Asheville has long been known as Beer City USA, but did you know we’re also Bee City?
In 2012, Asheville became the first to accept the title and responsibility of being an official bee city, launching a national movement. This commitment to creating more sustainable habitats for bees and other pollinators is echoed throughout Western North Carolina. From local beekeepers in the rural areas to urban gardeners in our cities, our community values the local environment and is working hard to protect it.
What is Bee City USA?
“Bee City USA is a program that started … in 2012, right here in Asheville, North Carolina to get people involved in enhancing pollinator habitat,” said Phyllis Stiles, director of the Bee City USA organization.
Bee City USA, the organization, is named in honor of honeybees and to bring awareness to their recent plight. However, here are hundreds of thousands of other species around the world that enable 85% of the world’s plantlife to reproduce, according to Stiles. “Bee City USA was formed right here in Asheville to try to raise awareness and register certified cities in the cause of helping pollinators, said Stiles”
Other certified Bee Cities now include Talent, Oregon; Gillette, Wyoming; and Washington, D.C. Locally, Bee Cities include Boone, Hendersonville, and Highlands, North Carolina.
Where are the Bees (and the Beekeepers) in WNC?
Large rural spaces, small backyards, and even urban rooftops are being used for beekeeping in Western North Carolina. This region understands the important role pollinators play in our environment and provides many ways for members of the community to get involved.
“This area, for whatever reason, has attracted enough people that are really into beekeeping,” said Carl Chesick, local beekeeper and founder of the Center for Honeybee Research. “And we have probably more beekeepers per capita than just about anywhere else in the United States. So, it’s a great place to be, here in the mountains. I think the bees like it too.”
Even the rooftop of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville is home to hives of honeybees. But what sustains urban honeybees who can’t just walk into of the city’s many restaurants and ask for a table?
“Bees will actually forage for three miles in all directions from their home colony,” said Chesick. “You can have bees in the middle of a densely populated area…. We’ve also had people that live in town who’ve kept bees and they have neighbors very, very close to them. Either the neighbors agree that everybody likes honey or they’re sympathetic to the bees. You don’t need a whole lot of area to keep a beehive.”
Check out this video for more about beekeeping in WNC:
What other Local Pollinators Live in WNC?
Honey bees are just one of several species of bees and many species of insects and other animals that help pollinate local plants each season. Bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, and even flies are also known to assist plants with pollination so that they can reproduce.
Learn more about the many local pollinators across WNC:
How can Homeowners Participate as Bee City USA Residents?
Even if beekeeping is not for you, there are many ways to help promote the health of our local mountain habitats. Chances are, you have never thought of your garden—or any space on your property—as a wildlife preserve that can sustain plants and animals once common throughout the U.S. But that is exactly the role our suburban landscapes are now playing and will play even more in the near future.
“When we talk about Bee City USA, mostly what we’re talking about is enhancing habitat for pollinators,” said Stiles. “And when we say enhancing habitat, we’re asking people to think about how they landscape. So less lawns, more flowers, more native plants. Our mantra is native, native, native, and as few pesticides if any as possible. And then you’ve got some healthy pollinator habitats going on.”
You can do your part by planting pollinator-friendly gardens in your own spaces. To create a list of plants that is native to your area, follow these instructions to “Create Custom Pollinator Plant List.” Plants native to Western North Carolina include:
- Black cohosh
- Wild geranium
- Black-eyed and Brown-eyed Susan
- Blue wood aster
- Yellow trillium
All pollinators need our help. And the Bee City USA movement is raising awareness across our entire region. To find out more about what you can do to help pollinators, including how to plant your own pollinator-friendly garden, visit BeeCityUSA.org.