Bee flying near purple flower
Features & Articles

Pittsburgh campus certified as a Bee Campus USA


Pollinator Week 2020, an international celebration in recognition of pollinators’ important role in agriculture and healthy ecosystems, is being celebrated June 22-28.

And while the bees, butterflies, bugs, bats and hummingbirds on the University of Pittsburgh campus don’t know it, this year they’re pollinating Pennsylvania’s newest Bee Campus USA.

The University’s Pittsburgh campus has earned this certification through the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. In response to significant declines in native pollinator populations worldwide, Xerces’ Bee Campus USA program endorses a set of commitments for creating sustainable on-campus habitats for these small creatures whose work is so vital to feeding the planet.

In part, Bee Campus affiliates commit to educating their communities on pollinator conservation and to supporting pollinators by establishing native-plant habitats, providing nesting sites and reducing pesticide use.

 “The Landscape and Ecology portion of the Pitt Sustainability Plan commits us to cultivating sustainable landscapes that increase biodiversity and enrich all ecosystem services, which are vital to environmental and human health,” said Aurora Sharrard, the University’s director of sustainability.

“Achieving our first Bee Campus USA designation celebrates Pitt’s many years of contributions to sustainable landscapes, while raising awareness about the imperative role pollinators play in sustaining our food and ecosystems.”

Pitt is among 103 Bee Campus USA affiliates nationwide and only the fifth in Pennsylvania.

“We’re joining an elite group of colleges and universities throughout the United States that are committed to saving pollinators in this national movement, said Andy Moran, Pitt’s senior manager of grounds, who began investigating the application process after learning about the program at a national conference several years ago.

Moran heads Pitt’s Pollinator Habitat Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability that includes faculty, staff, students and administrators. The advisory group led the Bee Campus USA application process and coordinates Pitt’s ongoing support for healthy pollinator populations on campus. 

Efforts already underway include the student-led Bee Friendly Pitt project that placed seven bee houses around campus to shelter solitary bees; the existence of four student-designed pollinator gardens; and the University’s practice of prioritizing native varieties of perennials, shrubs and trees in campus plantings. All helped fast-track Pitt’s approval as a Bee Campus USA.

Brandon Brewster, a sustainability intern in Facilities Management, saw the University’s application through to completion.

“The thing that excites me most about the Bee Campus USA designation is that it adds to the longstanding support for sustainable efforts on campus. This designation will foster the awareness and backing for future sustainable projects,” said Brewster, a rising junior majoring in environmental sciences.

“Not only is this good news for the native pollinator species in and around our campus, but it means that every day we are working to make the University a healthier and more sustainable place to learn and thrive.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to expand our pollinator spaces on campus as well as to reach out to the surrounding community to encourage others to achieve similar goals,” Brewster said.

Said Moran, “The decline of pollinators is a national issue that the University is committed to helping to solve.

"The University’s efforts are particularly impactful in an urban environment," said Moran.  

“Especially in cities, the use of pesticides and removal of trees and green spaces has destroyed habitats and harmed pollinator populations. We need to bring them back, because so much of our food production relies on pollination.

“We’ve planted thousands of pollinator-friendly plants across the entire campus and we’ve had good success using the native perennials, trees and shrubs. Reintroducing these to the city landscape is helping to remake our own natural native plant ecosystems. And naturally, that’s good for pollinators,” he said.

“Pitt’s campus is a 145-acre island in the city where pollinators can thrive. They stop here, but we’re a neighbor to thousands.

“Doing our part for pollinators helps the community for miles around,” Moran said.