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Talent Bee City USA enters fifth year

Five years after Talent became the second municipality in the nation to gain Bee City USA designation, there are 43 certified pollinator gardens in town and a plan to eliminate synthetic pesticide use on city lands.

The status was attained in August 2014.

Dolly Warden, a beekeeper who campaigned for the designation, said the program has brought greater awareness of the need for pollinators and the impact of pesticides on them.

“We got an integrated pest management plan passed by the council,” said Warden. Education brought about by Talent’s Bee City USA subcommittee had a lot to do with residents asking the council to create pesticide-free spaces, she said.

Bee City USA status was conferred after a year of efforts by Warden and others and action by Talent City Council. Asheville, North Carolina, where the Bee City initiative originated, was the first to be designated. Bee City USA became part of the Portland-based Xerces Society, which has worked on bee issues for 45 years, in 2017. There are now 93 Bee Cities in the nation.

Spinoffs from the 2014 designation include:

  • Creation of an integrated pest management plan for city lands that aims to eliminate pesticide use. It was approved by City Council in 2018.
  • Development in 2015 of a city policy on how to handle bee swarms for the benefit of pollinators and the public.
  • Work with Talent Elementary School in the coming school year may result in a pollinator garden there. One was established at Talent Middle School in 2017.
  • Talent Maker City recently received a nearly $5,000 grant from AARP to offer multigenerational, pollinator-themed workshops this fall.
  • Spread of the movement in the Rogue Valley, with Ashland, Gold Hill, Medford and Phoenix achieving Bee City USA status, and designation of Southern Oregon University as a Bee Campus USA.

  • A Rogue Valley pollinator project was formed following Talent’s designation. Efforts are underway to create a Rogue Valley “buzz way,” with pollinator-friendly areas in the valley’s landscapes.
City land has six pollinator gardens and one monarch butterfly way station. Bradley Wilson designed the first garden, which was located at the roundabout in 2016. Gerlinde Smith of the Talent Garden Club has designed the other spaces.A pollinator garden challenge to citizens was put out when the club began work on one by City Hall. All pollinator spaces on city land are certified by the national Million Pollinator Garden Movement.Talent City Hall and Talent Skateboard Park gardens were completed in 2018. So far this year the Postage Stamp Garden at post office, the Legal Garden at the police station and the Historical Society Garden have been completed. A monarch station by City Hall was also complete this year.“More and more people are wanting to put in pollinator gardens,” said Warden. “We have 37 (certified) home pollinator gardens. People are really invested with that. It’s wonderful to see the public interested.”A team with members of the subcommittee and the garden club certifies the gardens.A University of Michigan study published in 2017 on the impact of small quantities of flowers on bee populations found increases of both species density and abundance for urban bees. Results were studied over a two-year period in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by monitoring bees. Larger quantities of flowers had no effect on bee abundance and produced variable results on species density.“Encouraging citizens to plant flowers can be an effective conservation strategy for certain urban pollinator populations,” the study states. “Resource managers interested in pollinator conservation should consider spreading multiple, smaller floral plantings across the urban landscape, rather than pooling all resource into one large flower patch.”Garden stewards check on the city pollinator gardens each week to see what may need to be done. The stewards, usually two or three per garden, have replaced Weed Teams that were summoned as needed.Talent’s Bee City USA group is a subcommittee of the Together for Talent Committee. The group meets monthly. Its next project is preparing 200 packets of pollinator-friendly plant seeds they will hand out during the Talent Harvest Festival parade Sept. 21.Bee City designation requires an annual report to Bee City USA. There’s also an annual celebration of National Pollinator Week that occurs in late June each year. This year’s celebration saw dedication of a Pollinator Mosaic at City Hall.Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent was unveiled Saturday.