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Did you hear the buzz? Upstate officially named a Bee Campus

Upstate Medical University’s campus has been designated a Bee Campus USA affiliate, part of a nationwide program to conserve native pollinators.

By joining the program, Upstate commits to work to conserve native pollinators, such as bees, and to make campus a better place for pollinators.

Upstate officials said the initiative fits perfectly into Upstate’s mission to be a leader in holistic health care, and underscores the relationship between sustainability and health care.

“It is a really great program,” said Paul Corsi, Upstate’s sustainability manager. “We already do some of the requirements and we will get resources to learn about native plants and pollinator-friendly plants. We want to take that information and build educational opportunities and volunteering events and use the Bee campus framework for things like cleaning up campus and planting more flowers.”

Upstate joins 157 other campus affiliates in the program, including nearby Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Bee Campus USA provides a framework for campus communities to work together to conserve native pollinators by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites, and reducing pesticide use. Campus affiliates make commitments to carry out these steps.

Corsi said Upstate already does not use pesticides in landscaped areas and has many wild areas between buildings for native plants. He plans to create more spaces with native plants such as milkweed, which is attractive for Monarch butterflies.

According to Bee Campus USA, the United States is also home to more than 3,600 native (wild) bee species. Native pollinators are particularly important because they, in many cases, are the most effective pollinators—and in a few cases, the only pollinators. Pollinators are keystone species in essentially every terrestrial ecosystem on earth, assisting in plant reproduction and supporting other species of wildlife.

Pollinators touch our lives in numerous ways each day, including being responsible for approximately one-third of the food and drink humans consume. The value of crop pollination has been estimated between $18 and $27 billion annually in the United States.

Research has shown significant declines in native pollinator population sizes and ranges globally. Up to 40 percent of pollinator species on earth may be at risk of extinction in the coming years as a result of habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. 

“Pollinators are the foundation of our food system,” Corsi said. “They are incredibly important in our ecosystem. Pretty much everything relies on pollinators.”

Though the focus of Bee Campus USA is bees, the steps that affiliates take to conserve native bees will also help other pollinators including butterflies and moths as well as the non-native honeybee.

Upstate will kick off programming at 10 a.m. Jan. 10 when Pathway to Wellness will hold an informational session for anyone with an Upstate email address (https://upstate.webex.com/meet/brisks).  Corsi will go over the basics of the program, provide information about pollinators and their importance, including information on how people can help pollinators at home, such as waiting to mow their lawns in the spring and allowing dandelions to grow.

“Saving the spotted owl isn’t just about the owl,” he said. “It’s about sustainability and protecting the environment, which is such a huge part of holistic health care. When we look at some of the biggest public health crises over the next five to 15 years it’s going to be related to climate change, environmental pollution—all of these things represent a huge public health risk. This is one part of our strategy to be a solution to those problems. It’s not just about saving endangered species, it’s about protecting public health.”

Members of Upstate’s Bee Campus committee are Corsi, students Anna Maria Hinman, Katie M. Farkouh, Jessica R. Crooker, Jacqueline Hogan and Samantha Badie; Aaron L. Petty (associate director for maintenance); and Suzanne F. Brisk (Upstate Pathway to Wellness coordinator).