The following story was shared as part of our celebration of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, 2016. We applaud the efforts of Beth Murphy, President and Jennifer Fenderbosch, Vice-President of Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club for building solitary bee habitat throughout the City of Avon Lake, Ohio. Crown Bees hopes that their story inspires other communities to raise and support native bees.

Native Bee Share, BeeGAP, and Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club

Solitary bee house at Avon Lake City Hall

Solitary bee house at Avon Lake City Hall.

Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club, located in Avon Lake, Ohio, has been in existence for 86 years. Our membership from several communities has grown over the years to 68 ladies with a variety of interests and skill sets. One topic that we all stand behind is conservation because a majority of our civic gardens are located on the shores of Lake Erie. Members of the Garden Club promote wellness of the local ecosystem knowing it will affect Lake Erie.

Every new president of the garden club selects a president’s project. Knowing pollinators were at risk, research lead to the selection of the BeeGAP (Gardeners Adding Pollinators) program, a joint effort through the National Garden Club and Crown Bees. Native Bee Share is Crown Bees' program that brings dual season kits to community gardens in an effort to raise awareness about native bees in public spaces. BeeGAP kits were provided through the Native Bee Share program.

Our garden club’s new year began May 2016 and the board was elected in March. In Cleveland, Ohio, of which Avon Lake is an outlying suburb, mason bees typically become active mid-April to May. We needed to quickly proceed to have our bee program in place for the 2016 spring/summer season. Both the president and vice president purchased bee houses for their own homes to better understand and explain the process to others. We became speakers for Crown Bees and, using our newly purchased bee houses as examples, we began a whirlwind tour of city managers including:

  • Superintendent of Schools for Avon Lake City Schools District
  • Officers for the Community Garden
  • Mayor of Avon Lake
  • Director of Public Works
  • Law Director and Assistant Law Director (Zoning department)
  • Parks and Recreation Director
  • Avon Lake Public Library Director and Children’s Department
  • Lorain County Metroparks

Once people understood how these gentle solitary bees are part of the solution to increasing the world's food supply and pollination of native plants, the enthusiasm to be a part of the native bee movement was contagious. A full agreement of 100% participation was reached for supporting native bees throughout the City of Avon Lake. The Parks and Recreation Department was able to offer financial support whereby nine houses were purchased to be placed throughout the city. Houses are being placed in the following locations:

  • Children’s vegetable garden at Avon Lake Public Library
  • Community garden, adjacent to school property
  • Avon Lake City Hall
  • Walker Road Park Butterfly Garden
  • Lorain County Metroparks Kopf Reservation
  • Civic Gardens tended by Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club which include:
    • Beach Park Point Garden
    • Wildflower Garden at Miller Road Park
    • Gazebo Garden at Miller Road Park
    • Veterans Memorial Park Historic Folger Home Garden

The first houses have been installed at City Hall and the Children’s Garden at the library. We are awaiting the arrival of the remaining bee houses and the leaf cutter bee cocoons.

Solitary bee house at the Children's Vegetable Garden at Avon Lake Public Library

Solitary bee house at the Children's Vegetable Garden at Avon Lake Public Library.

Further to meeting with city management, it was agreed we would speak at the library and at the Parks and Recreation Day Camp. The library offers a “Digging in the Dirt” children’s summer garden program. Our focus is to educate the children asking them to spread the word about our gentle solitary bees. The children are excited and happy to educate parents’ and friends’ growing interest throughout the area. The first program in the children’s story time room was held last week and the children and adults had great interest and many questions.

Solitary bee program display in the story time room at the Avon Lake Public Library

Solitary bee program display in the story time room at the Avon Lake Public Library

Increasing the local biodiversity of native plants, including wildflowers, will support the increased numbers of local mason and leafcutter bees that will enhance the yield of food produced by backyard gardeners, orchards, and farmers.

Our next goals will be to contact growers of local grapes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, and garden nursery stock. Who would not want to increase their yield of production without increasing their use of water or chemicals?

We look forward to the growth potential for the BeeGAP program in North East Ohio. Residents have a great interest in the bees and our program. BeeGAP and Native Bee Share are exciting and worthwhile programs which we all will grow and benefit from.

Beth Murphy
President, Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club
Jennifer Fenderbosch
Vice-President, Avon-on-the-Lake Garden Club