Bees officially have a safe haven in Carrboro. The Board of Aldermen approved a request to designate the town as the newest Bee City USA community on Oct. 7.
Bee City USA encourages communities to create and become safe habitats for bees and other pollinators. The program comes out of people’s concern about the declining honeybee population. According to Bee City USA, “one in every three bites of food we eat is courtesy of insect pollination,” and 85 percent of plants and trees rely on their pollination to survive.
Alderman Bethany Chaney says that the designation is immediately in effect.
“I just looked at the website, and it turns out that we are already the third Bee City,” she says.
The program recognized Carrboro as a Bee City designee as soon as the Board of Aldermen voted because the application for designation had already been submitted, Chaney says.
Marty Hanks, founder of Just Bee Apiary and The Orange County Honey Project, has been a beekeeper for four years and makes it his goal to raise awareness about bees’ endangered status. He sells his locally made honey at the Farmer’s Market and tells customers about the bee crisis.
Hanks says that in the U.S., the honeybee population has dropped from 7.5 million hives to 1.8 million hives since the 1960s. The cause remains unclear, but parasites, chemicals and a lack of food common reasons for the disappearance of bees.
“For Just Bee, it means the conversation about pollinator protection goes away from my market booth, as it should.” Hanks says. “The issues are all of ours. … So we need a bigger platform to have the pollinator conversation. Carrboro joining the Bee City USA program provides that platform.”
One of the causes of the bee crisis is the use of pesticides.
“Gone are the days where we can think it OK to spray whatever the newest product is all over our lawns and fields without acknowledging its impact,” Hanks says.
Chaney says that being a Bee City USA community would mean creating one or two new policies that would make the town “more bee-friendly.”
Chaney says that pesticides are already banned on public property that the town is allowed to moderate. She says plans include creating pollinator gardens in public spaces, including the town commons and parks, and that educational campaigns about pollinator protection would be top priorities.
“We would help Marty Hanks and other folks that are interested in playing a role in creating at least a Pollinator Day or Bee Day,” Chaney says.
The program requires designees to host an annual Bee City celebration.
Some members of the community have already acted on the need for a safer habitat for bees. Dale Morgan, a gardener and an artist, has kept bees since March. She decided to become a beekeeper when she realized that she needed bees to maintain her garden at her Orange County home.
“When you landscape your yard, you want it to look beautiful and colorful. You want it to thrive,” Morgan says. “So when you plant pollinator plants, it’s just so much more beautiful. When you have those pollinators in there to actually help those plants thrive, they’re healthier plants. Your garden does better.”
When Morgan’s cucumbers failed to grow one year, she knew something was wrong.
“The year before, I had wheelbarrows full of cucumbers, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” she says. “It turns out my neighbor who had had bees had moved away and taken the bees. So I said, ‘Oh! I need my own bees!’ One of those ‘aha’ moments. So I became a beekeeper.”
In June, Morgan held an art show and reception at WomanCraft and displayed her paintings of the North Carolina state insect, the honeybee. She brought an observation hive to give attendees a chance to see the bees at work.
“You bring them (bees) out to the public and let people watch them,” she says. “People are just fascinated.”
Morgan says she is excited about Carrboro’s designation as a Bee City USA community and hopes to see more pollinator plants along the streets.
Hanks says community members can help protect bees and other pollinators by planting flowers that they pollinate, planting bee food, stopping the use of chemicals and pesticides and buying organic food from farmers who don’t use pesticides.
“We all are, by default, keepers of bees.”