This month Asheville and Hendersonville, designated Bee Cities, celebrate Pollination Month with a wide range of community events designed to raise awareness of how bees, birds, butterflies, bats and other species pollinate more than 1,200 crops and about 90 percent of all wild plants and trees. Activities for adults and children include gardening education, beekeeping talks, invasive plant removal and nature walks.
The Bee City USA program began here in Asheville with founder and director Phyllis Stiles. Asheville became the inaugural Bee City in 2012. Seven years later, there are 151 Bee Cities and Campuses, including Hendersonville (the seventh municipality in the country to be designated). Bee City USA has been adopted as an initiative of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.
In 2007, the US Senate approved the implementation of a National Pollinator Week every third full week in June. Since that time, Asheville and Hendersonville, through community partners, have expanded their Celebrations into a month of activities and education. Asheville GreenWorks is the organizational leader for Bee City USA–Asheville. Bee City USA–Hendersonville is a program of Hendersonville Tree Board and the Environmental Sustainability Board.
“When people learn more about the often unnoticed but valuable role pollinators play, they are, hopefully, more likely to give pollinators a helping hand,” says Kim Bailey of Bee City USA– Hendersonville. “Since pollinators are critical to sustaining healthy ecosystems that clean air, filter water, stabilize soil and support other wildlife species, that helps all of us.”
Designated Bee Cities are committed to making changes through government policy, providing information about pollinator-friendly practices and reporting on accomplishments annually in reports published on the Bee City USA website, says Peter Menzies, GreenWorks’ Americorps Urban Habitats education coordinator. “The beauty of Pollination Celebration is that everyone can connect with pollinators in some fashion, whether they know it or not,” he says, adding, “Most people who haven’t taken action to protect pollinators don’t want the world’s ecosystems to collapse—it’s an issue of not knowing which small decisions push the trajectory one way or the other, not feeling connected to the problem at hand. The educational events we promote aim to help members of our community to feel connected to the impacts of pollinator decline, and to understand how each one of us can make a difference.”
For the past several years Bee City USA– Hendersonville has given out free flower seed packets to help people get started. “Whether you have acres of land or a window box, everyone can plant something that will attract and help pollinators,” Bailey says.