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North Central College receives $5,000 grant from Feed a Bee to expand campus prairie

Jun 19, 2017

North Central College received a $5,000 grant from Bayer’s Feed a Bee program to continue restoring a prairie plot on campus designated to nurture a healthy bee population.

“Honey bees play an important role in pollinating many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that help contribute to a healthy diet,” said Scott Witte, M ’16, founder of The Bee Barometer Project and director of agronomy at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Ill. “If we fail to improve our agronomic practices across the globe, we risk accessibility and affordability of many of our favorite foods.”

The prairie, located behind the College’s Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium along the DuPage River, will be filled with native and necessary species of plants to attract and maintain bee populations. For the past year, students have been hand-planting native prairie plants there.

“What’s great about this location is that, since it’s away from campus buildings, professors can work with students to perform experiments on different sections of the prairie,” said Brittany Drummond, the College’s sustainability coordinator.

The funds will support a project that helps educate students, campus visitors and neighbors about the importance of bee populations and their necessary environments. According to Witte, that’s why North Central College was chosen to receive the grant.

The College was selected for “its commitment to fostering a long-term education initiative that raises awareness about the importance of pollinator health, promoting diverse ecosystems and encouraging others to establish pollinator forage whenever possible,” said Witte, who encouraged his alma mater to apply for the grant.

Moving forward, a professional contractor will plant more than three times the current amount of flowers in a single planting. The grant also will help maintain the site for several years, allowing bee populations to flourish and awareness to become widespread, according to Greg Ruthig, North Central’s associate professor of biology.

“Without the $5,000 grant, completing the prairie would have taken years,” said Ruthig. “Not only will it provide an important habitat to bees, it will help educate North Central students and Naperville community members about the importance of prairie restoration and bee pollination.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helping the bee population is necessary for sustaining ecosystems and food supply. The department has reported a rise in the number of honey bee colonies, but parasites, weather patterns, diseases, poor nutrition and pesticides are just some of the continued dangers affecting the bee population.

“Everyone can start a native prairie in their yard without spending too much money,” said Ruthig. “There is no such thing as a prairie that is too small. Bees are excellent foragers, so the chances are good that they will find flowering plants, wherever they may be.”

The Feed a Bee program pledged $500,000 to establish additional forage in parks, wildlife refuges, and on university/college campuses across the nation by the end of 2018. To date, the program has planted more than 2 billion flowers with the help of 1 million supporters in a collaborative effort to increase food and habitat for bees and other pollinators.

For information about North Central College’s environment and sustainability efforts, click here.