An annual event could help create more pollinator habitats in the Green Mountain State. Vermont has had 17 native species of bees, but in the last 25 years, that number has dwindled to 10.

“Pollinators are facing all sorts of challenges,” said Ryan Christiansen, head distiller at Barr Hill Gin. “We think it’s our job and our mission to make sure everything we’re doing out in market, is ultimately what the pollinators need.”

The Barr Hill Gin is a distillery located in Montpelier and was founded by a beekeeper in 2011 and incorporates honey in all of their products. Christiansen says to combat the pollinator challenges and increase biodiversity, Bar Hill started the annual event, The Bees Knees Week, in 2017.

“We do a lot for bee-keepers, we do a lot for our community, we do a lot for our team. We do a lot for awareness but what are we doing specifically to help the bees themselves?”

The event’s premise is simple – make a Bee’s Knees cocktail and post it on social media, tagging the event’s name and the distillery. This will prompt the planting of 10 square feet of pollinator habitat, which includes a variety of flowering plants. Last year, 200,000 square feet of habitat was cultivated.

Mike Kiernan, an ER doctor based in Middlebury started “Bee the Change”, a non-profit that works to plant pollinator habitats all across the state. “Everywhere we see turf grass, we’re asking ‘why?’ Why is that not a diverse habitat with many different species of native plants to support our native pollinators?” 

He partnered with Barr Hill in 2019 to help with the Bees Knees Week, including the planting of the habitats. “This is a hopeful gesture. You see things return and restored. And that’s actually the most rewarding thing about it.” 

Kiernan said an increased number of pesticides and climate change has contributed to habitat loss and that the issue is not just with bees, as wasps and other pollinators have been greatly affected.

Christiansen thinks this event is a great way to help with that. “Cocktails start great conversations.”