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Supporters say Beaumont’s latest designation is the bee’s knees

November 11, 2018

Beaumont is on its way to becoming a more friendly place for bees with the City Council’s recent decision to become a Bee City USA.

Chris Jarmon of the City Manager’s Office, said the city was approached less than a year ago by a few members of the Magnolia Garden Club who asked if the city would consider adopting the designation and paying the required $500.

After learning more about the bee city initiative, the city and all but one of the council members decided this was something Beaumont should pursue.

“As mundane as it might sound, there are a lot of things that excite people. It’s not the money, it’s the idea that you’re supporting something that’s really cool, and it is,” City Councilman W.L. Pate Jr. said before voting to approve the resolution.

Councilman Mike Getz, the lone vote against the designation, said the city should instead donate the admission fee to the Magnolia Garden Club and resolve to be more bee-friendly.

But Bee City USA founder and pollinator champion Phyllis Stiles said participation with the national organization is an important piece in holding cities accountable.

“What we find is just by putting up a sign, that alone generates calls and emails to us whenever a city is doing something that’s antithetical to pollinator conservation,” she said.

As a bee city, Beaumont is required to pay an annual fee of $500, create a committee, celebrate national pollinator week, install a bee city street sign, plant pollinator-friendly plants and document activities that support pollinators, among other requirements.

Stiles said cities such as Beaumont are uniquely positioned to be an advocate for bees — a pollinator that’s vital to our way of life.

“Urban and suburban landscapes are becoming increasingly important when we realize we’re developing habitat that used to be natural,” she said. “We don’t have a whole lot of places for our pollinators to thrive. So we have to start looking to our backyard and coexisting with pollinators.”

She said a city’s commitment to coexisting with bees and other pollinators often spills over into other areas of the community such as schools, churches, the parks and recreation department and individual homeowners.

“When you commit to being a bee city you’re saying, ‘We support pollinator conservation and we’re going to put practices in place at the municipal level to support pollinator conservation and then we’re going to invite everyone to do their part,’” she said. “You want your whole city to honor it.”

Beaumont Bee City USA committee chair Elizabeth Waddill said the decision shows the city is part of a nationwide movement to educate residents. She said this is especially important in Beaumont because of its position on two migratory flyways that bring bird species that feed on seeds, nuts and fruits from native plants — many of which are made possible by pollinators.

Local beekeeper Tammy Muldrow underscored the importance of including education in the city’s conservation efforts, as many area residents are killing bees and other pollinators without knowing it.

“The first problem we have that’s leading to bee deaths is all of the pesticides and chemicals that people are using,” she said. “People don’t stop and think about those things because they’re so focused on getting rid of the pests in the garden, they don’t understand that thing is indiscriminate. It kills the good and the bad bugs.”

Muldrow gave the example of Sevin Dust, a commonly used pesticide.

When bees land on any part of a plant — not just the flower — they take the pesticide back to their hive. There, the bee is cleaned and the pollen, which now includes Sevin Dust, is put into the “pantry” to feed the rest of the bees, Muldrow said.

“You haven’t killed one bee or two bees, you’ve killed an entire hive,” she said. “All of your bees are staggering out of the hive. They’re rolling on the ground. They’re in death dance. To watch the death of a hive is extremely sad and you can’t fix it.”

The Bee City USA committee will have its first meeting at the end of the month and begin to discuss ways to educate the community about pollinators, Waddill said. The group will also evaluate what policies will help pollinators thrive in Southeast Texas to include in the city’s pollinator-friendly integrated pest management plan.

“The city is already planting pollinator-friendly habitats,” she said. “We all need to know what great work our city is already doing and celebrate that as we look for new ways to grow and enhance our city landscapes and our own backyards.”

kaitlin.bain@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/KaitlinBain

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