Penn State Brandywine is the 'bee's knees' of pollinator habitats

Bees do more than just sting, make honey and buzz. In fact, these insects have a proven positive effect on our ecosystems. A national strategy was created to save honeybees and other pollinators because of this impact and Penn State Brandywine is now an important part of the movement.

According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ Center for Pollinator Research, “Pollination … is vital to our food supply. Insects and other animals are a key element in facilitating this transfer. In fact, one of every three bites of food comes to us by pollinators.” Unfortunately, bee populations are facing sharp declines and this drop is creating what some describe as an “ecological disaster.”

“The beautiful manicured lawns that some homeowners are striving for creates an ecological desert that makes it impossible for pollinators to survive,” Matthew Feldman, biology instructor and beekeeper, said. “The pollinator garden is a small step in ending these deserts.”

Recently, the White House announced the first national strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators. The Pollinator Health Task Force, a federal task force developed to create a national strategy, laid out three all-encompassing goals: limit the reduction of honeybee colony losses during the winter months by 15 percent within the next 10 years, increase the monarch butterfly population and restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.

The timing of this strategy is perfect, as Penn State Brandywine just received certification from the Penn State Master Gardeners recognizing the campus as a Pennsylvania Pollinator Friendly Garden.

"This pollinator friendly campus is an important step in supporting our ecosystem and creating a healthy future for the Brandywine community."

-- Mary Fran McLaughlin, reference librarian at Vairo Library and “bee advocate"

In order to apply for certification, Penn State Brandywine’s Green/Sustainability Committee met challenging requirements with the help of Charles Daly, the campus landscape group leader. This certification verifies that Penn State Brandywine provides food and a habitat for native insects and animals, which in turn provide the pollination necessary to protect plant diversity and food sources.

“It is a challenge to prepare and maintain our campus according to the certification guidelines,” Daly said. “We limit herbicides but do use them to control weeds in our flower beds and turf. We are very judicious in our application." 

To become certified, the property must provide nectar and pollen food sources, caterpillar food sources, water sources, shelter for pollinators to nest and follow a policy to reduce pesticide use and not grow invasive plants.

Example of a plant in Penn State Brandywine's garden.

In order to apply for certification, Penn State Brandywine’s Green/Sustainability Committee met challenging requirements. This certification verifies that Penn State Brandywine provides food and a habitat for native insects and animals, which in turn provide the pollination necessary to protect plant diversity and food sources.

Image: Penn State

“I use pollinators as much as possible when designing gardens and we do plant native plants, but not exclusively,” Daly said. “I also consider site conditions (sun, soil and water) and whether they will coexist with the campus deer population and how much care they require.”

The Penn State Brandywine community is excited to add this qualification to the emergent list of how the campus is growing. 

“As our campus grows, it's exciting that Brandywine is committed to conserving and incorporating pollinator habitats into our structural design,” said Mary Fran McLaughlin, reference librarian at Vairo Library and “bee advocate.” “This gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate not only the functionality of native plantings and pollinators, but the beauty. This pollinator friendly campus is an important step in supporting our ecosystem and creating a healthy future for the Brandywine community.”

Penn State Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the Penn State Extension. The master gardeners support the Extension by utilizing research-based information to educate the public on best practice in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship.

Last Updated June 26, 2015