research into pollinator issues, and information about upcoming events.
The Bee Campus Committee is excited about the opportunities for student research and service-learning. Faculty, staff, and students already have worked together to study and create pollinator habitat with native plants. More than six Biology and Horticulture courses include pollinators in their course content, and removing invasive species on campus will be an important student and faculty initiative as the committee develops its objectives.
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.
“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.”
Pollinators like bumble bees, 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.
“How each city or campus completes the steps to conserve pollinators is up to them,” said Bee Campus USA coordinator Laura Rost. “Affiliates play to their own strengths, designing pesticide reduction plans, improving habitat, and holding events ranging from garden tours to native plant giveaways to bee trivia nights. Each campus must renew their affiliation 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 Virginia Western Community College’s Bee Campus USA program, contact Heather Butler at email@example.com, Jenifer Kurtz at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tonya Judd at email@example.com. Also available for information is Laura Rost, Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.