Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, has named Hobart and William Smith Colleges its 65th Bee Campus affiliate. The designation honors the Colleges’ commitment to raising awareness of the roles pollinators play in our communities and to creating sustainable habitats for pollinators on campus.
“This is an exciting new designation because it’s a way to showcase all of the work we’ve been doing around protecting pollinators,” says Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Kristen Brubaker, who is former chair of the Farm Committee. “Over the past few years, we’ve committed to farming the HWS Fribolin Farm organically, we’ve kept hives of honeybees at the farm, we’ve taught about pollinators in our classes and we’ve developed a native flower habitat behind the Environmental Studies house to provide habitat for pollinators.”
According to Phyllis Stiles, founder of Bee City USA, nearly 90 percent of the world’s flowering plant species rely on pollinators to reproduce. Pollinators may include butterflies, moths, bats and hummingbirds in addition to bees. “Our mission is to enhance habitat for all pollinators,” says Stiles, “but our programs are called “Bee” Campus USA and “Bee” City USA in recognition that the world’s 20,000+ species of the entire bee genera are our planet’s pollinator workhorses.”
Hobart and William Smith Colleges began the process of becoming a designated Bee Campus USA in Fall 2018 by forming a committee of students, faculty and staff. Under the leadership of HWS Food Systems Program Manager Sarah Meyer, the committee is working to implement programs to raise awareness, expand habitat and celebrate gains for pollinators. The group is developing a campus habitat plan, hosting events and workshops, sponsoring service learning projects and offering pollinator-focused curriculum and public outreach.
Katelin Crabtree ’22 is writing the pollinator habitat plan, which includes both short and long term goals that range from implementing nesting boxes for solitary bees to setting up test plots for native flowers and grasses. “The main objective is the make HWS a more pollinator friendly campus,” Crabtree says. “We are working to have “no mow zones” to let native grasses and flowers start growing.”
“HWS’ affiliation with Bee Campus USA is a strong complement to our sustainability initiatives and our commitments to the local food system,” says Meyer. The Colleges have led local efforts to benefit pollinators on campus and in Geneva, and honeybee hives are kept at HWS Fribolin Farm. Land at Fribolin Farm and across campus is maintained and managed with pollinators in mind.
“Efforts to protect pollinators have been taking place at HWS for years through management practices and individual student projects. Together these efforts, supplemented by classroom instruction demonstrate how energies have grown to recognize the value of pollinators,” she says.
Recent bee-related student projects were led by Andrew Thompson ’14, Christian Thiim ’17 and Marion Marsh ’17. This academic year, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Brielle Fischman is teaching a course that examines bees.