Betty Ann DesRoches has always been a believer in the concept that little things add up.
So when DesRoches first heard about the opportunity for Virginia Beach to become a steward city for bees and other pollinators by creating habitats for them on public and private land, she set the wheels in motion.
On Wednesday morning, she finally saw the fruits of her labor come true at Red Wing Park off General Booth Boulevard. The green space near the entrance of the park, formerly a rose garden, is popping with flowers native to Virginia and buzzing with bees and dragon flies.
Mayor Bobby Dyer, who attended a dedication ceremony for the city’s first pollinator garden, encouraged attendees to welcome bees at home, too.
“Even the smallest native garden can help,” the mayor said.
DesRoches was president of the Council of Garden Clubs of Virginia Beach, which represents about 35 neighborhood garden clubs in the city, when she set a goal to make Virginia Beach a “Bee City” two years ago.
The U.S. honeybee population is threatened by habitat loss, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
The Bee City program is run by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Ore., to encourage communities to protect bees and other pollinators.
In Virginia, 80 food crops rely on honey bees for pollination, including blueberries, peaches, watermelon, strawberries and apples.
DesRoches met with Symsi Denson, operation coordinator for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, whom she had worked with before on a garden project. They hashed out a plan to develop the pollinator garden and make Virginia Beach a Bee City.
Soon after, COVID-19 threatened to deter their plans. But they persisted, holding virtual meetings to iron out the details. Last spring, the city’s horticulture team planted purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, yarrow and salvia at Red Wing Park and have been maintaining the garden without the use of pesticides. In October, the City Council approved the Bee City USA designation.
The Council of Garden Clubs will be encouraging residents to create pollinator-friendly gardens at home through a social media and newsletter campaign.
“It starts with education and spreading the word,” DesRoches said.
For more information, email beecityVB@gmail.com.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org