Talent may explore possibility of being a certified 'Bee City'

TALENT — A Bee City designation that would encourage creation of sustainable habitat for pollinators is being explored by the city's Together for Talent committee.

Committee member Dolly Worden, a beekeeper, is investigating the Bee City USA program for its impacts on the city and will report back to the committee, which could recommend the program to the City Council.

"I think it would be absolutely wonderful for this little tiny town to be one of the first ones in the United States to become a bee city," said Worden. "We are already a tree city."

Bee City USA encourages city leaders to raise awareness of the contributions that bees and other pollinators make to the world. The group wants to foster practices that will help pollinators by setting standards in resolutions.

Asheville, N.C., home of the organization, is the only designated Bee City. The volunteer organization was created through the Center for Honeybee Research in Asheville.

Serious inquiries about the program have been made by groups from Seattle, Athens, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, said Bee City Executive Director Phyllis Stiles. A number of other groups have also made contact.

"They are just beginning their community-building," said Stiles. "You have to develop a little coalition in your own community to take it to the city council."

Getting people to choose plants wisely and think about the consequence of using pesticides are group goals, Stiles said.

"Let's start talking about what we can do instead of wringing our hands because so many of our pollinators are becoming extinct," Stiles said.

To receive the Bee City USA designation, towns must establish a bee city committee, pass a beekeeping ordinance and develop and adopt a Bee City resolution. Once designated, the city must annually celebrate Bee City status with a proclamation and public awareness campaign and submit a renewal application that reports activities.

"I started beekeeping when I was a child with my father. That's when I kind of got the bee bug," Worden said.

Worden met others interested in bees when she joined a local permaculture group that got hive boxes. When Ashland's College of the Melissae Center for Sacred Beekeeping started a year later in January 2012, she began to learn more.

Worden has two hives at Jackson Wellsprings with about 20 others that are maintained by the college's students.

Together for Talent has asked Worden do more research, including potential costs to the city and residents before the committee makes a recommendation to City Council.

Not all of the costs may be monetary. For example, volunteers currently weed areas around City Hall and the library so that herbicides are not sprayed. Such areas are excellent for pollinators, says Worden.

"Will other people in the city of Talent be willing to be weeders in their own yards?" asks Worden.

Attitudes may also need to be assessed. Star thistle, for example, is regarded as a pest by many, but it contributes to wonderful honey, said Worden. Patches of it are growing along Front Street, she noted.

Current city regulations allow one hive or bee colony per lot, but only in areas that carry specific zonings, said city Planning Director Zac Moody. Regulations and zoning that cover agricultural uses, including beekeeping and other animal husbandry, will be reviewed by the Planning Commission in the near future, Moody said.

Worden would like to hear from people in Talent with bees. She can be reached at 214-284-9965.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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