Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles told Romans the loss of pollinators across the country is a problem that needs to be reversed. She told Rome area beekeepers at the Rome-Floyd ECO River Education Center that during her four-hour drive to Rome from Asheville, North Carolina, not one single bug went splat on her windshield during the entire drive, and years ago that certainly would not have been the case.

Stiles said that windshields have not been a big issue when it comes to the loss of bees and other pollinators, but that habitat loss, increased uses of pesticides, parasites and climate change are all major factors.

“We need pollinators now more than ever because we have more mouths to feed,” Stiles said.

World population is expected to quadruple from 1950 to 2050 and pollinators, bees, butterflies and other insects, are critical to more than a third of the food humans consume.

The self-educated melittologist, a person who is an expert on bees, said conservation of all sorts of both insect and flowering species is critical.

“Biodiversity is sustainability insurance,” Stiles said. “Everything is so interdependent.”

Stiles started the Bee City USA program in North Carolina about a decade ago when a call went out to beekeepers to combat colony collapse disorder.

“My husband decided to become a beekeeper and he brought me along kicking and screaming,” Stiles said. “It turns out honeybees are a great gateway pollinator for learning about all of the pollinators. The more I learned the more disturbed I became and I decided I had to do something.”

The Bee City USA movement has spread to 39 states with 156 affiliates. Her goal is to get the Bee City USA program into all 50 states to expand pollinator conservation.

Honeybees are not native to the U.S. European colonists brought colonies of bees with them in the 17th century. Bees may be the most famous pollinators but others include butterflies, moths, beetles, bats, hummingbirds and hundreds, if not thousands, of species that help spread pollen. Stiles said that 40% of the pollinator species are in danger of extinction in the near future.

Pollen is the only source of protein for honeybees, so the habitat is critical to their survival. She said that honeybees do not sting folks with the exception of female honeybees and bumble bees if they are defending their nest.

Monica Sheppard with the local beekeepers organization said she is getting more calls nowadays from people aware of the importance of honeybees and that several bee related events are on the calendar this month. Wednesday is Bee Day at the library, a special Sip and Paint with Siri will take place at the ECO Center on June 19, and on June 22, the Between the Rivers Farmers Market will host the second annual Bee Fest featuring a scavenger hunt for kids.

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