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Aug. 9, 2021

Bee City USA with Xerces' Molly Martin & City of Olympia's Amy Stull (S4, E8)

Bee City USA with Xerces' Molly Martin & City of Olympia's Amy Stull  (S4, E8)

In this episode we talk first with Molly Martin, the coordinator of Bee City USA, and Bee Campus USA, both supported by the Xerces Society. The Xerces Society is as Pro Pollinator as any group can get, there’s no doubt about that. Of course, our...

MollyIn this episode we talk first with Molly Martin, the coordinator of Bee City USA, and Bee Campus USA, both supported by the Xerces Society.

The Xerces Society is as Pro Pollinator as any group can get, there’s no doubt about that. Of course, our honey bees are probably the best-known pollinators, but there are thousands more out there – other bees of course, but butterflies, birds, bats, beetles, and a host of other creatures.

It all began some years ago when Phyllis Stiles developed a program that cities, and then campuses could adopt that would enhance the environment of that city or campus to the advantage of all the pollinators that lived within its borders. The city or campus would work to develop additional habitat, reduce habitat loss, add to or develop an IPM program to reduce pesticide use, ensure that new plantings would be local, native and beneficial to pollinators, and work to make residents more aware of, support and nurture the value and the benefits of working with pollinators instead of against them.

Phyllis worked on growing this program, and after several years began working with the Xerces Society to help grow it even more.

Today, there are 266 total associates in this program, in 44 states, and the growth has not slowed one bit. Bee Associates, cities or campuses, must from a committee that includes officials and volunteers to make certain the goals of this organization are carried out, new directions are followed and existing programs that do not enhance pollinators are removed or modified. Xerces provides ample educational web sites, webinars, videos, signage, and additional support to the community so that the efforts of the city or campus not only continues to grow, but also continues to improve.

Then, Jeff makes an unplanned visit to talk with the City of Olympia’s project leader for their recent Bee City Certification, Amy Stulls. Amy shares the City’s inspiration, plan, program and future of their Bee City designation. Amy is definitely someone to listen to if you are planning a Bee City certification for your town.

Listen in as Molly and then Amy share what you will need to do to become a Bee City USA, or Bee Campus USA and help grow an organization the supports honey bees and beekeeping certainly, and all pollinators.

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:

Honey Bee Obscura


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at

Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping TodayStrong Microbials Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website:

This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode! 

We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine destined for2 Million Blossoms your coffee table. Each page of the magazine is dedicated to the stories and photos of all pollinators and written by leading researchers, photographers and our very own, Kim Flottum.


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Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at

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S4, E8 – Bee City USA with Xerces' Molly Martin and City of Olympia's Amy Stull


Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.

Introduction: Hey, Jeff and Kim, today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.

No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at

Jeff: Hey, thanks, Sherry. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support. They help make all of this happen and provide us the ability to bring you each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship for this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms that sponsor this episode. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators.

Learn more on our season 2 episode 9 podcasts with editor Kirsten Traynor and from visiting, and that is with a number 2. Also, check out the new 2 Million Blossoms podcast also available from the website or from wherever you download and stream your shows. Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We are so happy you're here. Hey Kim. All right. This summer is just zipping along.

Kim: Oh, speak for yourself, guy. I'm growing weary of hot and wet, but let's see, what can you do?

Jeff: Well, how are the bees handling it? The heck with you. How are your bees? [laughs]

Kim: Well, interestingly enough that you should ask that. Jim too and I both struggled to get out to our bees because either you're gone or it's raining, or it's 120 in the shade, but this last week, we were able to get out and look at our bees, and mine the packages are doing what I expect the packages are doing. The nuc that I got is a buster. It's doing really well. I'm really pleased with it. I think I'm probably going to have to use the honey from the buster to feed the two packages over winter, but that'll be a honeyless winter, but at least I should have bees.

Jeff: Well, good. No one ever said keeping bees was like keeping kittens. It takes some work. It's got constant challenge.

Kim: Well, it's something to do. Who's on today?

Jeff: Well, coming up on today's episode, we have Molly Martin from the Xerces Society and she heads up the Bee City USA program.

Kim: Molly, yes, with Xerces Society. I met the lady who founded, she's running the section on Xerces Society called Bee City. That's where you can have your city or your campus, Bee Campus, become recognized as supporting pollinators and doing good things for them, and for the environment. I met the lady who started this program several years ago, her name was Phyllis Stiles, and she was at Mother Earth News show in North Carolina when I met her. I think that was one of the first cities that she was able to capture. It'll be fun to see where they've gone since then.

Jeff: Yes, we had Xerces Society on I think episode 3 on the podcast, it's going to be fun to have him back and talk specifically about Bee City. I think they're doing a lot of good work. Speaking of good work, coming up in Medina is the Ohio Bee Conference. The BEEing Diverse: Inspiring Leaders in Beekeeping, October 1, 2, and 3. What do you know about that, Kim?

Kim: Well, I know that I'm looking forward to it. I'm not part of it other than I get to show for the speakers to and from the airport, but I get to listen to all the talks in between, I think there's 15 speakers. There's going to be a bunch of vendors. They've got some sponsors coming up. It should be a pretty dynamite program. Sheri's done a good job of gathering the right people to talk about this interesting topic.

Jeff: Well, I'm not speaking, does that mean that you're not going to pick me up either?


Kim: Sure I will, just like Uber. You know it won't cost you too much.

Jeff: Yes, just like Uber. That sounds really good, and I know that I was looking at the speaker list and we've had quite a few of the speakers on the podcast. If our listeners want to get a preview of what they may hear, they had Tammy Potter. Tammy Horn Potter. She's been on the show here twice. She's speaking and Sue Cobey has been on the show and she will be on the program as well. That's a several of the people who are going to be on the BEEing Diverse program that weekend.

Kim: Yes, it should be good.

Jeff: Speaking of doing good, you and Jim are doing a really good job with honeybee obscure. You just mentioned a little bit ago about the latest episode and you're comparing, contrasting your bees that you started this last spring. What else do you have coming up?

Kim: We've got one coming up on ugly bees, and you know what they can be. You got a colony that all summer long has been just fine, and you go out there one day and you take the cover off and suddenly they're eating your veil coming after you. What causes it? What do you do about it? We look at some of that. Then we've got one on winter packing and my concept of winter packing. I learned to keep bees in Wisconsin where winter was with a big capital W and we spent a lot of time and effort perfecting that technique there, and then it got dropped.

There were bees were so plentiful and easy to get that wintering wasn't much of a problem, but now that it's like 40% or something then you got to replace those. I know the people that are wintering indoors have really gotten a hold of that, but for those of us who are still outdoors, is wrapping necessary? If it is, how do you do it and what are the things you need to look at? That's what we're talking about coming down the road here.

Jeff: That's really good. This is not too early to start thinking about how you're going to prepare your bees for the winter. Winter packing, that's a good one coming up.

Kim: There's definitely a right way and a wrong way to pack. When you're thinking of overwintering think of bees in a tree, what do they have? What kind of ventilation? What's the R factor in the walls? Those sorts of things and the way we learned to pack didn't consider any of that. Rethinking it.

Jeff: Well, everybody, that's a Honey Bee Obscura, available wherever you download and stream your shows, and we also have transcripts available for Honey Bee Obscura. If you enjoy reading along as you listen to the show, or if you find it more useful to listen to read your transcripts, feel free to get out there to the website, download them and make use of them.

Kim: If you're finding it useful, let us know.

Jeff: Well, coming up, we have Molly Martin from Bee City USA, but first, a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials. Make sure to visit our sponsor page for a special Strong Microbials discount code for Beekeeping Today Podcast listeners.


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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to their regular newsletter, The Hive. It's a regular newsletter full of product information and updates. Hey, welcome back everybody. Sitting across the virtual Zoom table right now is Molly Martin of the Xerces society. Molly, welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Molly Martin: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here and to meet you two.

Kim: Also nice to meet you too, Molly. We haven't had the opportunity to do this yet. Today, Jeff tells me that we're going to talk about Bee City and Bee Campuses, and you're the coordinator for Xerces, those two programs?

Molly: Yes, that's correct. I run two initiatives of the Xerces Society called Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA.

Kim: Okay, well, let's just get started, but why would I want to be a bee city?

Molly: That is a great question. Hopefully, everybody wants to be a bee city, whether or not they know that yet. The main reason is that as I'm sure all the listeners know, pollinators are in decline globally and they really need our help supporting them. A big piece of that is supporting pollinators in our urban and suburban areas, that in these built environments we've created just a sea of concrete with often not many native plants to support pollinators and other wildlife. We really need to be supporting bees because they support so many plants that we rely on and are really a keystone species in our ecosystems.

By becoming a Bee City or a Bee Campus, you make commitments to protect pollinators, and then in return, you get support from us. It's essentially a framework that we help support these groups that want to do good things for pollinators and maybe don't know where to start or need a little supporting network.

Kim: One of the things I want to emphasize here, Molly, is that Bee City is not just honeybees, it's all pollinators. Many pollinators are bees, but honeybees are just one of them. I want to make sure people understand that this is a much broader canvas than just keeping honeybees in your backyard, right?

Molly: Yes, absolutely. It's about the diversity of all of our pollinators, both bees that there are over 3,000, I think it's about 3,600 species in the US and Canada alone. We're trying to support other species and then also all the other pollinators out there. Our name is Bee City, but we really want to be supporting the butterflies, the moths, the beetles, all the other insects and non-insects species, like hummingbirds that are contributing to pollination.

Kim: Okay. If I wanted to be a Bee City, what do I have to do?

Molly: That is a great question.


Molly: Where to begin? First, you need to decide that you care about pollinators, which I assume most people listening to this already feel like pollinators are important and that they ought to be doing something to support them. Once you decide that, the next step is to look around your community, whether that's a city, or town, or our campus program, which is college and university campuses, and to look for allies, other people who are also interested in conserving pollinators and might be helpful for a committee. The first step is really convening this committee of people who are from various backgrounds bring different skill sets to the committee.

Then from there, you can start your application and begin planning out how you're going to meet the different commitments of the program.

Kim: This application is on your webpage?

Molly: Yes. We have an online application. For cities, the main pieces of that are letting us know you have a committee convened, and you pass a resolution, the city council needs to pass a resolution saying, "Our city is committed to pollinators. We will put measures to protect pollinators into our city plans." Then you fill out the online application and we take a look at it and say, "Yes, you've made the correct commitments, you've passed your resolution, you can become an affiliate." Then the commitments are what happens in the next year or two before the first renewal is due to us. That's a misconception often with the program is do I need to complete the commitments before applying? The answer is that we then give you about a year after you become affiliated to complete those commitments.

Kim: You're going to be dealing with the cities or the campuses forestry department, or their lawn maintenance department, their street repair? All of these people are going to have to be a part of this, and they all have to be going in the same direction?

Molly: Yes. We require someone from the grounds or a landscaping department to be part of the committee for campuses because we want to make sure that everybody's on the same page and there is agreement about what they're doing, rather than having a small group decide that they're going to take these steps and then have that trickle down to the people actually doing a maintenance campus grounds. That's really the reason to have a committee that has people from a broad swath of the community. We want this to be an effort that a lot of people are involved with.

Jeff: They apply and they get a council resolution in place, then they have, you said, up to a year or so to meet certain commitments. Do they have a plan then, if they don't get to commitment number three in the first year, but their plan, they're working towards it in year two, they can still continue working that to become a Bee City and maintain their certification?

Molly: Yes, that's correct. One of our commitments is to reduce pesticide use, and we require that the affiliates create a integrated pest management plan. Essentially a plan of what are alternatives to pesticides, how can we address our pest issues in a way that doesn't harm the environment, people, pollinators as much? It may still involve some pesticide use, but we want places to be thoughtful about that use and thinking through alternatives. One example is that affiliates create that plan, but that's really a long-term effort. We don't expect affiliates to jump in and a month later have this plan developed and in place. That's something that can be worked on for years.

Often it's an ongoing process that's updated annually or every few years to make sure it fits with their priorities and their budget and what they're doing.

Kim: It sounds like a city or a campus is, if not already going to have to seriously be thinking about a good IPM program for all of the environments that are in the city, on the campus, and get everybody, like I said, going in the same direction at the same time. If I've got people that really want to do this but don't have a whole lot of experience developing some parts of these programs, can I turn to you and have you show me examples or put me in the direction of people to talk to that have already accomplished this?

Molly: Yes, absolutely. That's one of the main benefits of becoming part of this program, is that we provide support and resources to affiliates. We have factsheets, webinars, we'll have trainings, we have opportunities for one-on-one support. That's one of the great things. Going back a little, Bee City and Bee Campus were founded as a separate nonprofit from Xerces. They were their own nonprofit started in North Carolina. Then they became part of Xerces in 2018, which I think was a huge benefit because Xerces has a lot of expertise on pollinators, pesticides, native plants across the entire country. We suddenly gained this wealth of knowledge, so then we can connect our affiliates too.

Often if they have a question about a plant, I'm based in Portland and I may know nothing about their question, but I can then connect them with the right staff member who can answer that.

Jeff: I want to just remind folks also that Bee City being now a part of Xerces Society, we did have Matthew Shepherd from Xerces Society way early on in our podcasting history episode 3, back in 2018. I do recall him saying that the Bee City had just joined part of Xerces at that time.

Molly: Yes, I think it had joined just months before, it was one of the first times that they were publicly talking about it, which was pretty exciting.

Jeff: If anybody wants to listen more, learn more about the Xerces Society and the other projects at Xerces, go ahead and listen to Episode 3. It's chock-full of information.


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Kim: Molly, how many Bee Cities are there? How many Bee Campuses are there?

Molly: That's a great question. I believe we're currently at 266 total affiliates, and it's pretty evenly split. We have a few more cities than campuses. The City program started in 2012 and the Campus program was 2015. The City program got a little more momentum going early. Then we have affiliates in 44 states. We're trying to get up to all 50 states, but we're missing a few. Hopefully some of our listeners, I can tell you which states even, and if we have listeners in those states, you get extra gold stars if you become an affiliate. There are Alaska, which has an amazing number of bees, especially bumblebees. Hawaii, which I've been joking, I really wouldn't mind going and doing a little advertising in Hawaii.

Jeff: [laughs] I volunteer.

Molly: Yes. Arizona. Which is also a huge hotspot for native bee diversity and then Oklahoma, Kansas, and Rhode Island.

Kim: Are you in any other countries?

Molly: We're not, we're just in the U.S at this point, there's a similar program in Canada called Bee City Canada, and they have a campus program as well and they started a little after Bee City USA and the founder of Bee City, Phyllis Stiles, helped the founder of the Canada start that program. There's a lot of overlap but they are separate program.

Kim: Over the years, I've driven through a few Bee Cities and every one of them that I've been in somewhere and the city had a great big sign that says Bee City, where do I get one of those?

Molly: Once you become an affiliate, we provide you with the artwork files to create those signs so there's a street sign that you can download. Then we recommend contacting a local print shop to get those made. Then we also make a custom affiliate logo so it looks like the national one, but it will have your city name and state, and that can be used however affiliates want. Often they use them for fundraising, or if they make booklets or things, they can use that affiliate that logo, whereas ours is a little more restricted, and it's just used for the street sign.

Kim: I could have it on the City's webpage and if people wanted to find out about it, click here and find out all about. Well, Jeff, you are a Bee City out in Olympia there. Have you seen that logo on your webpage?

Jeff: No, I haven't been to the City of Olympia website, that's a good question.

Molly: They're brand new affiliate, it's only about a month ago.

Jeff: All right. No, I don't feel like such a doofus for not knowing it for sure that they have it. That is interesting.

Molly: No, it's part of the first

Jeff: Part of the first. Well, I want to offer any of our listeners who live in Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, or Rhode Island. Those are the five states. Is that right? Five to five, six states that do not have a Bee City program. If you're a listener and you get your city listed as an affiliate, I'll make sure you get a beekeeping today, podcast mug or t-shirt, whichever you want, but you have to work with Molly and get your city be the first city listed in that state and there you go. There is a challenge.

Kim: Good idea.

Molly: That's a brilliant concept.

Jeff: Yes, there's a challenge for you.

Molly: I like that.

Kim: You mentioned the fact that you're in Portland and you know the Portland area, the Oregon area.I took a quick look, I don't know, we've got almost a dozen Bee Cities and Campuses in here in Ohio, but if another one of those cities decided to join up the committee came to you and said, "Well, we want to do some native plantings we've got some space we want to do. It's part of our commitment. We're going to increase native plants and decrease some of the grass that we've got some of those things." What do you know about Ohio plants?

Molly: I personally know essentially nothing about Ohio plants, but fortunately there are other Xerces staff we know quite a bit, so I would connect them with the expert in that region, rather than I could pretend to know something, but I think people would much prefer if I connect them to the actual expert. We do have people who are happy to share plant lists, Xerces Society has plant lists for each region of the country of native plants. I can connect people with resources and with people who can come and help them and to answer that question.

Jeff: That's good okay. Well, I was told long ago that it's not important to know everything, but it's more important is to know where to find the information, so you're doing okay.

Molly: Yes, with affiliates in all states, it's pretty hard to know everything in all those states, but we have the resources and the people so my job is just connecting people.

Kim: Do you guys do some what would you call it ongoing education as knowledge increases, as things evolve in terms of- I mean we were talking here recently to Dewey Caron and who's with the Honey Bee Health Coalition and they are seriously looking at the differences and the changes that are going to happen because of climate change. I'm going to guess that you're going to have the same issues with all pollinators, are you looking at some of those things to keep people up to speed?

Molly: Yes, we're really encouraging when people are planting to really think about being very local with the plants they're choosing. Making sure they're selecting plants that are adapted to that region so for example, if you're in one of our affiliates of Santa Fe, New Mexico, they could go pick a plant that is theoretically needed, but it's really a type of that native that's not native to that region. It's not drought-tolerant or it doesn't have the attributes that really makes it grow well in that specific ecoregion.

We're encouraging people to pick the plants that really are going to work in their area and make those drought-tolerant, make the decisions with plants that are going to work well when there's climate change, and that you're not picking plants that are already mismatched and you're going to have issues when you have the climate changing.

Kim: Do the Xerces Society has these regional plant lists and I've looked at them often, are they reflecting these changes, these plant lists, do you know?

Molly: That's a good question. We often look at them and update them. I'm not directly involved in creating this plant list so I'm sure it's something that we're thinking about and we'll continue to update in the future.

Kim: Do you guys have ongoing education webinars, some kinds of events, once I become a Bee City, I was going to say Tree City. Once I become a Bee City, you're going to keep me up to speed and you're not only going to do it just by working with my committee, but offering things for the whole community that's a Bee City, am I right?

Molly: Yes. We have webinars, generally monthly webinars on interesting topics that affiliates are welcome to join. We have frequent trainings that people can join if they, for example like if you want to work on your integrated pest management plan, we will have a training where you can come and talk to an expert about that and get ideas. We also have a monthly newsletter where we share updates from affiliates. We try to make it fun. We also have social media accounts and frequently share any articles we come across or affiliate stories or that kind of thing.

Then we also, it's two-tiered so we provide these outreach and education to our affiliates and then one of their commitments is also to do outreach and education in their communities. We also provide resources for them to do outreach and education. For example, template presentations, we have presentations about pollinators that someone could take and make their own adjustments, and then use that to do an event for something.

Kim: Are these only just for the committee people and then they have to go out as a community, or can Jeff living in Olympia tune in and listen to what you're doing with his committee.

Molly: Anyone's welcome to join trainings and webinars and sign up for the newsletter. Those are not restricted to the committee. There are some trainings that we do restrict just to keep them small so that there is more interaction, but most of the webinars and resources are available publicly. Also, a lot of affiliates often put them on their own website so they can take them from us, but then on our website and then community members can come take a look at that and learn directly from the committee.

Kim: Is there a backlog of these? Is there you saved them so I could go look at the last one and the one before and the one before and the one before?

Molly: We do, we have some blogs on our website, and we have those all posted. Xerces has a YouTube channel and we save all the recorded webinars and trainings on there. Then there's a Bee City playlist so people go on there, they can find the Bee City playlist. Then also on, we have a Bee City website, which is just at and on there we have a webinar and video library. That's a curated list of recorded webinars and videos about the program.

Kim: There you go, Jeff, you got the whole history of what's going on and what's going to be going on in Olympia.

Jeff: I was just getting ready to go check out this information on the Bee City website it's a great resource, and I'm going to start looking for that sign.

Molly: With the website, we have an affiliate portal so once a place becomes certified, they get access to this portal that has a whole bunch of more resources than the main website. That's a good thing to know.

Kim: Wow. Well, one of the things on your website that really attracted my attention, I'm basically a very lazy person you have a No Mow May, which is I just, I liked that a lot. I don't not having to mow it makes a lot of sense to me. We usually have to start mowing but I use tax day, April 15th is usually the first time we have to mow but I'm going to stretch No Mow May until No Mow all the way through May but how does that work? What do you featuring there?

Molly: Yes, so this is the first year that we have advertised No Mow May. It was started by Plantlife which is a nonprofit based in the UK. They encouraged people not to mow and then collected data on plants and pollinators to see what happens if you don't mow. They found that you do end up with a whole lot more pollinator abundance and diversity. We actually learned about it not from Plantlife, but from two of our affiliates. Appleton, Wisconsin and Lawrence University did some research on No Mow May. They started their own initiative in Appleton to get people not to mow.

Then, Lawrence University, a professor named Israel Del Toro was leading this research on what's the impact of not mowing in Appleton. They found-- I forget the numbers, but it was staggering. It was three times more the abundance and five times diversity or something. Don't quote me on that. The papers linked from our website, if you want to know the exact numbers, but it was a huge increase. We were really impressed by No Mow May and this great collaboration between a Bee City and a Bee Campus affiliate.

We took that and advertise it to try to get more places to do No Mow May, which is essentially what the name suggests. It's not mowing for the month of May to allow more flowers to grow in lawns to help pollinators.

Kim: I like this, less work and more pollinators.

Molly: Exactly. It's kind of a win-win. No Mow May can be a misleading term because given the US is a giant region, May is not necessarily the right time to not mow in every state. It's named No Mow May because it's a great name and it's catchy and it's nice to have a name like that, but a lot of regions, it's not exactly the month of May that you shouldn't be moving.

Jeff: It could be January.

Kim: Why can't it just be, "No Mow."? [chuckles]

Molly: Yes. Just, "Never Mow."

Kim: The only issue I see with that is my neighbors.

Molly: Yes. There is a lot of pushback about not mowing given the US's obsession with this green lawn that's perfect and has no weeds in it and it's perfectly mowed. A lot of cities have gotten around that by, if they have a weed ordinance. Some city ordinance that says, "You need to keep your lawn at a certain length." They convinced the city to suspend that for one month and let people have their lawns grow to help pollinators.

Another piece of that, that we found is that signage is incredibly important. If you just have a lawn and let it go, and it's full of weeds and the pollinators are happy and your neighbors walk by, they might be like, "What are you doing? You've gotten lazy, I guess. You're not mowing your lawn." Then, if you put up a sign, it's completely different because then they can learn, "They're actually doing this for a reason," and it's not permanent.

Jeff: I would think in a lot of places where homeowners associations, that would be problematic.

Molly: Absolutely. We acknowledge that this is not doable in all places.

Kim: What have we missed, Molly?

Molly: That's a good question. We haven't really talked about what exactly all of the program commitments are, which might be a good thing for people to learn. They essentially fit into three clumps, which people might guess, one is improving habitat, planting native plants. With that also leaving spaces for bees to nest. A lot of native bees just nest in the ground and need their ground to build their nests. Making sure you're leaving those spaces or hollow stems for stem nesting bees. The second one is reducing pesticide use which is a huge issue for bees and other wildlife. Encouraging integrated pest management.

Then, the third one is just outreach and education. Getting the word out to other people in the community about what you're doing and why you're doing it and also how they can contribute. The way those commitments shakeout is a little different for Cities and Campuses. People can go to our website and read the specific requirements. For cities, it's a little more like probe events for your outreach. For campuses, they need to include pollinator conservation in courses and also have service-learning. It's a little tailored to each community and what might work best for them.

Jeff: I know this would be a difficult question probably to answer, but do you have, for those communities, considering becoming a Bee City USA affiliate? A budgeting number, what is it going to cost us? What do we have to take forward to the council as a cost for becoming a Bee City USA year one and each year afterwards? Do you have any guidelines?

Molly: I don't have a great estimate. It's so different. I would say the one role with Bee City and Bee Campus is that there really are no rules or no consistency. There are commitments you make, but there's not much consistency about how people do that. I think that's wonderful because communities can decide what really works for them. It's not us pushing a specific number or a specific way of doing something on that community. A lot of them are able to do this work for essentially no money. They can find people who are already planting plants.

Then, instead of using these non-native ornamentals, use natives instead or maybe they already have a festival for sustainability or something, and add a piece about bees and other pollinators. There are ways to do it really inexpensively. That being said, if you can have a larger budget, there's a whole lot more you can get done. Then, on our end, we do have application and renewal fees just to make sure that I can get paid and we can keep the program going, provide the resources to affiliates. That's on a sliding scale from $100 to $500 depending on the population or city or student enrollment.

Jeff: That sounds like that would be fairly manageable in terms of the application fee. I would think that also for a community wanting to get involved, that also makes it really flexible and pulling in the local schools, social organizations, community programs, rotary, lions, the other clubs that around to be involved in some aspect of that ongoing program.

Molly: Absolutely. I would say the most successful communities are the ones that can pull together people already doing work. They're not starting from scratch. They're saying, "Who's already excited about this? Who's already doing work related to this?" Then, pull that together and just continue building on it.

Jeff: Perfect.

Kim: It makes perfect sense. Well, Jeff, you're already there. I guess we should start here in Medina looking at doing this.

Jeff: You'd think Medina, home of AI route would be a Bee City.

Kim: You would think [crosstalk]

Jeff: Do know Water Tower say, "Bee city." on it? It did it one time.

Kim: I don't know. Did it?

Jeff: I think it did it one time. I could be wrong.

Kim: I don't know. I don't think I've ever looked at the Water Tower unless you mentioned it.

Molly: Kim, your alma mater is a Bee Campus, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kim: That makes perfect sense.

Molly: Madison's working on their application as well.

Kim: Here's one weird question. If a person lives in a town that is somewhat reluctant to have beekeepers in town and they have an ordinance, does that automatically exclude us from becoming a Bee City?

Molly: It does not. We get that question often, but since our focus is so much on native pollinators, we don't have any requirements for a honeybee ordinance. The town's welcome to have one and be involved in beekeeping, but it's not a requirement. They can also fulfill the commitments by just focusing on the native species.

Kim: We're glad you don't discriminate.

Molly: No. We're about protecting all pollinators. Fortunately, the steps are the same for natives and non-natives.

Kim: Jeff, anything else?

Jeff: No. Molly, it's been a great time having you on the show and on the podcast talking about the Bee City USA program. We'll have the links that we talked about to your website,, and also the larger Xerces Society website. Thank you for joining us on Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Molly: Thanks so much for having me. To the listeners, thank you so much for listening.

Kim: I learned a lot, Molly. Thank you for being here. I'm going to go back to your webpage again and start looking for even more stuff to do. Thank you.

Jeff: Hey, everybody. I found I'd take this opportunity since I live here in Olympia and as Molly and Kim pointed out, Olympia just became Bee City USA certified. I'd search out and find the person involved and in charge in certifying the City of Olympia as Bee City USA. I am literally sitting in the middle of the park here at Priest Point Park in the city of Olympia in the sunshine at a picnic table, sitting across the table from Amy. Amy, welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast. Please, introduce yourself and tell us who you are, your role.

Amy: Thank you. I'm glad to be here. My name is Amy Stull and I'm the park stewardship supervisor for Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation. What that means is I supervise our three park rangers and the folks that help plan our habitat restoration and use volunteer work parties to do that.

Jeff: Cool. You are the contact person for heading up the Bee City USA certification?

Amy: I'm the person who got it going and I'm tracking and following it, but it's a team effort as part of a habitat working group that we have, we partner with environmental services in our public works, and we do a lot of habitat planning with them. This is something the committee requirement of Bee City USA is actually our habitat working group.

Jeff: Oh, very cool. How did you hear of Bee City USA?

Amy: I think one of our planners brought it to my attention and it was something about two years ago. I did some research on the Xerces' website, as well as a couple of cities, one in Oregon that had actually gotten Bee City USA certification to see what it was all about.

Jeff: What are the benefits of becoming a Bee City? Was the city of Olympia had to approve this, so what did you describe to them as the benefits of becoming a Bee City USA certified?

Amy: I think we've seen, definitely an increased interest in pollinator preservation and people interested in the disappearance of pollinators and what citizens there or the community can do about that. This was something that is very similar to our Tree City USA certification actually with Arbor Day Foundation. The benefits are that we have acknowledged the plight of pollinators and that we have a role to play in that and that we can also get the community involved in things that preserve pollinators and their habitats, and really it's part of our philosophy in the stewardship department.

Also as you and I were talking, once you see it, it's everywhere and it blends into a lot of the other projects. For example, we're going to do some planting of pollinator habitat habitat, which will allow us to reduce our mowing, which is a big deal.

Jeff: Yes. Around town and the medians they're replacing the medians and-- so why not do something for pollinators in those median strips or the tree line and tree lines areas, as opposed to just planning gravel or doing something that requires more maintenance or there's little benefit.

Amy: Yes. There's a lot of opportunities to look at that kind of thing. We won't be able to take every opportunities, but definitely are working our way into that.

Jeff: Very cool. How long has the city been working towards a certification?

Amy: I was going to say spring of 2019 when it first came to my attention and that's how long they, of course, last year delayed everything. We think that I'd have more time to work on it but I didn't so just got actual certification at the beginning of this year. Then in the next two years, we have time to meet all of the qualifications that Molly probably told you about.

Jeff: Molly was, was very complimentary of the work that you're doing.

Amy: Oh, great.

Jeff: So that was exciting. Yes.

Amy: Thank you.

Jeff: I got to get down there and talk to Amy. What are some of the, any key projects you would like to highlight?

Amy: Sure. There's a couple things we've been doing. Like I mentioned, we work with volunteers a lot and one of our volunteers was so excited that he dug out the bottom of a kettle, that we have at one of our parks, kind of a gravel spoils area. He planted an entire native pollinator garden from seed.

Jeff: Wow.

Amy: We're kind of waiting to see how things go the way that the weather has been, but that's how excited he was. So that's one of our projects. I mentioned, we have a couple of things where we're looking at planting, so that we will reduce mowing. We also just recently applied for a grant for sensory gardens.

Jeff: What are sensory garden?

Amy: Sensory gardens are places where people, especially people experiencing some sort of disability can go and have access to sights, sounds, smells, of touch and tastes, so all of the senses as part of that included pollinator habitat.

Jeff: Wonderful.

Amy: Either way, even if we don't get the grant, we're going to work on those and that'll give chance for equitable opportunities for people to view pollinators, especially native pollinators.

Jeff: Yes, exactly. Well, that sounds great. You're working with community groups? How are you finding the groups to work with?

Amy: For that group, it's really an equity and inclusion project. So for, for those groups, we'll be working with, some advocacy groups for parents of children with disabilities and a couple other partners that we have in the community.

Jeff: That's great.

Amy: We've done a little bit of work with The Olympia Garden Club, and then also I just spoke with Olympia Lions Club about their pollinator, about Bee City USA and what it mean.

Jeff: Very good. A community involvement would be a big plus I'm sure.

Amy: Yes, and I think I feel in the future, it will be something that I pursue more and we're still all recovering a little bit. For example, for pollinator week this year, I just tweeted out some facts, kind of a soft opening to our Bee City USA certification, but it was something. We, again, as we plan our habitat projects, our volunteers are involved in those, so they will have some information for sure.

Jeff: Very cool. Yes, it's good. Pollinator weeks really big for a Beekeeping Today Podcast because we started the podcast Pollinator Week in 2018, so every year we celebrate. That's our anniversary week. So to speak as I'm wearing the t-shirt. Now one of the cool things about Bee City USA is the sign. We'll get a picture of you holding the sign here for the city of Olympia, but where does the city foresee posting these signs?

Amy: It's a street sign. I'm going to hopefully have it at one of the entrances to the city, but honestly, it's so beautiful. I want one for our building as well. So I'm going to have to contact Molly and see, and the pollinator gardens signs they gave us are also beautiful, so street sign, that's the requirement and then maybe another one for our building.

Jeff: So will they be just one, are you going to put them in several key locations?

Amy: I'll start with one. There's a little bit of sign overload as you come in the city, so I want it to be impactful.

Jeff: You'll have the opportunity to get the logo placed on some of the parks and recreation websites? Is there that opportunity?

Amy: Possibly. One of the things that is a requirement of Bee City USA is having an online piece. I'm still working on that and what that might look like for us. We have a couple of platforms for citizen or for community engagement. I haven't quite figured that out, I have two years or a year and a half still. That's one thing that I haven't done along with some of the other policy review. Our parks though, one of the requirements is an IPM, integrated pest management and our parks are pesticide-free.

The only time that we have pesticides are when we have noxious weeds that have to be legally controlled and another trained team comes in and does that, so my coworker, Sam Baker is the one that led that initiative. Luckily, that's already something that's in place for us.

Jeff: Well, good. I hope we get rid of some of the scotch broom everywhere.

Amy: That's what our volunteers do. We don't have to use pesticides because they do that, but there are some pollinator species that like it, especially birds.

Jeff: Honeybees like that, the pollen from it too, but it's just horrible for anybody who's not familiar with it. I promise not to take up too much of your time this afternoon, but I did want to ask after working with this for the last many months, and as you starting to roll this out, do you have any words of advice for other communities who are considering it?

Amy: Sure. If you're a community member, find the right person to talk to, and it might not be obvious, so find the right person in your municipality or your government. If you are a government employee, it's not as difficult as it seems, they give you quite a bit of time to meet the qualifications. Again, once you are looking, you'll see opportunities everywhere. It's just not as difficult a lift as you might initially see, looking at the qualifications.

Jeff: Is a big investment?

Amy: No, it's not. It takes some of our time for sure, but it's habitat planning time that we do anyway. We should be looking for ways to preserve pollinator habitat or, or recreate or restore anyway, as part of our habitat planning. Basically our expenses, the annual fee, and maybe a little bit of it in administration time.

Jeff: Fantastic. Well, not a heavy lift if you said. Yes, it's work that you're mostly doing anyways.

Amy: It gets you in touch with a lot of resources that you might not otherwise have and another community or another group of people who are passionate about something, which is never a bad thing.

Jeff: Sounds like a wonderful program and a wonderful way to spend some time and to get a great sign to boot.

Amy: Yes, we're going to sign and everybody's happy, including the bees. Happy bees are good.

Jeff: We like that. Well, thank you very much, Amy, for taking time this afternoon talking with us at Beekeeping Today Podcast, and I look forward to seeing that sign.

Amy: You're welcome. I'll get it up there.

Jeff: Bee City USA, I feel special now. Olympia is on the map.

Kim: Yes, you should. That's a pretty cool thing. This was a fun program to do. Molly had lots of information, good information and I'm thinking you can even have an ordinance against keeping bees and be a Bee City so they're pretty all-inclusive.

Jeff: Yes, they are. Not to get down into the political muck, but I know the Xerces Society, some people have a problem with them because there's the whole natives pollinator versus non-native pollinator and honeybees is a non-native. Somehow, people got Xerces mixed up in that, but they do a lot of work that's really good for the honeybee. I think folks should lean on them as a valuable resource going forward and this Bee City USA and Bee Campus are two examples of the great work that they do promoting pollinators.

Kim: I couldn't agree more and they seem to do a good job, be good at what they're doing. There's one thing we didn't talk about and very briefly, if you're going to let your lawn go in May. We talked about the No Mow May or whatever it is that you're going to do it, whatever month works for you, a good trick to do is to mow maybe a two more width around the edge of your lawn. Let the middle of grow up, but keep the edge clean and neat and you'd be surprised how many people don't care then because the edge looks neat.

Jeff: Interesting.

Kim: It makes perfect sense. You look at, "Oh, he's got a garden. He's got a flower garden in there," but he is mowing. He isn't just ignoring all of this.

Jeff: There's a very nice yard as you drive into Olympia, and there's the Capitol and you drive down the hill, just before you get to the edge of the hill where you drive down past the Capitol, there's a house that is always just chock full of native plants and pollinators. It's never mowed, but it looks really nice. That demonstrates to me that if you approach it as a natural yard, as opposed to just letting it go to weed and look horrible, you can have a no-mow yard that looks nice in a city setting. Does that make sense?

Kim: Yes, it does, and honeybees will enjoy just as much as all the rest of the native pollinators out there.

Jeff: And the bumblebees and the hummingbirds. It's a great thing to do. It's really fun having Molly on the show today.

Kim: It was. Thank you, Molly.

Jeff: All right. Well, that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple podcast. Wherever you download and stream the show, your vote helps other beekeepers find this quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for new podcasts know what you'd like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any web page.

As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at We also want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of the podcast. Check out their full probiotic line at, and we want to thank Betterbee for joining us as a supporter. Check out all of their great beekeeping supplies at

Finally and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on the show. Feel free to send us questions and comments at We'd love to hear from you, and you may even get your question answered on air. Anything else you want to mention, Kim?

Kim: I was going to bring that up, send in your questions, and we'll get back to you right away with the answer, but then we probably read it on air so everybody gets. Because if you've got a question, I'm guessing a whole bunch of other people got the same question, so maybe we can keep a lot of people happy.

Jeff: There you go. Thanks a lot. Send them in. Take care, everybody.

[00:55:15] [END OF AUDIO]

Molly MartinProfile Photo

Molly Martin

Bee City USA Coordinator

Molly coordinates the Xerces Society’s Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs, initiatives of Xerces that support communities in their commitment to creating sustainable habitat for pollinators.

Amy StullProfile Photo

Amy Stull

Bee City Project Leader, City of Olympia

Park Stewardship Supervisor for City of Olympia Parks Arts and Recreation