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Have you heard the buzz? Newport News joins movement to save the bees.

Here’s a buzzkill: Bee populations are shrinking worldwide.

Due to habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases and climate change, up to 40% of the planet’s pollinator species are at risk of extinction.

Unfortunately, bees won’t be the only ones feeling the sting of their population’s decline, as they are responsible for a third of the food and drink Americans consume.

In an attempt to protect the city’s pollinators, Newport News recently teamed up with Bee City USA to expand pollinator-friendly habitats on public and private land in the city.

“If we don’t have a healthy pollinator ecosystem, that’s not good for us,” said David Freeman, assistant to the city manager. “As human beings, we need these. If you don’t have a healthy pollinator population, that’s not a good sign. A lot of people, they take that for granted. So we have to do everything we can to maintain healthy habitats for pollinators.”

Bee City USA’s mission is to galvanize communities to sustain pollinators by providing them with a healthy habitat. Tactics used include increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites and reducing the use of pesticides.

Newport News established an advisory board to take on the bee-related initiatives. Co-Chair Rebecca Fass said the board will also host educational events to raise awareness of pollinator conservation.

“The pollinators, of course, pollinate all kinds of things, including pretty much anything that you need vegetable or fruit wise,” Fass said. “So it’s just very, very important that we continue having our food source. That’s paramount.”

Gardening circles are gaining momentum in efforts to protect pollinators, Fass said. Her message to local residents: “Don’t be scared of bees.”

“Mostly, if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone,” she said.

The Newport News Green Foundation, a local nonprofit that promotes the creation and preservation of green space, is among the organizations supporting the city’s efforts to sustain pollinators. Foundation President Tami Farinholt said the foundation has pesticide-free spaces throughout the city that are designated pollinator gardens where the foundation has specific plants that attract bees and other pollinators.

“There are people already saying that we’re in crisis and that we need to do something about improving the pollinator population because, the reality is, they pollinate our food,” Farinholt said. “I mean, at the end of the day, if we lose all of our pollinators, then we have no food — no fresh food; it all has to be genetically modified.”

The city is working on creating a page on its website to provide more information about how to sustain pollinator populations.

For more information on Bee City USA, visit beecityusa.org.

Josh Janney, joshua.janney@virginiamedia.com