Bees get a break in St. Louis Park

By Contributing Writer Rachel M. Anderson

The grassroots organization “Humming for Bees” is three-for-three. The same group credited with helping get “Bee-Safe” resolutions approved in Lake Elmo last month and Shorewood last summer has done it again.

The evening of March 16, the St. Louis Park City Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing “Bee-Safe” policies throughout the city. St. Louis Park’s Environmental Coordinator Jim Vaughan says the first noticeable action item will be to change the city’s spray route.

Bees are all the buzz in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)
Bees are all the buzz in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)

“Effective immediately, public spaces in eight city parks will no longer be sprayed with any chemicals,” he said. “We will be promoting this change on our website and also encouraging citizens to follow suit with bee-safe practices in their own yards.”

The public spaces that will become bee-safe are Browndale, Fern Hill, Lamplighter, Minikahda Vista, Shelard, Twin Lakes, Westwood Hills Nature Center and Bass Lake Preserve. Vaughan says signs will soon be posted notifying the public of the change.

St. Louis Park resident Judy Chucker is a long-time member of “Humming for Bees.” She was among the resolution supporters present at City Hall when the decision was announced and says she is excited about the prospect of expanding the nonprofit’s message.

“We are hoping that the timing of the resolution, right at the start of spring, will get people’s attention and remind them to make sure the plants they are buying were not treated with Neonicotinoids,” she said.

According to information distributed by the city, Neonicotinoid pesticides are a new class of systemic insecticide chemically related to nicotine. Bee advocates argue the substance is responsible for honey bee (and other bee) Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD, in which a large portion of the bee colony population, particularly the worker bees, die off. Without the worker bees, the queen and her brood eventually eat up all the honey stored in the hive. Then they too die.

“Neonicotinoids are really detrimental to a lot of pollinators,” said Vaughan. “In addition to stopping the spraying in many of our parks, we will also be creating an awareness campaign to get the word out.”

No plans have been finalized for the campaign yet, but Vaughan says citizens can expect to soon see messages showing up on the city’s website and in newsletters.

St. Louis Park would change its policies for several parks and natural areas, including Westwood Hills Nature Center. (Submitted photo)
St. Louis Park would change its policies for several parks and natural areas, including Westwood Hills Nature Center. (Submitted photo)

“We will probably promote issues related to pollinators at our upcoming workshops and park events as well,” he said.

“I am sure there will be an emphasis on native plants, which are a lot more sturdy and a better food source for the pollinators as well,” added Chucker, who hopes there will eventually be so many bee friendly plants in the community a corridor will be created for the pollinators.

As soon as the weather warms up, she will be doing her part by filling the window boxes she has on her condo porch with flowering native plants. She will also resume tending to the native wildflower garden she planted outside her building to replace some of the sumac and buckthorn.

Experts believe there are a number of interacting factors to blame for the decline in bees. In addition to the use of Neonicotinoids, bees also struggle due to a reduction in stable food sources and the introduction of bee diseases and parasites.

For more information about how you can help the pollinators, visithummingforbees.org.

  • Judy Chucker

    Thank you for sharing our story. We at Humming For Bees are obviously very encouraged by passage of this resolution, and want to express our appreciation for the St. Louis Park City Council members, as well as Environmental Coordinator Jim Vaughan and City Manager Tom Harmening.

    I do want to correct two statements. Most importantly, while I understand that Lake Elmo used our resolution, Humming For Bees was not involved in its passage. We congratulate them for taking the initiative to accomplish this.

    Second, while I’m certainly anticipating spring planting, I do not plant native flowers in my flower boxes. As a general rule, native flowers send out deep roots; my flower boxes would not accommodate that growth, nor would the plants survive our winter if left in the box. I am slowly converting a boulevard garden from perennials and annuals to native plants.

    Regardless of what I plant and where, I will be sure to ask before I purchase any plant, whether or not it was treated with a systemic pesticide, including neonicotinoids or fipronil.