Preserving Native Bees (hint, it’s not for honey!)

Filip Trefil

Reflections on the Front-Range Eco-Social Solutions Conference 2019

By Kiah McCarville, Environmental Studies student at Naropa University

Can we save our native bees? Yes, but the answer may surprise you.

At this year’s Front Range Eco-Social Solutions event,  CU Professor Danielle Melissa Bilot presented an inspiring and unique way for us to save our native bees, while also greening our cities. Bilot taught us that, while there are only about 10 species of honeybees, there are over 4,000 native bee species in the U.S., including over 900 in Colorado alone. These beloved native bees pollinate at an efficiency rate of 91%. That’s a gargantuan ecosystem service! In addition, most of them nest underground and don’t sting (unless you go digging for trouble). To show our gratitude and save our most precious pollinators, Bilot argues, we should provide year-round, diverse habitat for our native bees. And (get ready) the answer lies in none other than…. our city’s parking lots!

Parking lots comprise of at least 10% of the average city’s land mass, and Boulder is no exception. Professor Bilot told us that, by installing native plants in every city-owned parking lot, alongside some displays of driftwood for wood-nesting species, bees will have “stepping stone” habitats all around the city. This is important because many bee species can only fly approximately three blocks before they must eat. If they can’t find food, the consequence is death. For this reason, she is calling for a shift in our mindset. She asks that we evolve from the question of “If we build the habitat, will they come?” to “If we build the habitat, can they leave?”.

Bilot herself has been guided by this question and has begun her work on parking lots across Boulder (look behind the Dushanbe Teahouse!). She says that these installations benefit the city because native plants are lower maintenance than traditional grassy patches. They are aesthetically pleasing, andthey provide habitat for our local bees. She even suggests adding in some small fruit trees for a dual food benefit because, like the bees, we all love a free snack!


Search Naropa University



This is where experiential learning meets academic rigor. Where you challenge your intellect and uncover your potential. Where you discover the work you’re moved to do—then use it to transform our world.

“*” indicates required fields

Naropa Logo

Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.