Asheville – A full year of events has been planned by Asheville GreenWorks to celebrate pollinators and educate the public on better ways to garden in order to help bees thrive and survive. Many now recognize that pollination and pollinator-friendly plants are important for the insect world, but few realize the innumerable gardening technique changes needed for encouraging pollination. The plants chosen, the pesticides used, the mulch all have an implication on successful pollination. Thanks to Asheville GreenWorks, there will be many opportunities to learn more: with guest speakers, videos, workshops, garden tours, and seminars planned throughout the year.
Asheville GreenWorks announced the expansion of the annual Pollination Celebration in June with a full year of educational and entertaining events. Throughout the year, gardeners will have an opportunity to learn more about this serious issue. The year 2022 marks the 10th year since the national Bee City USA program began. This organization has galvanized communities throughout the USA to sustain pollinators, by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites, and reducing the use of harmful pesticides.
On May 28, Betsy Savely, the co-chair of the Bee City USA–Asheville Leadership Committee will lead a workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Charlotte Street n Asheville on “Creating a GreenWorks Certified Pollinator Habitat” from 2:00 – 3:30 pm.
Several events are planned for June:
—June 5—The Center for Honeybee Research hosts the 11th Annual Black Jar International Honey Tasting Contest at Salvage Station on Riverside Drive in Asheville. This will be the 11th annual Black Jar Tasting contest.
• June 11- Bee City USA founder, Phyllis Stiles, will lead a Pollinator Safari on the Wilma Dykeman Greenway.
• June 18–Tanya LaCorte and Ruth Gonzalez at Reems Creek Nursery in Weaverville will lead a workshop, “Plant a Pollinator Garden.”
• June 18-Emily Sampson of Patchwork Meadows, a Green business, growing and installing native plants for pollinator habitat, will lead a workshop on “Ecology of a Pollinator Meadow” in Black Mountain.
Short History of Bee City USA
In 2011, Phyllis Stiles and her husband Richard, Asheville residents, became concerned about bee decline and decided to initiate a conservation program. They founded Bee City. In only ten years this has grown from a group of backyard beekeepers and activitists to a nationwide movement called Bee City USA. It is a pollinator conservation organization that so far has certified 282 Bee City municipalities and campuses in 44 states throughout the United State. BeeCity Asheville is now a part of Asheville GreenWorks and the larger organization, BeeCity USA, is part of the illustrious Xerces Society.
“Ten years ago, hardly anyone was talking about native bees,” said Bee City Founder Phyllis Stiles, “Now, people across the country are looking for ways to preserve the pollinator populations in their own communities and backyards.” Western North Carolina is home to six certified Bee Cities (Asheville, Hendersonville, Highlands, Boone, Laurel Park and Hayesville) and five campuses. Asheville’s City Council voted unanimously on June 26, 2012, to become the nation’s inaugural Bee City USA affiliate. In 2018, Bee City USA in an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Oregon.
Furthermore, Asheville’s Bee City designation has encouraged area individuals and organizations to find innovative ways for preserving pollinators, which includes:
— Asheville Bee City USA has certified 98 pollinator habitats and installed two demonstration pollinator gardens on the Wilma Dykeman Greenway.
— UNC Asheville, a Bee Campus USA affiliate, established new pollinator habitat, engaged students in removing invasive plant species, and implemented an Integrated Pest Management Plan.
— The Biltmore Estate installed wildflower borders throughout their grounds.
— Bountiful Cities brought monarch tagging days to several elementary schools.
—The North Carolina Arboretum, a Bee Campus USA affiliate, offered kids a chance to earn a Pollinator Badge as part of their popular ecoExplore program.
—Businesses like New Belgium Brewing have planted pollinator landscapes on their properties because of Bee City USA.
—Local plant nurseries report interest in native plants has exploded in the past few years.
The Alarming Decline in Pollinators
The numbers and species of bees, butterflies, moths, flower flies, wasps and hummingbird are declining, with an estimated 40% of insect pollinator species at risk of extinction. That’s alarming, considering almost 90% of flowering plants require the help of a pollinator to reproduce and sustain their species. Pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat, and they’re rapidly disappearing from the area. Pesticides also weaken pollinating insects, making them more vulnerable to disease. Some pesticides are so toxic they should not be used. It should be noted that Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup®, a commonly used weed killer, has been linked to various cancers. Syngenta’s Paraquat®, another popular herbicide, has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. There are a number of ongoing lawsuits involving these products.
Currently, these beekeepers throughout the United Sates truck billions of honeybees to many states. For example, they rent them to almond growers at quite a high price. The farmers need these insects to pollinate the state’s most valuable crop. After, the bees are brought north to pollinate the apple orchards of eastern Washington, then the red raspberry crop as well as the blueberry crop. These pollinators are essential for the crops. So much so that in the past few months, hive thefts are being reported in the news!
With a better understanding of pollinators and their needs, one will then recognize that a perfectly manicured lawn and garden is NOT the best way to help Mother Nature and pollinators. A pristine garden is not helping the insects, birds, salamanders, turtles, and other animals to survive. An optimal pollinator garden habitat requires flowering plants (preferably wildflowers & native milkweed) along with undisturbed places for pollinators to nest, and home landscapes need to be protected from harmful pesticides. These are serious horticultural considerations. The words “pollinators and pollination” are easily tossed around today, as trending buzzwords but the issues at stake involve a lot more granulated knowledge and understanding.
Fortunately, Asheville GreenWorks helps the community address these issues. Local native plants are important to pollinators and should be included in the garden you are planting. Perhaps a visit to M R Gardens at 441 Onteora Blvd in Asheville would be helpful. This sustainable nursery hosts open houses on select Thursdays – Sundays, 10:00am – 4:00 pm, showcasing their native wildflowers, groundcovers, herbs, vegetable seedlings and more. To view what’s available visit nativeplantsasheville.com. Alternatively one can drive to Painters Greenhouse in Old Fort on Friday, April 22. They will be incentivizing their customers to more plant pollinator and wildlife-friendly shrubs and trees with an 15% off and posting a virtual education video. Two other nurseries, who offer an abundance of pollinator friendly plants with knowledgeable assistants, are Reems Creek Nursery in Weaverville and Carolina Natives in Burnsville.
For more information, a comprehensive plant list can be found at: https://www.ashevillegreenworks.org/native-pollinator-plants-and-nurseries.html. It has wildflowers broken into lists of sun loving, shade loving, and sun/shade; and shrubs, trees, vines, and grasses/hedges/rushes. Each plant is linked with even more information, such as bloom time, where it can be purchased, and its benefits to pollinators.
Reversing pollinator declines will take all of us — plant nurseries and retailers, individuals, city staff, schools, institutions, businesses, and organizations.
Visit https://www.ashevillegreenworks.org/bee-city-usa-asheville.html for a full schedule of Pollination Celebration! tenth anniversary events. The time is now for all of us to “get on board,” and to educate ourselves in order to protect Earth’s pollinators.