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UCI Certified as Bee Campus USA Affiliate

The University of California, Irvine was certified as a Bee Campus USA affiliate on Feb. 19. 

UCI was accepted to become an affiliate through the California Public Interest Research Group’s (CALPIRG) Save the Bees Campaign. CALPIRG Students, which features chapters throughout a number of UC campuses that includes UCI, is a student-directed non-profit organization that works to “provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy [and] feed the hungry,” according to their mission statement

Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA provide frameworks for communities and campuses to conserve their native pollinators by establishing healthy, natural habitats and reducing pesticide use. There are currently 112 Bee Campus USA Affiliates and 242 total affiliates across 43 states. 

Bee Campus USA affiliates commit to conservation efforts for native pollinators, which are carried out by students, faculty, administrators and staff. These commitments include establishing a committee for establishing and maintaining membership as a bee campus, creating and enhancing pollinator habitat on campus by increasing the abundance of native plants and providing nest sites, and reducing pesticide use. 

Bee Campus USA was started in 2015 as the sister initiative of Bee City USA, which was founded by Phyllis Stiles in 2012. Both initiatives were adopted into the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an organization that aims to protect the 3,600 native (wild) species of bees in the U.S. through conservation efforts, in 2018. 

“Pollinators are keystone species in essentially every terrestrial ecosystem on earth, assisting in plant reproduction and supporting other species of wildlife. Pollinators touch our lives in numerous ways each day, including being responsible for approximately one-third of the food and drink we consume. The value of crop pollination has been estimated between $18 and $27 billion annually in the U.S,” the official Bee City USA website said. 

In addition to making the campus more bee-friendly, affiliates are required to provide educational opportunities geared toward promoting pollinator conservation, offer service-learning opportunities to enhance pollinator habitat, display signage focused on pollinator conservation and maintain an online presence for activities. Affiliates also need to re-apply annually to ensure that efforts to protect pollinators are continuing beyond the initial application

“To be a Bee Campus USA affiliate, you have to apply for renewal every year, so that means if you’re no longer doing the things that you committed to, then you can no longer call yourself an affiliate,” UCI Save the Bees Campaign Coordinator and CALPIRG intern Alyssa Romea said in an interview with the New University. “So, the fact that UCI’s become an affiliate and is now working on the foundations to keep that up in the long run, it means that we’re taking one step closer towards becoming a more sustainable campus not just now, but for the future as well.” 

To celebrate becoming an official Bee Campus USA affiliate, the CALPIRG Save the Bees Campaign Committee hosted a celebration webinar on March 2. The webinar was open to the general public and included an overview of the importance of bee conservation, the physical and social components of a bee-friendly environment, and an activity and group discussion. During the webinar, resources were also shared with the participants; Calscape, which has information on native pollinator-friendly plants, was one specific resource that was introduced. Participants were encouraged to take the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Protection Pledge.  

“Bee populations have been declining largely due to human activity, such as exposure to pesticides, mono cropping, suburban sprawl, industrial development and climate change, which have all been hindering pollinators ability to survive and pollinate,” Romea said during the webinar. 

According to the Bee City USA website, bees are an essential species in almost every ecosystem on the planet and enable the reproduction of over 85% of flowering plants and 67% of agricultural crops. However, 40% of pollinator species on Earth are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides, diseases and climate change.

UCI Associate Chancellor for Sustainability Wendell Brase has been a strong supporter of UCI becoming a Bee Campus affiliate. 

“This initiative has many laudable attributes,” Brase said in a press release. “It is student-initiated and student-led, it focuses on an important problem that is often overlooked, it has a strong research and public education component, and it is about a natural system of critical global importance.” 

UCI’s Save the Bees Campaign was started in 2019 by Sage Wuu, who later passed on her duties as campaign coordinator to Romea when she became the UCI CALPIRG chapter chair. The newly established Bee-Friendly Committee is an integral component of this campaign. 

“Young people especially have to call to safeguard our planet, as we have the power to shape the future that we will inherit,” Wuu said in a Save the Bees Campaign press release

The Bee-Friendly Committee has multiple projects in the works, including an educational resource guide related to pollinators, an environmental justice workshop and a UCI Plant Suppliers List for information on plant nurseries in Orange County that supply native plants. The committee is also working on fundraising for the campaign and plans to host more Bee-Friendly webinars in the future. 

The webinar was one of the many public outreach programs facilitated by CALPIRG in order to fulfill the requirements of the Bee Campus USA affiliation. The Bee-Friendly Committee will also work with UCI’s Ants in Your Plants Garden, which is an on-campus, student-run garden led by Bee-Friendly Committee Vice-Chair Alex Lu. 

According to Romea, Luu has been preparing the garden for the incorporation of native pollinator-friendly plants and intends to start hosting garden tours and workshops next school year. This will enable people from the community to learn about gardening while also helping tend to the garden’s plants. 

“In terms of creating a bee-friendly campus, I think it’s not just about enhancing habitats and planting and pesticide use, but it’s also about the fact that we’re building a community of people who have more awareness and respect for the way that they’re treating nature,” Romea said. 

Eva Cluff is a City News Intern for the winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ecluff@uci.edu.