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NIEHS Promotes Campus-wide Pollinator Program

By Bill Willis and Paul Johnson

February 1, 2018

White Boneset
Butterflies and other insects visit a White Boneset in the Monarch Milkweed Garden. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Bee boxes/blocks help meet the requirement of cavity nesting bees like the Orchard Mason Bee and the Leaf Cutter Bee
  • Over 2 acres of wildflower meadows provide nectar for various butterflies and bees
  • Honey bee and bumble bee hives are part of a Citizen Scientist Research Project
  • Riparian zones provide 34 acres of undisturbed vegetation for immature insects

The NIEHS campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina encompasses 375 acres, including woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, wildflower meadows and a 29 acre lake. NIEHS values its natural resources and works to protect the natural integrity of the site. For example, when construction projects occur, emphasis is placed on preserving the surrounding native plant species to the greatest extent possible. Focus is also placed on restoring those areas impacted during construction with native species from a plant list specifically designed for the NIEHS Campus. The Presidential Memorandum on Pollinators and National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators underscore the importance of these efforts.

Black-eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susans are valued for nectar and seed. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)

NIEHS provides and maintains nesting boxes for bees, birds, and bats as a part of our Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT) education program in which NIEHS partners with the N.C. Wildlife Federation to raise wildlife awareness and importance in the environment.

The NIEHS has created pollinator-friendly nest sites for cavity nesting bees. The bee blocks are heavily used by Mason and Leafcutter Bees. In addition, NIEHS is hosting five honeybee hives that are a part of an EPA citizen-science project, in which scientists are researching the honeybee immune system and local hive health.

Additional support of pollinators stems from NIEHS’s promotion of native habitat on campus and aggressive control of invasive species. NIEHS has conducted campus surveys that located and identified native species for protection. This survey also located, identified, and marked for removal non-native invasive plants.

  • Annual wildflowers
    Annual wildflowers provide pollen and nectar sources. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Common milkweed leaves
    Common milkweed leaves and blooms attract Monarch butterflies. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • The riparian zone
    The riparian zones provide perennial flowers year after year. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Bee blocks
    Orchard Mason and Leaf Cutter bees take advantage of the bee blocks. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Bee statue
    A variety of bees visited the Memorial Garden last year. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Bee colonies
    Honey bees are used for colony immunology and honey marker studies. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • Bumble Bee colonies
    Bumble Bee colonies serve as another research project. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)
  • WAIT and Butterfly Highway Programs
    NIEHS is proud to be part of the WAIT and Butterfly Highway Programs. (Photo courtesy of Bill Willis)

Common milkweed, a native plant that serves as a crucial survival plant for the Monarch Butterfly, is found on campus. This milkweed plot was cleared to promote plant growth and butterfly plant diversity without incurring additional operating expense. The NIEHS continues to maintain natural areas by conserving approximately 34 acres of transition riparian zone for wildlife and approximately two acres of dedicated wildflower meadows as part of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation Butterfly Highway Program.

NIEHS continues to search for ways to enhance and expand habitats for pollinators.

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