UCF First Designated Bee Campus USA

Last year, UCF became the first university in Florida to be designated as a Bee Campus USA. Bee Campuses aim to increase communication about the importance of pollinators and what we can to enhance their habitats in our continuously urbanizing landscape. The Bee Campus program, which is operated through the internationally-renowned insect conservation organization, the Xerces Society, endorses sustainable pollinator gardens so that they will last for generations. As a part of Bee Campus USA, we have a committee that includes faculty, staff and students that help guide the program, discussing the success and future of our pollinator gardens, and planning pollinator research, education and outreach initiatives. Currently, there are only 3 Bee Campuses nationwide, and UCF is the only one in Florida.

As part of Bee Campus, we host workshops and events to increase awareness about pollinator decline. Our upcoming events include a propagated plant giveaway at the Student Union on June 18th and a propagation workshop on June 28th at the Arboretum Nature Pavilion. Additionally, UCF Sustainability Initiatives is hosting a Pollinator Photography Contest with three prize giveaways for National Pollinator Week.

Establishing pollinator gardens is another important aspect of the Bee Campus program. In 2016, the Arboretum began its first pollinator garden, located next to the greenhouse. Currently, it serves as a testing ground for growing pollinator-friendly plants in an urban environment in Central Florida. The Arboretum started a second garden near Trevor Colbourn Hall and Parking Garage I. Pollinator gardens serve to diversify nectar and host plants for a wide range of pollinators. By planting vegetation for pollinators that may be vulnerable to extinction, we can rejuvenate their food sources and help their populations to thrive.

To make your own pollinator garden, we recommend planting each species in clumps of at least three. This allows pollinators to practice flower constancy and forage on one plant species at a time. Native pollinators have co-evolved with native plant varieties so it is essential to primarily use perennials native to your area and not treated with insecticides. While perennials will ensure that you have a great variety for many years without replenishing, annuals and flowering shrubs and trees are also useful to pollinators.

Additionally, you should include plants from several different families. A variety of pollinators require a diverse landscape and flowers with different bloom periods to ensure there are pollen and nectar sources year-round. Using several plant families will also ensure that your garden has a large variety of flower shapes, sizes, and colors. For example, bees tend to prefer purples, yellows and whites. Hummingbirds tend to prefer red flowers. Many native bees also like small flowers, but bumble bees often enjoy larger flowers. You should also be sure to include host plants for moths and butterflies in your garden.

Our last tip is to determine the type of nesting spaces pollinators may use in your location. Most native pollinators make nests in bare, well-drained soil or live in hollowed out twigs. Some bees may also utilize nesting boxes. You should provide areas in your garden for many types of pollinators to make their nests.

The Arboretum is excited about the prospects of adding more pollinator gardens to campus and to supporting pollinator conservation through our Bee Campus USA program!

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