In an effort to increase the number of bees and other pollinators on Concordia’s campus, 3700 square feet worth of pollinator habitat will be planted around the new Integrated Science Building next spring.
One group of students that was instrumental in pushing for the planting of this pollinator habitat includes seniors Kaya Baker, double major in biology and Spanish; Danielle Braund, double major in biology and environmental studies and a minor in chemistry; Katie Black, double major in biology and environmental studies; and Jessica Watson, biology major and a minor in environmental studies. This group started this initiative on campus as part of their Senior Seminar in environmental studies with Dr. Jennifer L. Sweatman, assistant professor of biology and environmental science, called Interdisciplinary Research. Their main goal is to be approved for a Bee Campus Certification through Bee City USA, but they also hope to raise awareness and advocate for change regarding pollinators around both Concordia College and Fargo-Moorhead.
According to Bee City USA’s website, 1 in 3 bites of food is a result of insect pollination. Baker stated that it is not common for people to not know where our food comes from.
“I worked in the campus garden for a year and I learned a lot. I closed the gap in terms of the disconnect between where our food comes from and getting it to the plate,” Baker said. “If you eat food, you should care about pollinators.”
Braund also has past experience with the issue that led her to be a part of this initiative.
“I really like conservation biology, and that’s a lot about conserving diversity. A major thing with biodiversity is having pollinators, which helps all different types of plant life,” Braund said. “Any loss of a species sort of triggers something in me. It’s really upsetting. And this is not just an environmental issue, it’s a social issue.”
Watson is also concerned about the lack of awareness surrounding the source of our food, and the effects of this on pollinators.
“Pollinator habitat nation wide is decreasing, and with that pollinators are decreasing,” Watson said. “Without bees, we would have to go out and individually pollinate each flower, and that would take a very long time.”
In order to help clear up that confusion, the group has worked not only to have pollinator habitat planted around the science building, but also to decrease the amount of herbicides and pesticides that Concordia uses due to the danger the chemicals in these products present to bees and other pollinators.
“We’ve been working hard with our groundskeeper Jerry Raguse to help switch over Concordia’s campus to being bee-friendly and using green herbicides and insecticides that are made from natural products and not man-made chemicals,” Watson said.
One concern that the group has faced includes that Concordia, like all colleges and universities, places a lot of focus on curb appeal, or the aesthetic of the landscaping.
“A beautiful yard to most people in the United States and even in the Western World consists of green grass, and that is a food desert. Many people spray it because they don’t want dandelions or clover or anything popping up,” Baker said. “But if nothing is growing there except for kentucky bluegrass, pollinators have no reason to be there. And the pesticides that are sprayed end up killing bees or making their immune systems weaker and more susceptible to disease.”
Braund stated that not only does the group hope to reduce pest management treatment on campus and plant habitat, but they also are pushing for the implementation of curriculum that is based around pollinators.
According to Baker, one way this is already taking place is through a class offered this May.
“Sue Ellingson [of the education department] is teaching a course that consists of planting native plants out at the high tunnel and garden area,” Baker said. “Hopefully that goes well, and we see more of this in the curriculum, whether that be in an inquiry seminar, PEAK or a Hands for Change opportunity with incoming freshmen.”
Another concern that the group has heard includes having too many bees on campus, and therefore increasing the risk for someone to get stung.
“That’s silly,” Baker said. “A lot of bees don’t sting.”
Braund said that she is hoping for many people to get involved with this initiative, including informing themselves about pollinators, stopping the use of pesticides, planting pollinator habitat, and advocating for Moorhead to reduce their own pest management.
Another way students can get involved with this issue in the future is by joining the committee that was created to achieve the group’s goals.
“The committee consists of Dr. [Bryan]Bishop, [Assistant Professor and Chair of the Biology department], Jerry [Raguse] from facilities, Sam Westrate, the sustainability coordinator, and student committee members, who will be replacing us next year,” Braund said. She also said that the committee is open to students of all majors, the only requirement is to have a passion for conservation and pollinators.
The group will host an event during Earth Week that will consist of a panel that will answer questions and have a conversation regarding pollinators. There will also be a showing of a documentary on the topic. The event takes place 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 in the Maize.