For the first time, Virginia Tech earned the Bee Campus USA certification for commitment to sustaining native insect pollinators, a designation that further cements the university’s Climate Action Commitment to create a green and sustainable campus. The initiative is sponsored by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
“Over the next few years, our committee will work toward designing and implementing projects and education opportunities that will help make our world more bee-friendly,” said Margaret Couvillon, assistant professor of pollinator biology in the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who serves as chair of the committee that organized the certification.
Bee Campus USA certification requirements serve as a guideline for affiliated campuses such as Virginia Tech to increase their commitment to preserving these native pollinators. This is achieved through a long-term plan to increase native plant habitat, provide pollinator nesting sites, reduce pesticide use on campus, and develop pollinator conservation education and outreach opportunities for the campus community.
“This is another recognition of our efforts in the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and across the university to advance campus sustainability,” said Matt Gart, grounds manager. “To support pollinators on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, we consciously select mostly native plants and shrubs that require minimal maintenance and pesticides. We also allow perimeters of campus – such as the area beyond the grass shoulders along Southgate Drive to Route 460 – to grow as a meadow with infrequent mowing.”
Pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of at least 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants. A third of all food humans eat comes from plants that rely on pollinators, with native insect pollinators contributing a large portion of this pollination. In the United States, native pollinators contribute to the yearly reproduction of an estimated $3 billion worth of crops.
Unfortunately, research shows these native insect pollinator populations are declining worldwide, due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Global efforts are needed to preserve these insects and ensure farms are still able to produce the crops the world needs.
The Virginia Tech Bee Campus Standing Committee is composed of 17 students, faculty, and staff from many different disciplines across campus.
“I’ve never seen a program get up and running as fast as Bee Campus at Virginia Tech. In less than a full academic year, we were able to get accepted as a Bee Campus affiliate. We could not have done it without the support and excitement from all of the students who have gotten involved along the way,” said Emily Vollmer, the sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability,