Pollination Celebration! Planned for June

Phyllis Stiles, founder of Bee City USA, established Asheville as the very first Bee City USA in 2012.  There are now 200 cities and campuses throughout the United States–from coast to coast with 19 located in North Carolina.

By Dasha Morgan

Every year since 2013, Bee City USA has hosted Pollination Celebration! in Asheville in June to raise awareness of the role and plight of the world’s pollinators and to provide helpful guidance for creating healthy pollinator habitat on public and private land. Asheville became the very first designated city in 2012 and Hendersonville the 7th in 2015. Phyllis Stiles, who founded Bee City USA, had a straightforward and audacious goal: to engage as many people as possible in reversing the population decline of native bees, honey bees, and other pollinators. These month long events, held throughout June from city to city, raises awareness of the role and plight of the world’s pollinators, such as all manner of bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, hummingbirds and bats. The goals of the month of events is to engage as broad a section of the public as possible—young and old, resident and tourist, people who like to garden, people who like to have a delicious meal, nature lovers and scientists— and make them aware of the plight of the pollinators in today’s world.

So let’s be brave and ask, what is a pollinator? A pollinator is an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce. It is thought that one out of every three bites of food you eat exists because of the efforts of pollinators, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Pollinators not only are necessary for our own food but also support the food and habitat of animals. Pretty important, no? Perhaps the world needs to wake up to the fact that there is a serious problem going on with those little insects buzzing around in the air.

This year, 2020, with Homo Sapiens struggling to make sure they survive the worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus, perhaps some, with a little reflection, will be able to have a better understanding of what is going on with pollinators. Man must distance himself from this killer covid-19 virus—be at least 6 feet away from someone possibly infected— or you may suddenly find yourself 6 feet “under” the ground! Likewise it is with pollinators in your garden—who do not know enough to be afraid. Many of the world’s pollinators are simply unable to survive after being doused with pesticides and insecticides. The majority of corn, soybeans and other food crop seeds are coated with toxic pesticides—the most common being the Neonicotinoids. Many seeds and flowers marketed as “bee-friendly” at garden centers are also contaminated with systemic chemicals. Have you followed any of the Round-Up lawsuits and settlements? Perhaps it is time to reflect and make changes in your own garden and yard. Perhaps it is time to plant more native plants, have a smaller lawn area, and quit using pesticides. By being more mindful and aware of the situation, the national and global decline of pollinators could possibly be slowed or—dare I say —even stopped.

Phyllis Stiles has skillfully led the way to more awareness of the situation, so that since 2012 there are over 200 city and campus affiliations of Bee City USA. In 2018 she merged it into the largest pollinator conservation organization in the world, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in Portland, Oregon. This is a highly thought of organization bringing prestige and many additional benefits to Bee City USA. Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y., has just become the 98th Bee Campus and the 200th city or campus affiliate of Bee City USA, which is quite a commendable achievement.

Throughout June, year after year, there are participating events held from coast to coast. Asheville has many events planned. In 2017 Asheville GreenWorks took over the leadership of the local Bee City USA affiliate. This year they plan to have a screening of “The Pollinators” on June 23 at the Collider at 1 Haywood Road at 6:00 pm. Earlier on June 11th at the Renaissance Hotel, The Black Jar competition will be returning for its 9th year. The Center for Honeybee Research’s annual International Black Jar Honey Contest is unique in that it asks judges to evaluate through a blind tasting based solely on flavor and enjoyment. Someone will win the 2020 grand prize of $3,500 for the World’s Best Tasting Honey. Heather Rayburn, who hosts the website, will speak on June 14th to show how each one of us can do our part to reverse the insect apocalypse. On her website Rayburn gives information of Native Plant Sources for Western North Carolina gardeners and puts a special emphasis on Monarch Butterfly Conservation. Who cannot but love the sight of this delicate wild butterfly stopping in the garden as it migrates. Horrifyingly one learns there that the Monarch Butterfly’s population in the last two decades has plummeted by 90%! Rayburn gives suggestions on her website to show how one can work to slow this sad decline. In addition, on June 27 during Pollination Celebration! there will be a Sunset Pollinator Party on the roof of the Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville to learn about the living roof next door, filled with pollinator-loving native plants. Reems Creek Nursery, the Botanical Gardens, High Wire Brewing are all once again participants of Bee City USA pollinator conservation efforts throughout June.

Native Pollinator Garden Certification Program

Asheville GreenWorks through the efforts of Peter Menzies, their environmental educator, is seeking to inspire the local community, raising awareness and increase habitat through garden certification. This exciting new Native Pollinator Garden Certification program allows anyone in the Asheville/Buncombe area to certify their garden as pollinator habitat.

Certified gardens will receive a certificate and an optional habitat sign. The goals of this program are to educate community members on the crucial elements of beneficial pollinator habitat, help beginning gardeners get their feet off the ground, and bring recognition to those who are already helping our most needed pollinators. A full-fledged pollinator habitat has many elements that GreenWorks deems necessary: native plants, avoiding pesticides use, nectar sources, tree and/or shrubs, butterfly/moth larval hosts, water, shelter, and removing invasive plants. An application is needed. More details can be found on the website:

Hendersonville Mural to Celebrate Bees

On the exterior walls of Hands On! Children’s Museum a mural will celebrate bees and their importance to the agricultural county with its reliance on apples and farming. The artist is Matthew Willey. The mural will be painted later in the year. Donations small and large, as well as in-kind donations, are being accepted. Checks can be written to Hands On! (write “bee mural” in the info line) and mailed to Hands On Children’s Museum, 318 North Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792 Or, of course, you can contribute in person at Hands On during business hours.

Steve Pettis, a Henderson County Extension agent, believes the educational aspect of this project is significant. “It is important to keep pollinators in people’s consciousness. If you see a mural such as this, it will remind you that bees are important, and it might be the thing that causes you to pick that pesky tomato hornworm off of your plant rather than using a pesticide.”

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