If you want someone to show up and care about something or someone, ask a nurse. If you want someone who has time and will go the extra mile for a something or someone, ask a retired nurse.
Terry Dettweiler contacted me last year about doing a special project for her University of New Mexico neighborhood to support bees. She noticed that her neighborhood beekeeper no longer brought her the requisite annual jar of honey. When asking the beekeeper about this loss, her friend said she had hung up her beekeeping veil and could no longer keep the beehive alive. She noted a dreary lack of pollinator plants in the neighborhood. Bees need a smorgasbord of habitat all 3 seasons—from March to October. They can fly up to 5 miles to pursue their banquet of nectar and pollen. If it is a food desert, they will not be able to sustain their hives.
Terry, a master gardener, became concerned after this conversation. She loved plants. She loved honey. And so, it made sense that she loved bees!
Soon Terry and her daughter, Eva, embarked on a COVID year project to raise the money from the city and her local neighbors, as “seed money” for her pollinator plant corridors. Terry’s goal was to inspire neighbors with free plants to create oases of pollinator habitat and begin to learn about bees and native plants of the high desert southwest. Eva, who works for the Quivira Coalition, wrote a bang up grant that we pitched to city leaders for funding.
I was stirred to excitement as I remembered our Burque Bee City resolution that we passed in 2016 through the city council. Unanimously, I might add.
One of the defining goals is:
Whereas communities have the opportunity to support bees and other pollinators on both public and private land through reduced and pesticide free zones: working in collaboration with city officials to manage and increase healthy habitat for pollinators—including but not limited to roadsides, medians, open spaces and parks. (CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, 22nd city council, Burque Bee City Resolution)
The good news is that Terry raised so much money from neighborhood, her City Councilors, Ike Benton and Pat Davis, and Commissioner Adrian Barboa, that she has money leftover for another project in 2022! She was able to work with the Santa Ana Pueblo nursery to purchase plants at wholesale prices!
And so we commenced with the pollinator plant giveaway on September 25 and 26, 2021, shortly after Fall Equinox. Enthusiasm abounded amongst the neighbors. They worked hard as an association to organize, set up and show up the days of the giveaway. Both days dawned with the usual blue skies and Autumnal sunshine bathing the city. People showed up with dogs, partners, families and children, armed with wagons, bags and buckets. They hauled away armloads and boxes of coral penstemon, sages, grasses, chocolate flowers, echinacea, gaillardia, flowering bushes and more… Teachers came eager to bring plants back for their schools and students. 500-700 plants went out the door each day.
The buzz was out! Terry had tables laden with materials for how to water your plants and nurture them til it is well rooted. There were loads of resources for native plants, xeric landscapes, and backyard wildlife refuges. Think Like a Bee was there to answer any questions alongside master naturalists and gardeners.
Commissioner Barboa came and joined in the celebratory atmosphere, excited about how this project met so many of her own urban agriculture goals—connecting neighbors, populating our landscape with native plants, feeding bees, connecting Indigenous communities.
You can also have your own neighborhood pollinator plant beautification and habitat project! We can help you do it. Terry now has a template for how it’s done and she’s willing to share.
Neighborhoods, let’s feed the bees in 2022! Remember. People love free stuff.