What's the Buzz About? Bee Campus USA

Bee Campus, USA, logo
Rebecca A. Eckland

If you notice an increase in buzzing bees, butterflies and blooms around the Dandini Campus, here’s why:  TMCC has become an affiliate of Bee Campus USA, a program designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators. As a Bee Campus USA participant, TMCC joins many other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.

“TMCC managers, faculty, and student leaders have been champions for sustainable environmental actions,” said TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom, whose focus on creating healthy learning environments, initiating sustainable practices has remained an integral part of TMCC’s mission. In becoming a part of Bee Campus USA, TMCC is the first campus in the state of Nevada to earn the designation. "Through our participation in this program, TMCC will lead the way in our community toward yet another vital facet of sustainability and environmental stewardship."

According to TMCC Biology Professor Dr. Cecilia Vigil, becoming officially designated as a pollinator-friendly location has been a while in the making. “We’ve started to create a pollinator garden at the Countess Angela Dandini Garden already, but creating pollinator-friendly spaces will be implemented all over the TMCC Dandini Campus,” she said. “We look forward to our students learning, applying, researching, enhancing their resumes, networking, by being involved in the creation, building, and sustainment of the pollinator garden we plan to develop; and to participate in our college self-governance by enhancing sustainable practices like that of our campus gardens related to for example, pesticides. This will lead to students being citizens of science, competitive when applying to grad school or jobs, and as mentioned better stewards of this planet.”

Vigil, who is joined by members of the TMCC Bee Campus Committee, takes pride in the TMCC’s longstanding commitment to sustainability initiatives and healthy environments, which includes minimizing hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoid pesticides, glyphosate herbicide, or other potentially dangerous pesticides. To raise awareness about the plight of pollinators, the Bee Campus Committee has published a website to disseminate information to the campus and external communities including an Integrated Pest Management Plan designed by our Facilities and Capital Planning Department as a commitment to environmental sustainability.

It Will Bee… In the Dandini Gardens  

TMCC’s pollinator-friendly initiative will begin in the Countess Angela Dandini Garden where native plants and pollinators can visit, eat, rest, pollinate, procreate and be protected, while being incorporated into the campus landscape. The space, which rests between TMCC’s Dandini Campus and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), welcomes visitors from the community to enjoy nature, learn more about the plants that grow there, and find ideas for creating their own pollinator gardens at home. As the seasons progress, Bee Campus USA will also inspire TMCC courses, continuing education opportunities, campus service-learning projects and community-service learning projects and several upcoming events.

Vigil is excited about the opportunities for student research and service-learning. “We offer botany classes already, and have created an Introduction to Entomology course that will be offered next fall. Additionally, we’ve renovated a class keeping backyard bees offered through our non-credit, Educational Programs Inspiring the Community (EPIC) division that has not been offered since 2018. Starting in Fall 2022, that class will be offered every semester.”  

Already faculty, staff, and students have worked together to study and create pollinator habitats with native plants with plans to continue developing garden spaces in Spring 2022. “We have milkweeds planted, which have created rest areas for monarch butterflies. We also have a native bee habitat donated by Reno Help Save the Bees Foundation. We are planning on linking a QR code to be displayed in these habitats we are creating to a website to assist visitors in learning about native plants and pollinators in the garden,” said Vigil, who noted that the garden will also feature artwork created by students in the TMCC Welding Program. 

Creating pollinator-friendly gardens and spaces on campus follows a two-part EcoBlitz event last year, in which students, faculty and community members were invited to take part in a 24-hour “blitz” to collect specimen samples of local flora and fauna, and to gain a better understanding of our environment. “This year, our major focus is Earth Day to be celebrated by TMCC on April 20,” said Vigil. “We are also participating in Biodiversity Day on March 1, and plan to have a ribbon cutting ceremony for the pollinator garden on Earth Day, weather permitting.” 

In addition to planting native trees and plants that are not only pollinator-friendly, but that also require less water and are sustainable, the effort will also connect TMCC to the community, encouraging more pollinator-friendly practices beyond the Dandini Campus. According to Vigil, the Sustainability Champions and its sub-committee Bee Campus USA will work with partners in the community to promote the program. Specifically, plans are in the works to assist the Save the Bee Foundation in their quest to make Reno “The Biggest Little Bee City USA.” 

“We are also partnering with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, Northern Nevada BeeKeepers Association, and City of Reno Sustainability Group,” said Vigil. “Given the current state of crisis for pollinators like bumble bees and monarch butterflies, having this certification permits us to network not only with other certified institutions and cities, but globally to create a foundation for our students and our community to learn about conservation and to become stewards of a healthier world.” 

About Bee Campus USA

Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA are initiatives of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, with offices across the country. Bee City USA’s mission is to galvanize communities and campuses to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants, and free of pesticides. Pollinators like bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds, and many others are responsible for the reproduction of almost ninety percent of the world's flowering plant species and one in every three bites of food we consume.

“The program aspires to make people more 'PC'—pollinator conscious, that is,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces’ Executive Director. “If lots of individuals and communities begin planting native, pesticide-free flowering trees, shrubs and perennials, it will help to sustain many, many species of pollinators.” 

According to Bee Campus USA coordinator Laura Rost, “Each campus must renew their affiliation each year and report on accomplishments from the previous year. Other institutions of higher education are invited to explore completing the application process outlined at beecityusa.org.”               

For more information about TMCC’s Bee Campus USA program, contact the TMCC Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability Office at 775-673-7027.