Hillsborough abuzz after being named 35th Bee City USA

bees

Jeff Lee, owner and beekeeper of Lee's Bees, removes a tray of bees from their hive.

The town was recently named the 35th Bee City USA, which means Hillsborough will take steps to raise awareness and create good habitats for its pint-size pollinators.

Bee City USA is a nationwide nonprofit certification program for cities, towns and communities that are dedicated to protecting bees and other pollinators.

“The certification means these communities at the highest level have committed to making the community safer for pollinators,” said Phyllis Stiles, the founder and director of Bee City USA.

As an affiliated Bee City, Hillsborough will raise awareness of the importance of bees and expand sustainable practices and environments in town. Hillsborough Public Space Manager Stephanie Trueblood said in a press release that the town will consider bees in all their planting projects and maintenance.

The Hillsborough Garden Club suggested the town seek Bee City status, and will work together with the Hillsborough Public Space Division and the Hillsborough Tree Board to host an awareness event in the summer.

“Our club is very interested in conservation interests throughout the county,” said Carolyn Bass, president of the Hillsborough Garden Club. “When I saw the initiative, I thought it was a great opportunity for Hillsborough because the town is so interested in conservation and cultivation.”

Bass said Sarah Meadows and Trish Koontz, the co-chairpeople of the club’s committee on the Bee City initiative, were instrumental in managing the paperwork and getting people on board with becoming a Bee City.

“It is not just important for Hillsborough,” Bass said. “It is important for the world in general, to help people see bees are not the enemies and that the eradication of bees is not what we want to do.”

The Hillsborough Garden Club began working on the Bee City application in October 2015, she said.

Stiles said the Bee City USA program was created in June 2012 when the first city, Asheville, was certified.

There are currently 36 Bee Cities throughout America. However, she said it took two years to get the second city certified. In October 2014, Carrboro became the third designated Bee City USA.

“About a decade ago, we started talking about pollinators because we always took them for granted,” Stiles said. “In the last decade, the awareness has risen that the whole ecosystem starts to fall apart without pollinators.”

Without bees, one in every three bites of food Americans eat would not exist, according to Bee City USA’s website. Also, 90 percent of the world’s wild plants depend on pollinators to reproduce.

However, seven species of Hawaii’s yellow-faced bees were recently declared endangered — the first species of bees to be placed on the list. The U.S. honeybee population is also in crisis.

“It is so significant that cities like Hillsborough stand to model behaviors and create good habitats for pollinators,” Stiles said.

She said communities like Hillsborough are progressive because of their dedication to preserving pollinators.

“These little bees are doing the lion’s share of pollinating,” Stiles said. “Those little pollinators are pretty dang important.”

@erin_kolstad

city@dailytarheel.com

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