(Submitted photo)
(Submitted photo)
In recognition of National Pollinator Week (June 22-28) Luther College is announcing they are one of 102 educational institutions in the nation, and one of only two in Iowa, to be officially certified as a Bee Campus USA affiliate.

The Bee Campus USA program is committed to ensuring a better future for pollinators, their communities and the planet.

"Luther College has a long history of practicing joyful stewardship of the resources that surround us, which can be seen particularly in the care of our extensive natural areas," said Kirk Larsen, professor of biology and member of the campus land use council. "Becoming a Bee Campus USA certified campus recognizes the benefit to pollinators that Luther has been providing through our sustainability and land stewardship efforts over the years."

Larsen takes pride in Luther's commitment to enhancing and creating pollinator habitats within these natural areas.

"Over the past 20 years many of the landscape plantings on the central campus have been converted from non-native plants to native plants and the college has planted about 120 acres of diverse tallgrass prairie," said Larsen.

"The mix of prairie and woodlands in Luther's natural areas make our campus an ideal home for pollinators, specifically the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee, which has been found on campus."

He also points out the spraying of herbicides has been dramatically reduced and follows strict application guidelines which minimizes exposure and areas of application.

This summer, Larsen is working with two research students, Abby Miller and Kayla Gibson, to study pollinator populations on and off campus.

"This project will help us determine a baseline of what butterflies and bumble bees we have in the area, specifically on campus. We are also collecting flowering plant data that will help us identify the flowers that best support butterflies and bumble bees - both important pollinators," said Larsen.

In addition, this fall, Larsen's entomology class will be developing projects that specifically relate to pollinator awareness and education efforts on campus and in the Decorah community.

Luther's campus land use council is serving as the college's Bee Campus USA committee. The group consists of administrators, students and faculty and staff, including representatives of the grounds crew, field biologists and the college natural areas land manager.