Thursday, May 28, 2020

By Maria Elena Hernandez

bee campus logo
Bee Campus USA logo
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV is making a big contribution to the Rio Grande Valley by targeting some of its smallest inhabitants. 

Bee City USA recently renewed the university's Bee Campus USA certification for its work in enhancing pollinator habitats on and off campus. 

Pollinators – including bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds – are responsible for the reproduction of 85 percent of the world's flowering plants and more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. 

UTRGV became the 50th campus with the Bee Campus USA designation last year and the first affiliate in the University of Texas System. With this year's renewal, it is one of only seven campuses in Texas with the Bee Campus USA designation.

“It points to the commitment the university community has to understanding how important pollinators are – and to making a commitment not only to just plant plants, but also to do integrated pest management and community outreach along with educating students,” said UTRGV Department of Biology assistant professor Dr. Julie Mustard.

Mustard is one of the team members working on the Pollinator Cantina, created last year on the UTRGV Brownsville Campus. The Pollinator Cantina is a garden designed to attract pollinators, many of which are threatened by habitat loss,  and raise awareness of their importance. It also has been used in classes to conduct research.

“By having these native plants, we're matching the plants with the local pollinators,” Mustard said. “We're also choosing ones that have really good nectar and are important resources for the caterpillars and eggs and have nutrition for the adults.”

Mustard said the Pollinator Cantina serves as a form of outreach, as well, introducing people to native plants. 

“People in the community who see native plants in the garden, who see a blue mistflower covered in butterflies, can think, ‘Oh, I want to go home and plant that in my yard,’” she said.

RELATED LINK: Pollinator Cantina

The garden has been expanded and will continue to grow, supported by a grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In addition to the Pollinator Cantina, the university has given away milkweed and mistflower seedlings at UTRGV Farmer's Market events, hosted a Butterfly Revitalization Workshop, and has a cross-disciplinary team studying the honeybee population in South Texas. 

UTRGV's Bee Campus USA Annual Report also listed improvements to other gardens on the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses. 

“The intention is to enhance populations of native animals and plants in an urban environment,” said Dr. Alejandro Fierro Cabo, chair of the UTRGV Bee Campus USA Committee and an associate professor in the UTRGV School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences.

He said the university’s designation as a Bee Campus USA is a recognition at the national level of UTRGV's commitment to enhance pollinator habitats. 

To learn about additional sustainability campus initiatives at the university, visit the UTRGV Office for Sustainability website

Bee Campus shirts
UTRGV students showcase their Bee Campus USA t-shirts during a 2019 Earth Day campus celebration in Brownsville. (Courtesy Photo)


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.