APPLETON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- Appleton is now officially recognized as a Bee City USA, and Lawrence University is also certified as a Bee Campus USA.
This makes Appleton one of only twelve cities in the nation to hold this dual-status. It's allowing the community to have a conversation on the importance of pollinator insects.
The city's first act as a Bee City USA has been to give McFleshman's Brewing Company the green light to build an urban rooftop apiary. An apiary is a collection of honey beehives. McFleshman's has two hives with approximately 30,000 bees per hive. Each hive can produce up to four pounds of honey per day.
"We're a company that represents sustainability, and the umbrella of sustainability expands to resource usage but also to such things as bringing green spaces into the city and along with that all the pollinators," explained McFleshman's Brewing Company Owner Bobby Fleshman.
Lawrence University Biology Professor Dr. Israel Del Toro has been researching honey bees in urban environments for years.
"When Bobby was sort of structuring the ideas on what he wanted McFleshman's to be, there was a big emphasis on education, community education and also a big emphasis on sustainability," explained Del Toro.
Through the spirit of business, sustainability and education, the business and researcher collaborated to establish the rooftop apiary.
"The bees came into play because we thought about this green roof space, and we were like how do we use the roof space to promote sustainability in which is essentially and urban desert," explained Del Toro.
All of the rooftops in downtown Appleton are bare, and City Alderman Alex Schultz believes by designating Appleton as a Bee City USA it will open dialogue with business owners about transforming the unused rooftops into green spaces that can support biodiversity.
"Start embracing the notion of using our urban spaces whether it's a backyard, alleyway or rooftop to help increase for our insects and bee populations which are in serious decline," said Schultz.
Schultz explains that pollinator insects need our help as much as we need theirs.
"Honey bee collapse, or hive collapse, colony collapse has been on the rise, and we've known about it for a decade, and we're trying to make some significant progress on that front," said Schultz. "We've recently been aware that most of the insect populations globally are on serious decline, and these are being attributed to overuse of herbicides and pesticides and some other environmental factors including climate change."
"A third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, butterflies, bugs, lightening bugs, birds, some insects, and it's very important because if you like strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, practically any kind of vegetable, it is pollinated by one of these creatures," explained Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin Co-Owner Marty Voight.
McFleshman's Brewing Company is the weekly meeting grounds for "The Pollinablers" a committee comprised of city alderman, Lawrence University staff and students, the Wisconsin Butterfly Garden and others.
Their goal is to educate and promote the creating of green space habitats for pollinator insects in downtown Appleton.
"You stand on our roof, you see countless rooftops, especially the ones that aren't blacktop that would serve as spaces far away from pesticides, so it's counter intuitive to think of it this way, but cities make a great spot to put bees and other insects," explained Fleshman.
"They don't go out of their way to sting you, in fact they only sting as a last resort because when they do that the bee actually dies," explained Del Toro. "What we want to do is make sure our businesses and our neighbors in this particular location are aware of safety issues, but also that the bees aren't actually posing any threat of direct harm to them."
Del Toro has documented 27 other native hives in downtown Appleton, so if stinging was a problem it would already be known.
McFleshman's is adding additional native plants to their rooftop for the bees to forage on.
Del Toro plans to operate this particular urban rooftop apiary for three years with the goal of increasing bee abundance in the greater Fox Cities region.