Pollinators at Pitt

Bee house in Pitt’s Posvar Hall pollinator garden.

Can you imagine life without some of your favorite foods?  Pollinators are integral to the growth of 75 to 95% of all the Earth’s plants that need pollination to reproduce.  (Ollerton et al., 2011). Without pollinators, many foods including coffee and chocolate could be in jeopardy!

Animals responsible for pollination include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, bats, and birds.  Beginning in the 19th century pollinator populations have decreased due to loss of habitat, loss of nesting locations, and increased use of pesticides (Nichols et al., 2019).

The University of Pittsburgh recognizes the importance of pollinators. As part of our Landscape & Ecology  goals, we are not only working to protect existing pollinators, but to create spaces on campus where pollinator communities can grow and thrive.  As part of the Pitt Sustainability Plan, we are committed increasing tree canopy 50% and replacing 15% of lawn area with indigenous and adapted plant species by 2030.  Additionally, by 2024 our goal is to maintain 75% of landscaped areas in accordance with Northeast Organic Farming Association Standards, ensuring a healthy environment for plants and pollinators alike.

Working Toward a Pollinator-Friendly Campus

Bee Houses

  • Students built 7 bee houses on campus for native solitary bees, getting guidance from pollinator research conducted by Pitt Biology professor Dr. Tia-Lynn Ashman.

    Pitt students with completed bee house.

  • The use of correct materials and proper sizing are crucial for pollinator health; our bee houses are constructed out of wood, filled with cardboard and bamboo tubes to provide nesting space, and then placed atop 6′ posts.
  • Find Pitt’s bee houses and keep an eye out for informational signs that explain the importance of pollinators around the houses.

Pollinator Gardens

  • Pitt is home to 5 pollinator gardens
    • Falk School Pollinator Garden: On Pitt’s upper campus, Falk’s garden boasts an expansive and unique design that helps our local pollinators thrive.
    • Posvar Hall Pollinator Gardens :
      • In front of Posvar Hall on Schenley Drive, this pollinator garden is home to one of Pitt’s 7 bee houses, this garden provides shelter for pollinators as well as a beautiful view.
      • Posvar Pollinator Garden on Clemente (Planted, June 2021)
    • Marlie Gardens: Located at the corner of O’Hara Street & Parkman, this garden was created as a visible project to bring more native vegetation to our campus.

      Marlie Gardens at O’Hara St. and Parkman

    • SRCC Pollinator Garden
  •  The majority of the gardens’ landscape consists of native plant species including creeping phlox, aromatic aster, and red twig dogwood that attract various types of pollinators.
  • These pollinator gardens exemplify how sustainable initiatives can help improve our environment’s health and reduce resources used for maintenance.

Other Gardens

Other gardens on campus help with stormwater management, mitigating heat island effects, or providing food for those in need;

  • Edible Gardens
    • Plant to Plate‘s Oakland Garden provides fresh produce to local food pantries (including the Pitt Pantry), helping alleviate food insecurity in a sustainable manner.
    • Darragh St. Berry Garden is also managed by the Plant to Plate student group.
    • Roof Gardens: Forbes Tower (SHRS)
  • Rain Gardens
    • Pitt’s 9 rain gardens detain and absorb excess rainwater, enabling it to naturally infiltrate into and nourish the soil, while helping mitigate Pittsburgh’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) issues.
      •  Bigelow Boulevard – features a series of rain gardens.
      • Cathedral Rain Garden – Is very visible, located on the Cathedral lawn between Heinz Chapel and the log cabin.
      • Petersen Events Center Rain Garden – Includes 4 rain gardens, 1 of which was the University’s first rain garden which came to fruition form ideas initiated by students; it now also hosts a solitary bee house.
      • Salk Hall Annex Rain Gardens (2)
      • Sutherland Hall Rain Garden
  • Green Roofs
    • Green roofs help reduce combined sewer overflows, energy use, and heat island effect, while providing habitat for pollinators, and productively utilizing rainfall, among other benefits.
    • Pitt has 9 green roofs of various types distributed across campus
      • Green Roofs: Benedum Hall and Falk School
      • Pollinator Patios: Barco Law, Hillman Library, Nordenberg Hall, and Posvar Hall
      • Partial Roof Plantings: Forbes Hall, Posvar Hall, Schenley Quad
  • Wangari Maathai Trees and Garden – Dedicated in 2013, the Wangari Maathai Trees and Garden includes two red maples that symbolize Maathai’s commitment to the environment, her founding of the Green Belt Movement, and her roots in Kenya and in Pittsburgh. A flower garden between the trees features seasonal blooms planted in a circular shape, representing Maathai’s global vision and dedication to the women and children of the world. A petit ornamental maple tree in the middle of the circular flower garden signifies how one small seed can change the world.  The garden is located near the Fifth Avenue Entrance of the Cathedral of Learning (4200 Fifth Avenuie).


To find out more about Pitt’s stewardship, landscape, and ecology efforts, check out our Pitt Sustainability Plan!