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Burque Bee City USA

Efforts have been successful to make Albuquerque the first Bee City USA in the Southwest!

Think Like A Bee, with generous support of many sponsors, including NM Beekeepers Association, has worked closely with the City Council to create a Bee City USA designation. Councilors Isaac Benton, who initiated the resolution, along with Brad Winter and their policy analysts, Rebekka Burt and Diane Dolan, co-sponsored the final resolution, which unanimously passed at City Council in August 2016.

What is a Bee City USA?

Bee City USA is a pollinator-friendly designation intended to improve local conditions for necessary beneficial insects. It fosters ongoing dialogue in urban areas to raise awareness of the role pollinators play in sustaining three-fourths of the world’s plant species and their crucial role in our food system. 

Bee City USA certification is both an honor and a responsibility. Launched in 2012, the Bee City USA program endorses a set of commitments, defined in a resolution, for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators, which are vital to feeding the planet. Cities, towns and communities across America are invited to make these commitments and become certified as a Bee City USA affiliate.  This includes:

  • Creating healthy habitat corridors in public green spaces
  • Reducing or eliminating chemicals
  • Creating a Bee Day annually
  • Implementing signage of a Albuquerque, A Bee City
  • Ongoing education and advocacy about bees and all pollinators with civic, faith, schools, indigenous and neighborhood groups

Bee Cities are committed to educating the public and advocating for pollinators at all levels to ensure policies and practices that benefit pollinators.  Honeybees and native bees are especially important as the workhorses of our food system. Without bees, we cannot ensure a healthy food system for the future.

Where did Bee City USA Start?

In 2006 when honey bee colonies started disappearing, later dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike became very concerned. After all, one in every three bites of food we eat is courtesy of insect pollination. Equally important, 85% of flowering plants and trees rely on pollinators for the survival of their species. While less is known about native bees and other pollinators, we do know that entire species are disappearing at alarming rates as they battle most of the same enemies as honey bees–loss of habitat essential for food and shelter, inappropriate pesticide use, diseases, and parasites.

Founder, Phyllis Stiles, based in Ashville, N.C. noticed the declining bee populations and became alarmed at what it would mean if the bees and all pollinators of our food system crashed, she decided to do something.

So, Stiles created a national movement which has been spreading across North America, linking city to city, town to town, creating a pollinator friendly safety network. The first city and birthplace of this movement was Asheville, N.C. Hoping that Asheville would launch a movement across the nation, members of the Buncombe County Chapter of the NC State Beekeepers Association established Bee City USA. On June 26, 2012, Asheville’s City Council voted unanimously to become the inaugural Bee City USA, with both the honor and the responsibility the designation entails. In July 2014, Talent, Oregon’s City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Bee City USA resolution and submitted its completed application in August for designation, followed by Carrboro, North Carolina in October. With that the movement began spreading and more than fifty cities have since communicated their interest in applying. Today it boasts large metro areas like Seattle, Washington, all the way to small towns such as Ypsilanti, Michigan.

We encourage city leaders across the nation to explore joining the Bee City USA movement by completing the application process. As cities and towns across America become attuned to the universe of creatures that make the planet bloom, we will become more conscientious about what we plant and how we maintain our green spaces. There is much we can teach one another–both city to city and species to species.

How You Can Protect Native and Honeybee Pollinators

Collaboration

We need your help as we collaborate with the City of Albuquerque to find alternative solutions, to reduce chemicals sprayed in our public zones. The City continues to work towards an Integrated Pest Management System, paying attention to how they use chemicals near beekeepers and important habitat. If you know you live in a "bee zone" and do not want the city to spray in your neighborhood, you may call and ask for a spray-free zone (#311)

One of the clauses in the Burque Bee City Resolution gives neighborhoods and communities the power to work with the city to determine how you can increase native pollinator plants and reduce chemicals in your community.

"Whereas communities have the opportunity to support bees on both public and private land through reduced and pesticide free zones; working in collaboration with city officials to manage and increase healthy, native habitat for pollinators—including but not limited to roadsides, medians, open spaces and parks.."

Contact your Neighborhood District President who can bring this to a neighborhood meeting to discuss petitioning your City Councilor with strategies for how you would like to make your neighborhood safer for pollinators.

Weeds and Native Seeds

Most "weeds" in your yard—from dandelions in the spring to chamisa in the fall are delicious flowering food for most pollinators. Perhaps we need to begin to see our neighbor green spaces differently here in the Southwest and tolerate less "manicured" backyards and open spaces, while improving soil and planting native plants.

For more information on local native flowering plants, Xerces publishes regional gardening guides to help you figure out the best plants to buy if you prefer a DIY approach. Meanwhile, if you want to check the status of a random plant you’ve brought home from a garden store, check out the USDA’s PLANTS database. If your state is green, that means the plant is native there. Click on the “legal status” tab to see if the plant is on any federal or state noxious weed lists.

Go Chemical Free

There’s more to creating a bee-friendly habitat than just planting flowers and preserving habitat. Backyard sprayers continue to create the biggest problem for pollinators. If you spray pesticides on or near the flowers, the bees are once again in danger, so you need to be aware of what you (or your lawn service) is spraying. Roundup and insecticides in effect sterilize soil, destroy habitat and poison water sources, creating insect resistance over time. All of this causes poor soil health and pollinator deaths. Take a pollinator pledge to make your backyard a haven for pollinators with water sources, chemical free and plenty of native flowering trees and plants.

Vinegar is very effective to control weeds in your garden, as an alternative to Round Up. Howard Garrett, also known as The Dirt Doctor, shared his recipe for vinegar-based herbicide (this spray will injure any plant it touches, so use it only on those you want to remove):

Organic Herbicide Formula:

  • 1 gallon of 10 percent (100 grain) vinegar
  • Add 1 ounce orange oil or d-limonene
  • Add 1 tablespoon molasses (optional – some say it doesn’t help)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap or other surfactant (such as Bio Wash)
  • Do not add water

Also try soap sprays, old fashioned weed pulling, groundcovers, and these DIY sites:

Many over the counter backyard sprays contain neonicotinoids which cause honeybee kills. View a list of alternatives to insecticides that kill bees and all beneficial bugs, including neonicotinoids.

Further Reading

Learn About Bees!

If you would like a representative from the NM Beekeepers to come and speak with your neighborhood association or civic group about pollinator health and safety and alternative ways to deal with pests and "weeds", please email [email protected] or call (505) 514-4982.

Or contact Kent Reed Swanson, Open Space Visitor Center Manager, at [email protected] or (505) 897-8831.