Hollywood, MD  – You’ve probably heard the reports about a declining bee population. Causing particular alarm has been the nearly 20 year report that bees, particularly honey bees, are losing ranks due to a variety of factors. These include the use of pesticides, industrial agriculture, parasites, loss of habitat and climate change. The environmental organization Greenpeace calls the bee decline a “worldwide problem.”

Bees, while they strike fear in the hearts of those people afraid of being stung, are essential to all that grows on the green Earth.

So how is Maryland faring, bee-wise? The BayNet.com recently spoke with Sam Droege, a Maryland-based wildlife biologist and bee expert. Droege noted that there is a difference between honey bees and native bees. Maryland is home to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national honey bee laboratory. Droege explained that while there is not a shortage, beekeepers have reported “increased mortality” due to increasing parasites, disease and pesticides in fields, “make it more difficult to keep them [honey bees] alive.”

According to Droege, there is “a lot of research going on” regarding the honey bee population.

As far as tracking the native bees, Droege said biologists’ biggest problem is an “information gap” since many species of native bees have not been given specific names. The United States has an estimated 4,000 species of native bees. “We don’t really know much about their status,” said Droege. “There are a lot more [bee species] out there than we thought.”

During the winter, the honey bees remain active within their colonies. Droege said the native bees spend the winter days “just hunkered down” underground. Then “plan bee” is ready to go into effect. According to an organization called the Xerces Society—which advocates for “invertebrate conservation”—bees are “undoubtedly the most abundant pollinators of flowering plants in our environment. The service that bees and other pollinators provide allows nearly 70 percent of all flowering plants to reproduce. The fruits and seeds from insect-pollinated plants account for over 30 percent of the foods and beverages that we consume.”

Droege explained that native bees can facilitate the pollination needed in any type of garden. “The basic story is, it’s all about the flowers–no flowers, no bees,” he stated. Droege explained that he is constantly working in his own backyard—eradicating invasive plants and planting native plants—creating a more natural landscape. Converting areas of lawns into gardens with an abundance of flowers will draw the pollinators.

To learn more about the Xerces Society, visit their web site

Find out more about Sam Droege and his work at the U.S. Geological Survey at USGS

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com