The bee advocacy work is paying dividends.
Lawrence University has been certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, making it the 71st campus in the nation to earn the bee-friendly designation — and only the second one in Wisconsin.
To celebrate, a pollination-themed picnic will be held on the Main Hall green from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, June 16. It will follow a 10 a.m. public unveiling of the honey bee observation hive that is now visible from the fourth floor of the Warch Campus Center. The picnic will feature coffee from Tempest Coffee Collective, fruit pies, berry shakes, smoothies, and honey pizza from Harmony Cafe. All are invited.
Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA are initiatives of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a Portland-based nonprofit that encourages communities to develop practices that help sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat rich in native plants and free of pesticides.
Israel Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology, has led efforts at Lawrence to not only make the campus bee-friendly but to turn the campus into a living lab of sorts to study ways to keep bee populations healthy in an urban environment. The new Bee Campus USA designation comes after a formal application was submitted in the spring.
It’s one step in a larger journey, Del Toro said.
“With the designation of Lawrence as a Bee Campus, we are one of only two universities in Wisconsin to publicly commit to improving our campus for native biodiversity and pollinators,” he said. “This is a small but significant victory that keeps us moving toward a campus ethos of sustainability and stewardship of our natural resources.
“Over the next five years our campus will experiment with various approaches and bee-friendly management activities like altered mowing habits, reduced use of pesticides and removal of invasive species.”
Lawrence University on the front lines of bee advocacy
Lawrence’s sustainability efforts
The only other Wisconsin school with the bee-friendly designation is Northland College in Ashland.
Del Toro also is working with the city of Appleton to help it qualify for a Bee City USA designation.
“The program aspires to make people more PC — pollinator conscious, that is,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces’ executive director. “If lots of individuals and communities begin planting native, pesticide-free flowering trees, shrubs and perennials, it will help to sustain many, many species of pollinators.”
Pollinators such as bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and hummingbirds are responsible for the reproduction of almost 90 percent of the world’s flowering plant species and a third of the food we consume, Hoffman Black said.
Lawrence will need to continue to work to maintain its status as a Bee Campus. Certification needs to be renewed each year. Details can be found at beecityusa.org.
Among the bee-inspired efforts, Del Toro and his team launched the Appleton Pollinator Project to turn area homeowners and gardeners into citizen scientists, helped install and study pollination sites across the Fox Cities, and pushed students in the biology lab and campus environmental clubs to work to improve the on-campus habitat for bees.
The observation hive installed last month at Warch is the latest step in the on-campus efforts. There also are hexagon-shaped pollination boxes just southeast of Main Hall and in the S.L.U.G. (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens) gardens on campus.