The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) Students at UCR gathered at the Bell Tower last Wednesday, Jan. 30 to raise awareness of neonicotinoids and their dangerous effects on bees as part of CALPIRG’s ongoing “Save the Bees” campaign.

To accomplish their campaign goals, CALPIRG Students at UCR dressed up in bee-colored attire that Wednesday, such as yellow shirts with black stripes alongside black pants and antennae. They tabled around the Bell Tower, educating students about “neonics,” as the CALPIRG Students campaign calls them. Students were then asked to take a photo petition or sign a petition stating that they are “bee-friendly.”

CALPIRG Students at UCR have lobbied to ban neonics since fall of 2018. Neonics are nicotine-based insecticides that “end up both disorienting the bees and weakening the bees’ immune system,” according to what Mya Ho, UCR alumni and CALPIRG member has said to the Highlander in the past.

Laura Caldera is the campaign coordinator for the Save the Bees campaign at UCR, writing to the Highlander that, “The Bees campaign is working to make UCR Bee Friendly certified but our ultimate goal is to ban neonicotinoids in California.” She then explained that “Being Bee Friendly means to help the survival of important pollinators vital to our ecosystem. Raising awareness about how important bees really are to our environment and food production.”

At 12:10 p.m., the CALPIRG tabling group walked over to the Bell Tower to symbolize what happens to bees because of neonicotinoids every year. In a past Highlander interview Caldera has said that “30 to 40 percent of our bee colonies are dying off each season and that just shouldn’t be happening.” To show this at the Bell Tower, 40 percent of the bee-like CALPIRG students (five of 13) “died” by lying on the ground for two minutes.

CALPIRG at UCR previously tabled back in Nov. 2018, pitching to students at the time that “if there are no bees, then there would be no Thanksgiving.” The goal of that tabling session was to collect photo petitions for a collage that Jose Medina, Assemblyman for District 61, would receive in the goals of convincing legislation to ban neonics.

“His (Medina’s) office was optimistic that Jose Medina would support a bill to save the bees and ban neonicotinoids because bees are super important,” Caldera wrote. “We believed that their (sic) would be a bill introduced but with the current administration, there wasn’t … However, that doesn’t mean that we will give up that’s why we are focusing on our local level goal first to make the campus bee friendly so we don’t contribute to the decline in bee population.”

Caldera told the Highlander that 108 photo petitions were collected last Wednesday, well above their goal of 80. She said that at least 900 written and photo petitions have been made in total by the UCR campus to be “bee-friendly,” further writing that “we are taking time this quarter to start the process of becoming bee friendly. The first step is to create a committee comprised of faculty, student groups, students, and landscaping staff.” Tabling ended for CALPIRG that Wednesday around 2 p.m.

Caldera believes that the Save the Bees campaign will go on for as long as it takes until neonics are banned, but noted that because CALPIRG is student-funded “(what CALPIRG does next) in the hands of students but (sic) students know the importance of bees so I’m optimistic it (the campaign) will continue until the goal is reached.

According to their online mission statement, CALPIRG Students “was established by students to animate the University (of California)’s mission – to research problems that impact all Californians, educate the public and advocate for solutions.

CALPIRG Students at UCR’s core meetings take place every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Bear’s Den.