It's not often you hear about a city designating nature as part of the community. But in Curridabat or 'Sweet City,' they have done just that. Bees and pollinators are now citizens of Curridabat.

A native Curridabat bee pollinating a flower
A native Curridabat bee pollinating a flower - Image Source: Municipality of Curridabat

The new citizens include pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and the plants and trees native to Curridabat. Due to its crucial role in the ecosystem, even the soil has citizenship.

Where is Curridabat and What Makes the City Unique?

Curridabat is a county in eastern San Jose Province in Costa Rica, with around 65,000 citizens.

Map showing Curridabat east of San Jose in Costa Rica
Curridabat east of San Jose - Image Source: Google Maps

The city lies a short distance away from a continental divide with a rich fauna diversity attracting many pollinators, including birds, butterflies, moths, and bees.

Curridabat is hoping Sweet City will become a new city planning model municipalities around the world will copy. So successful is Sweet City; Curridabat is inline for a Wellbeing Cities 2020 Award in the Prioritizing Wellbeing category.

Why Make Pollinators and Bees Citizens?

Through research, the Municipality of Curridabat has discovered by focusing on a harmonious relationship with nature; many city planning challenges become easier to solve.

"By reframing the role of pollinators and recognizing them as native inhabitants and as city dwellers, Sweet City overcomes the long-lived antagonism between city and nature that has characterized traditional urban development. This vision arises from the certainty that a city designed to improve the way pollinators experience an urban environment will become abundant, diverse, robust, comfortable, colorful, and better organized."
Municipality of Curridabat

Curridabat recognizes the vital role native pollinators have in the ecosystem. Without pollinators, many plant species will die, which will affect many animals and the entire natural landscape.

The knock-on effect of pollinator extinction, or even reduction, will be catastrophic.

Curridabat's Native Pollinators

Biologists have recorded 300 species of flowering plants in Curridabat. 63% of these plants are native to Costa Rica. Curridabat's plant life relies on native pollinators for survival.

A public space allowed to grow wild in Curridabat
A public space allowed to grow wild in Curridabat – Image Source: Municipality of Curridabat

Breakdown of Curridabat's Pollinators

Butterflies - 51 Species belonging to 6 families and 41 subfamilies.

Bees - 8 Species.

Hummingbirds - 3 Species.

How Curridabat Designs a Pollinator-Friendly City

Curridabat's Spaces of Sweetness concept focuses on landscape design to enhance the city's biodiversity. The municipality also provides guidelines for developers to align with the city's vision.

Curridabat identified that much of the city's neighborhoods are either paved, sealed, or grassed surfaces.

While this makes it easier for humans to get around, the lack of food pushes pollinators out of the city.

Sidewalks have now been redesigned into "pollinator corridors," replacing grass with native flowers, a vital food source for bees and butterflies.

Plants and flowers line a sidewalk in Curridabat
An example of a Pollinator Corridor in Curridabat - Image Source: Municipality of Curridabat

Another example of Curridabat's Spaces of Sweetness is the installation of Bee Hotels throughout the city. Working with a Costa Rican environmental research group, Curridabat identified that most of the city's bees were ground or tunnel nesting bees.

Bee Hotels offer these pollinators space to nest and breed, thus ensuring their survival throughout the city.

Curridabat strives to use as much open public land as gardens, trees, vegetable gardens, and more to ensure pollinator security.

What Can We Learn from Curridabat?

A lot of people will look at the Curridabat model and think, "wow, I wish my city would think like this."

Well, it can. And you don't have to wait for your city planners to get their act together.

Two of the most significant changes Curridabat made can be carried out by citizens worldwide, right now, today!

Design a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

Infographic on how to make a bee-friendly garden
Image credit: Bee City Canada

If you live on a property with an outside space, you can take action by redesigning the garden to be pollinator-friendly. Even if the area is paved or sealed, potplants are a great alternative.

Plant a diverse variety of native flowers, so pollinators don't have to travel far to find food. A small vegetable garden is also great for attracting pollinators.

If you have a big yard, think about having 10% of your garden undisturbed, unmulched, and unwatered. Many tunnel-nesting bees live underground and therefore need an undisturbed sandy environment to call home.

And most importantly, refrain from using harmful chemicals in your yard as these not only kill pests but pollinators and other animals too.

Install a Bee Hotel

Bee hotel protected against birds using wire mesh
Bee hotel protected against birds using wire mesh - Image Credit: Anterovium via Envato Elements

Paved spaces around our properties prevent tunnel-nesting pollinators from finding a home. To better accommodate pollinators, consider adding a bee hotel to your yard or outside area.

If you like a DIY project, we have this helpful article about how to build a bee hotel. Bee hotels are easy to make, and many of the materials you can upcycle from around your home.

It's that simple to do your part to save the bees. Don't wait for your government to make the changes, be the change.

I know this sounds cheesy, but in the case of pollinators, it's up to citizens worldwide to take action to ensure these essential creatures survive.

Check out Curridabat Sweet City Magazine if you want to learn more about how Curridabat is rethinking city planning.