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PCC named 'Bee Campus' for work to educate public, protect local bees

COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY -    The buzz around Portland Community College is growing.

On Monday, the state's largest community college received a special award for its work to protect bees and educate the public about their importance.

Bee Campus USA — a program run by Southern Oregon University and the North Carolina advocacy group Bee City USA — named PCC as the fourth college in the nation to be certified as an affiliate, recognizing schools that commit to practices that support bees, butterflies, bats and other pollinators necessary for the environment.

Spreading the word about the importance of bees and other pollinators is important, Bee Campus USA said, because bees play a vital role in the ecosystem. But bees have been dying off at an alarming rate. Colony Collapse Disorder has killed tens of millions of beehives over the last decade. The cause of the deaths remains largely unknown.

"Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of more than two-thirds of the world's plant and tree species," said Phyllis Stiles, Bee Campus USA director. "Portland Community College is a stellar example of the influence community colleges can have on their students and larger communities. Their talented faculty, staff and students offer an invaluable resource for the entire community seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways." 

The school announced on Monday that it would develop a habitat plan for campus pollinators. The plan will include planting native and “pollinator-friendly” plants around the school’s campuses.

"We are proud to be named the fourth certified Bee Campus USA in the nation," said PCC’s Interim President Sylvia Kelley. "There are already many students, faculty and staff working on pollinator health and sustainability issues. The members of our newly formed Bee Campus USA Committee will provide good leadership to these pollinator conservation efforts. We're all excited about our Bee Campus efforts." 

PCC plans to replace grass with more pockets of perennial flower beds on all of its campuses, the school said in an announcement on Monday, as well as grow herbicide and pesticide free produce at its two learning gardens at the school’s Sylvania campus in Southwest Portland, east of Tigard and its Rock Creek campus near Beaverton. The school also said it will continue to use pollinator-friendly pest control practices,

At PCC Sylvania, faculty in the biology department are using pollen identification to help students learn how to use light and scanning electron microscopes. At the Rock Creek Campus, chemistry and biology faculty are collaborating on a project to extract pollen from honey from the campus' beehives to determine from which plants the pollen originates.