Seattle beekeepers know how important it is to keep Seattle green. Honey bees will range across entire neighborhoods, and beyond, to find the pollen and other resources that they need to sustain their hives. City parks and other public green spaces are an important part of the natural fabric that keeps our bees and other pollinators alive and active throughout the year.
Recent studies have shown that city gardens and other green spaces can help maintain pollinator diversity, even beyond the support provided by surrounding rural areas. There is even evidence that they can help sustain endangered species: the Western bumble bee, once thought to be extinct west of the Pacific Crest, was rediscovered in a suburban park north of Lake Washington.
The City of Seattle and the Green Seattle Partnership, in their efforts to control the spread of invasive plants and promote reforestation, may be inadvertently – and unnecessarily – eliminating the parts of that fabric that keep our pollinators going. Many non-native plants produce substantial amounts of nectar and pollen, and in areas where they are well established, they may become important resources for bees and other pollinators. For example, the park where the Western bumble bee was rediscovered was dominated by Himalayan blackberry. While blackberry does impede the growth of conifer saplings, it also kept the bees alive. Destroying these plants without consideration for their replacement places both honey bees and native pollinators at risk.
There is room for the City of Seattle to take the lead in maintaining pollinator habitat, even as we improve the health of our forested lands. Even in a mature forest, the edge of a forested area – the transition zone between conifers or hardwoods on one side and meadows, lawns, or pavement on the other – is an important source of biological diversity. Many species of birds, mammals, and insects live on one side of the zone, but forage for food and water on the other. It is naturally full of sun-loving trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, and is a vital destination for our bees and other pollinators.
Maintaining the health of the forest edges is a necessary counterpart to restoring the natural progression of the forest core. Uprooting the plants in this transition area, and replacing them all with conifers and mulch, destroys both the food and the nesting habitat for many local pollinators. I encourage you to strongly encourage the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department to consider the effects of pollinator-friendly habitat in its new guidelines for the restoration and maintenance of forested land.
How You Can Help
Online: The Seattle Parks and Recreation department is asking for your input before they begin the next phase of the reforestation program. From now until April 10, they are running two surveys on the Parks and Recreation web site.
1. Please take the survey and list the goals that are most important to you for Seattle green belts and other natural areas. Be sure to include “wildlife preservation” as one of your choices. (It’s the closest thing on the list to “pollinator habitat”.)
2. You can also go here to tell the city about a particular park or natural area and how its flowers help support our bees. It takes more time, but it’s the only way to tell the city about the value of green spaces for pollinator conservation.
In Person On Saturday morning, April 4, there is an open house on the new Green Seattle guidelines at the Seattle Center. We encourage beekeepers and anyone with an interest in pollinator conservation to attend the meeting and remind the City to remember the flowers in its plans to keep Seattle green.
Date: April 4, 2015
Location: Seattle Center, Armory Loft, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109
This content was submitted by Will Peterman, who is a writer and photographer. He is the founder of Beesearch.org and the Western Bumblebee Project, which grew from the recent rediscovery of a local bumble bee whose population had been in a steep decline. He spends his time studying native bees and their role in agriculture.