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The Pollinator Connection: Bee passionate about creating bee habitat

By Kristina Lefever for the Tidings

Even with the seemingly unending issues that we are dealing with — especially smoke and fire — we are fortunate to live where we do. Not only is this an amazing part of the country, Ashland is home to a large population of passionate people working on issues to make our city, county and world a better place.

I’d like to give a “hat tip” to the passionate and dedicated Ashland residents who made Bee City USA Ashland’s second annual Pollinator Garden Tour, on Sunday, July 15, a success! Sixteen gardens were on the tour this year, all different and all bee-autiful.

Thank you to those gardeners who worked so hard to bee ready, and then graciously shared your gardens and knowledge with many visitors for several hours that morning. And of course, thank you to Ashland Parks and Rec and the Bee City USA Ashland team for making it all possible! Our hope is that people found both inspiration and ideas to grow their own pollinator landscapes.

As rural lands around cities become cultivated or developed, and as urban infill continues, fewer and fewer “natural” wild areas remain. We are fortunate to live so close to protected lands (thanks to the hard work of many passionate and dedicated people) where pollinators flourish — native plants support native pollinators best.

But it is also critical to have pollinator-friendly landscapes within the human-built environment — urban and suburban landscapes provide much needed food and habitat, as explained in a recent article, “What Can Bees Teach Us about Building Better Urban Ecosystems?” What can Ashland learn from this? Here’s an excerpt:

“Toronto, whose green, park-filled metro area is home to more than 300 species of bees, ranks among North America’s ‘greenest’ cities for its sustainability measures. The city council adopted a ‘Pollinator Protection Strategy’ that includes creating more pollinator habitat on public lands, sharing lists of recommended plantings for home gardens, and linking up green spaces so pollinators can more easily travel between them. It’s a strategy geared specifically to native bees (emphasis added), and it builds on years of policy that aim to green the city while recognizing that already booming Toronto will only get more dense. Since 2006, the city has mandated that certain new buildings install green roofs. The Pollinator Protection Strategy would mandate that those roof plantings take pollinators into account.”

(Did you know that Toronto is the first Bee City Canada affiliate?)

Another takeaway from that article is the concept of connectivity. Pollinator habitats in relatively close proximity give bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, moths and birds “corridors” in which to move and find sustenance and shelter and ensure species diversity and healthy populations. Trees, shrubs and other plants that bloom throughout the year, as well as water, mud and bare areas, are all important for these insects that feed us and so many of the critters with whom we share the planet.

Looking for ideas for pollinator plants? Check out these lists at

Connectivity is what the Rogue Buzzway is all about, an innovative project to map the location of pollinator habitats throughout the valley. Perhaps you read Tony Boom’s lovely article about the project last month? Thanks to the awesome students in the GIS class at SOU, we now have updated maps to share! But we need more data! Does your pollinator landscape qualify?

Please help us locate our valley’s pollinator corridors. Check out the most up-to-date versions of the Rogue Buzzway map at

Finally, let’s talk about safe landscapes — for pollinators and people alike. Thankfully, the city of Ashland’s progressive pesticide policy means our public spaces are safe for pollinators, people and pets because they are not sprayed with pesticides (except the golf course and the ball field warning tracks). Pesticides include herbicides and fungicides, as well as insecticides.

And, thankfully, many people in Ashland don’t use pesticides. But many private properties are treated with synthetic chemicals. Consider that a popular weed and feed lawn product contains 2,4 D, and pesticide residues can remain on the lawn for a week! Not only are these chemicals toxic to pollinators, there is growing evidence that even small amounts of exposure leads to long-term harm, especially for small bodies like children, pets and birds. Yes, even from glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup.

Looking for safe landscape products? Check out these lists from Beyond Pesticides, and ask your favorite gardening store to carry some of them:

Remember, if your landscape is safe for pollinators, it’s safe for people.

Kristina Lefever is a member of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, Bee City USA Ashland and the Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. The Pollinator Connection appears quarterly.


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