Asheville Daily Planet
RSS Facebook
Asheville abuzz over becoming 1st Bee City USA
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 15:12
By JOHN NORTH
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The importance of honeybees as pollinators — along with the need for human beings to enhance their foraging habitat — were emphasized during a Sept. 16 ceremony downtown to unveil a sign designating Asheville as the first Bee City USA.

Some men wore bright-yellow hardhats labeled “Worker Bee,” prompting good-natured teasing from those knowledgeable of apiculture that worker bees are infertile females and that the only male honeybees are drones, known to be lazy and whose only function is to mate with new queens. 

Other attendees sported black-and-yellow antenna on their heads that were provided by Phyllis Stiles, director and founder of Bee City USA.

In keeping with the event’s theme, the lectern that the speakers used was a camouflage-green, wooden beehive (with no bees inside), with the telescoping cover tilted at an angle to provide a platform on which written speeches could be placed.

“Hi, everybody,” Stiles said enthusiastically, in opening the program. “Thanks for celebrating with us ... Here, in the first Bee City USA.” The small crowd cheered, as she spoke in front of a banner that stated, “The bees need you (almost as much as you need them).”

“Lots of times, great ideas don’t go anywhere ... That’s not what happened for Bee City USA in Asheville.” Many parties were contacted in the process, and a negative response anywhere along the way probably would have derailed the effort, Stiles said. “So all it would have taken was one ‘no,’ but everyone said ‘yes.’ So this is a day of gratitude to everyone. We’re setting precedents....”

A beekeeper herself with two hives, Stiles noted — with obvious pride — the project has advanced from the “egg” to the “larval” stage.

She added that “we live in a real special part of the world where we have very committed beekepers. “Some of them started organizing and created a thing called the Center for Honeybee Research.”

Stiles thanked the many supporters of the project, including the Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter, as well as Carl Chesick and her husband Richard Stiles. 

(Chesick, director of the CHR and an Asheville resident for more than 30 years, said the center focuses on the issues and difficulties faced by honeybee pollinators. He told the news media at the event that he wants the CHR to be “the world hub for all things bee, and it’s a pretty gradiose plan, but I think it’s reachable.”)

She noted that colony collapse disorder, wherein colonies of bees die suddenly — and mysteriously — is one of the most challenging problems facing beekeepers today, “so even with dedicated worker bees, you can’t always save the colony no matter how hard they work.”

As for Asheville, Stiles noted that “urban areas can actually be a refuge for bees.”

She also cited a recent Time magazine cover story titled “A World Without Bees” that told of the problems that would happen to the food supply for people worldwide without the pollinators that are essential in enabling the lifecycle of flowering plants to progress.

“Lastly, it wouldn’t have happened (the Bee City USA designation) without our Asheville City Council, which voted unanimously” to support the project,” Stiles said.

She recognized two councilmen present at the ceremony — Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith, both of whom are running for re-election — as well as City Manager Gary Jackson. Both Bothwell and Smith had been invited to speak.

Bothwell, who noted he is a former beekeeper, said, “It isn’t just the bees, it’s all kind of insects and some mammals” that are dying suddenly, mysteriously and in alarming numbers. He noted that many people may be unaware of how essential pollinators are to maintaining an adequate food supply for human beings.

“What we’re doing is destroying the habitats of our pollinators,” he asserted.

Bothwell added that there are many things local residents can do to provide better habitats to pollinators. “Weeds are better” than grass. “Clover is better than grass. Bee balm is better... Congratulations on our Bee City USA” designation, he concluded.

Injecting a note of humor into the ceremony, Smith began by quipping that “Phyllis has been not only the ‘queen bee,” but she has put before the citizens of Asheville the quintessential proposition: “To bee, or not to bee.” Stiles, along with the crowd, laughed heartily.

On a serious note, Smith said, “The health of our pollinators is very important to achieve” the community’s goal of feeding hungry people throughout the area.

The gala ended with Bothwell and Smith unveiling the colorful sign, proudly proclaiming Asheville as the first place designated as a Bee City USA.

 



 


contact | home

Copyright ©2005-2015 Star Fleet Communications

224 Broadway St., Asheville, NC 28801 | P.O. Box 8490, Asheville, NC 28814
phone (828) 252-6565 | fax (828) 252-6567

a Cube Creative Design site