In her garden at home, Puyallup City Councilwoman Heather Shadko gets visited frequently by a certain buzzing insect — the bee.
But where some might be fearful of getting stung, Shadko welcomes the pollinators.
“People will come to my house for the first time and see these bees over all (my) plants,” Shadko said. “A lot of people are afraid of bees, but people confuse bees and hornets and wasps.”
No matter the form, whether bees, butterflies, or even beetles, Shadko says she appreciates the important mission these pollinators carry out, and now, the city of Puyallup is also acknowledging them.
In recognition of the impact bees make on crops, flowers and plants in the Puyallup Valley, the city was designated a “Bee City” by Bee City USA last month. Puyallup is the second city with a “Bee City” title in Washington state, behind Seattle.
“Bees pollinate the food that we eat,” Shadko said. “Cherries, apples, blueberries — for all of those, you need bees. Pumpkins and zucchinis, you need bees. Around here, mason bees are really big pollinators of our fruit trees.”
Originally launched in 2012, Bee City USA is a nonprofit program with currently 31 registered “Bee Cities” across the United States, with Puyallup as the program’s newest member.
Dedicated to fostering dialogue about the role of not just bees, but all pollinators, Bee City USA works to create sustainable habitats for pollinators that can benefit communities across the planet.
Bees pollinate the food that we eat. Cherries, apples, blueberries — for all of those, you need bees. Pumpkins and zucchinis, you need bees. Around here, mason bees are really big pollinators of our fruit trees.
Heather Shadko, Puyallup city councilwoman
But just what do these habitats look like?
It can be as simple as planting more flowers in yards and parks, said Franclyn Heinecke, the president of the Pierce County Beekeepers Association.
“The easiest thing (people) can do is to plant flowers,” she said, but added that people also “need to remember that bees need food from early spring through late fall.”
“People plant flowers in the spring and the summer, but as long as it’s above 56 degrees, honeybees will be out flying,” Shadko said.
Ivy is one plant that gets a lot of attention from bees, who pollinate the flowers that grow on the vines.
“People tend to think only flowers bloom, but plants do, too,” Shadko said. “Bees love ivy because it’s a late summer, early fall bloom.”
Educating the public is a large part of Bee City USA’s initiative. A “Bee City” designation requires cities to annually celebrate the work that bees do through public awareness activities.
The city isn’t sure what its celebration will look like yet, Shadko said, but there’s no shortage of ideas. Aside from planting more bee-friendly flowers, some suggestions include having informational booths at the farmer’s market and adding green roofs with bee habitats.
Already, Washington State University’s Research and Extension Center in Puyallup has plans to implement a 6,000-square-foot walk-through pollinator garden on its campus that will be open to the public.
While the garden won’t be fully complete for a few years, it is an “excellent example of what the city is supporting to become designated as a Bee City,” Heinecke said.
As Puyallup officials move forward, they’re keeping bees and sustainable pollinator habitats in their sights.
“We’re looking toward the future,” Shadko said. “We want (Puyallup) to be a place where people want to live and raise their families. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”