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Don't Bee Scared: Oklahoma State University awarded designation for bee conservation

A leafcutting bee spotted at the Insect Adventure facility on OSU’s campus is a common pollinator.
Emily Geest
A leafcutting bee spotted at the Insect Adventure facility on OSU’s campus is a common pollinator.

OSU Research Matters is a bi-weekly look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

In 2022, Oklahoma State became the first university in the state to be designated a certified Bee Campus. The certification creates a plan for communities to conserve pollinators and increase native plants.

In this episode, Meghan Robinson speaks with Dr. Emily Geest to learn more about the criteria for becoming a certified Bee Campus.


ROBINSON: Getting the certification means OSU is committed to native pollinators through the increase of native plants, providing nest sites and reducing pesticide use. Postdoctoral fellow Emily Geest realized her alma mater checked the boxes and would be a perfect Bee Campus USA candidate.

GEEST: We wanted to recognize how OSU is very passionate about pollinators and pollinator research. And so we found this program called Bee Campus USA that recognizes campuses across the nation for all of their work. And so then we applied for a student government grant, and we won, and we were able to use that money to go ahead and apply, and we passed our application and certification. So, we became a Bee Campus.

ROBINSON: The application process was simple. After all, Oklahoma State already met the qualifications.

GEEST: We need to have people who study entomology and pollinators who are willing to learn and teach the community and the students, which we're really lucky 'cause we have an entomology department, and we need to have an IPM on plan, which is Integrated Pest Management plan, which we already had as well. So, we had already done everything for it. So I felt like we should have been doing it for a few years.

ROBINSON: With over 150 bee species native to Oklahoma, Geest understands the importance of landscaping and creating habitats for the insects.

GEEST: They have all different flowers that they need to nectar from. They need to have twigs to make nests. They need to have some bare soil to make colonies. And so by having a big diverse habitat of just native plants and habitat that would be found in the wild, it provides homes for them.

ROBINSON: There are a lot of people who are afraid of bees and would be terrified to walk through the botanical garden. What is your message to those people?

GEEST: They've been there your whole life. They didn't just show up one day. And they're also not out to get you. They're just trying to find pollen or a nectar, and you're just kind of a big object in their way they're trying to buzz around. So, they’re not specifically trying to land on you [or] sting you. The majority of bees don’t actually sting. Most male bees don’t sting – male bumblebees can’t sting, male carpenter bees can’t sting. So a lot of them can’t even sting you. There’s this fear that they all can, but they can’t.

ROBINSON: What does this certification mean for Oklahoma State?

GEEST: I think it just shows how committed we are to the environment, to helping pollinators to our research and to recognizing all of the work that our landscape crew does, our entomology department does, and all of the undergrads who work in like the Bee Club, who work with the entomology Sandborn club -- all of these great groups just around campus. It just shows how much we’ve been doing. And, we were the first ones in the state to get the certification.

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Meghan Robinson is the host of OSU Research Matters and the Multimedia Reporter/ Producer for Inside OSU, the official streaming platform of Oklahoma State University.
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