GREENSBORO, N.C. — College campuses across the country, and throughout North Carolina, are joining a program to help pollinators.
Bee Campus USA is a nationwide program that encourages colleges and universities to prioritize pollinator conservation. Certified affiliates must fulfill a list of commitments, including adding more native plants on campus, adding pollinator conservation to coursework and creating more nesting sites for pollinators.
As of mid-September, there are 176 Bee Campus USA affiliates spread out across the country.
UNC Greensboro is a freshly-minted affiliate of Bee Campus USA. Research scientist Kaira Wagoner is thrilled to see her longtime goal come to fruition after being temporarily derailed by the pandemic.
“I've had an interest in honey bee health for years, and I thought it was time to kind of take it a little bit further and get the whole campus involved, get students involved. So far, my work has been mostly around research,” Wagoner said. “It was important to me to kind of move beyond just the research and give back a little bit in terms of the environment and service learning at UNCG.”
Kim Komatsu, an associate professor of biology at UNCG, is also thrilled to welcome the program to campus. She said UNCG is ahead of the curve on several of Bee Campus USA’s initiatives, including reducing pesticide use on campus and planting bee-friendly trees.
She is evaluating what native plants to add and choosing the most effective locations for new plantings.
“You plant a lot of ornamental plants that are flowering in the spring, and then the bees and other pollinators are hungry for the whole rest of the summer,” Komatsu said. “We're trying to figure out … what species we should be planting to keep flowers going all year long, to really keep those pollinators full and happy.”
She will also help determine how to effectively incorporate pollinator conservation into coursework. Komatsu hopes that planting seeds to grow native plants will also plant seeds in minds.
“That’s something we also want to incorporate into Bee Campus, is bringing that educational component to teach people about the importance of pollinators and the ecosystem as a whole, and then they can go home and teach their families,” Komatsu said.
Bee Campus USA has a sister program called Bee City USA. As of mid-September, 195 towns and cities across the country are certified affiliates.