Ohio University has become an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators. OHIO joins many other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.
According to Ohio University Landscape Coordinator Susan Calhoun, the Athens campus has a number of policies in place to protect pollinator species.
“In 2019, the University adopted an Integrated Pest Management Plan that included the designation of 11 specific naturalized areas to provide habitat for beneficial insects and other wildlife,” Calhoun said. “The plan also institutionalized cultural practices and chemical application guidelines that support healthy and diverse ecosystems.”
Properly signed naturalized and pollinator areas on campus have been embraced by the campus and local community. OHIO Bee Campus USA Committee student member Emma Little, who also works with Calhoun in Grounds Services, shared her pleasure working on the initiative.
“It’s exciting to see the University take on these beneficial environmental challenges that have such a visible impact. The pollinator garden we installed this spring on The Ridges has not only thrived with beautiful plantings but has attracted an abundance of insects and other wildlife,” Little said. “To see all the activity there is a wonderful testament that people can have an impact on protecting species and the environment while creating an attractive landscape for all to enjoy.”
Steve Mack, director of Facilities Management, agrees and sees additional benefits to the triple bottom line of sustainability: people, planet and prosperity.
“The University continues to add designated naturalized areas and is actively planning for pollinator-specific habitat expansion,” Mack said. “These areas are not only enjoyed by the campus and local community and support biodiversity, but with the reduced need for mowing we have seen a decrease in labor costs.”
“Facilities Management and Safety continues to evaluate its processes to find the safest, least toxic grounds practices possible,” Scott Blower, OHIO Grounds Services manager, added. “We utilize soil amendment produced in our own in-vessel, industrial-scale compost operation to naturally enhance growing conditions for turf and landscape plants, provide additional education and training for staff, and continue to expand naturalized areas across campus including dedicated pollinator habitat such as the certified Monarch Waystation at the OHIO Ecohouse.”
To raise awareness about the plight of pollinators, OHIO is updating the Office of Sustainability’s webpage to disseminate information to the campus and external communities regarding the campus Integrated Pest Management Plan, 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.
Environmental and Plant Biology Professor Kim Thompson is excited about the opportunities for student research and service-learning activities connected to the Bee Campus USA designation. Already faculty, staff, and students have worked together to study and create pollinator habitat with native plants as part of her Schoonover Green Roof Project. Numerous courses include pollinators in their syllabi and removing invasive species is an ongoing student activity led by Calhoun, her student Grounds Services staff, the Plant Club and Climate and Sustainability Ambassador student volunteers.
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. 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 90% of the world's flowering plant species and one in every three bites of food we consume.
“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.”
According to Bee Campus USA coordinator Molly Martin, “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.”