Working together to keep today's treasures for tomorrow slide image Protecting the natural heritage of this diverse estuary slide image Promoting water quality and land preservation slide image Supporting a rich ecosystem for our local economy and quality of life slide image Managing our natural resources through consensus building slide image

News and Resources

Bee Decline In Maryland - May 29, 2016

               Although many people may be allergic to them or even afraid of them, bees are a vital part of our ecosystem – not only locally but also globally. There are over 4,000 species of native bees and hundreds of non-native bees, such as the European honey bee, that can be found in the United States. In Maryland alone, there are over 400 species of native bees. Bees are important pollinators that provide billions of dollars of ecosystem services to crop production each year.  Unfortunately, these pollinator populations are in severe decline.

                When people think of bees, they typically imagine a colonial hive with a queen bee; however, this is not the case with the majority of native Maryland bees. All bees build nests, but the structure of those nests is quite varied. Some bees known as miner bees nest in open, sunny areas and dig a network of tunnels to nest in. Others like the carpenter bees burrow into wood to create their nests. Mason and leafcutter bees use the holes left by insects instead of creating their own. There are some bees like the Cuckoo bees that don’t create their own nests, instead they lay their eggs in the nests of other bee species. These native bees are mostly solitary nesters that build their own nests and do not share with other bees. Non-native bees like the European honey bee are colonial and have a queen bee hive structure.

                While non-native, honey bees assist our native bees with pollinating flowering plants. Each year, honey bees alone contribute over $15 billion to the value of U.S. crop production. As bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate a multitude of crops: apples, lemons, limes, oranges, broccoli, onions, cucumbers, cantaloupes, carrots, avocados, almonds and more. Certain crops such as almonds are 100-percent dependent on honey bees for pollination; in fact, California almond growers import almost 50 percent of the U.S. honey bee population just to pollinate this one crop, which is estimated to be worth upwards of $2.3 billion annually. Honey bees are not effective pollinators for all plants though. Native plants such as blueberries, cherries, and cranberries are not effectively pollinated by honey bees, and are better suited to be pollinated by native bee species.

                Since 1990, we have lost nearly half of our honey bee population and more than half of our total bee population country wide. Apart from putting countless wild plant and crop species at risk of extinction due to a loss of pollinators, the global economic cost of bee decline has been estimated at nearly $5.7 billion per year.

                This unprecedented rate of honey bee loss is primarily due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which the majority of worker bees abandon the colony, leaving behind a queen and immature bees to be cared for by a limited number of nurse bees. The cause of CCD is unknown but it believed to be caused by a combination of stress, malnutrition, pesticides, and disease. The number of reported cases of CCD has declined over the last five years; from roughly 60 percent of hives lost in 2008 to 31 percent lost in 2013.

                In addition to the decline in honey bee populations, native bee species have also been declining in numbers. The loss of these species is partially due to the loss of native plants that the bees feed from or from the widespread use of broad-spectrum pesticides. . While this decline is down heartening, there are things we can do as individuals to help keep bees and other pollinators alive and contributing to our local and global ecosystems.

                Plant native species of plants in your yard to help promote native bee species. A pollinator garden can be a beautiful addition to your yard, while playing an important ecological role. Avoid planting hybrids and invasive plants as they often lack the pollen that bees need and out-compete native plants for sun, water, and nutrients. Plants such as bee balm, aster, milkweed, and Virginia bluebells are great native additions for a pollinator garden.

                Avoid the use of pesticides, or only use approved organic pesticides. By encouraging beneficial bugs, you can eliminate the need for pesticide use. Bugs such as lady bugs, praying mantis, and spiders can help manage pest insects. Dragonflies and damselflies feed on pesky mosquitos, gnats, and other flying bugs. Pollinator gardens can also serve as a host for these beneficial insects. Providing a shallow water source helps keep our pollinators and beneficial bugs hydrated.

                Lastly- be a beekeeper! There are over 1,800 beekeepers with over 14,000 bee colonies throughout Maryland. Beekeeping clubs may offer short beekeeping courses to provide new or potential beekeepers with the basics of beekeeping. Beekeeping is an important aspect of Maryland agriculture; over $40 million worth of crops in Maryland benefit from honey bee pollination. If you have the time and resources, why not become a beekeeper? You can help our local plant population, possibly get some honey and even rent your bees to local farmers to help pollinate their crops.

                All of these actions will make your property more attractive to other forms of beneficial insects, birds and plants, and will improve local ecology as well. Help us protect and promote bee and other pollinating insect populations for a healthy and happy Coastal Bays ecosystem.

 

Phillips is the Program Manager for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. 



Archived News

More Archived News
View Current News

U.S EPA News Region 3

Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program