City Council launches effort to protect pollinators

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The City Council has passed a resolution designed to protect the city’s dwindling bee population by decreasing pesticide use on city property and increasing bee-friendly plants in the city.

The resolution declaring Minneapolis a pollinator-friendly community also urges all Minneapolis residents and businesses to adopt bee-friendly practices, including phasing out the use of pesticides, avoiding planting flowering plants treated with systemic insecticides (chemicals that remain in the plant) and planting more pollinator forage on their property.

The pollinator population is experiencing a sharp decline because of the loss of habitat and the widespread use of pesticides by homeowners, landscapers and farmers, among others.

Resolution co-authors City Council Members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) celebrated the passage of the resolution after Friday’s Council meeting next to City Hall’s green roof in a courtyard of the building with other local groups supportive of pollinators. The green roof has two honeybee hives home to about 75,000 bees, according to the city.

Gordon said the Convention Center is the only city-owned property that uses systemic insecticides, but has committed to phasing them out.

He said he hopes the resolution encourages other people in the city to follow the city’s lead on supporting pollinators.

“Many Minneapolis residents and businesses are already managing their land in a way that helps pollinators,” Gordon said. “We urge all Minneapolis property owners to plant habitat where they can and avoid pesticides that are known to kill bees.”

Palmisano also said she hopes more people get involved in the issue. 

“The City of Minneapolis is leading by example,” she said, co-author of the resolution. “This is a great first step that we hope will help pollinators thrive here — and support other communities in their efforts, too.”

Mayor Betsy Hodges issued a statement highlighting the important role pollinators play in food security. “With the passage of today’s resolution, Minneapolis is now doing its part in the global effort to protect and grow the pollinator populations,” she said. 

A number of city departments are planning to plant more pollinator-friendly vegetation around the city and four pilot projects are already underway at Minneapolis Fire stations.

Erin Rupp, founder of Pollinate Minnesota, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the threats to pollinators, said she was thrilled that Minneapolis has officially become a pollinator-friendly community.

“Minnesota used to be an amazing place for bees,” she said, lamenting the challenges facing pollinators. “It’s about time Minneapolis did this.”

Patricia Hauser, founder of Humming for Bees, a grassroots nonprofit, also turned out for the Council vote on the resolution. She said it’s critical for people to ask about the plants they purchase from garden centers, grocery stores and farmer’s markets to make sure they aren’t pre-treated with systemic pesticides.

Humming for Bees was involved in persuading the Shorewood City Council to ban the use of systemic pesticides, including neonicotinoids, in February 2014 — the first city in Minnesota to pass the bee-safe resolution.

State law prevents cities and local governments from regulating the use of pesticides, but city leaders plan to continue lobbying for greater authority to weigh in on the use of non-agriculture pesticides. 

Russ Henry, co-chair of Homegrown Minneapolis — a citywide effort promoting local food — said the next step will be to address the Park Board’s use of pesticides. He urged people at Friday’s press conference to attend the Park Board meeting on Sept. 23 to call for an end to the use of pesticides in the parks. 

 

(The bee hives on City Hall’s green roof.)