Maryland Beekeepers: Honey bees play a critical role in Maryland agriculture

Maryland Beekeepers: The University of Maryland and Maryland State Beekeepers Association recently circulated this content to members. It is reprinted here in part with permission.

value-of-honeybees

Over $26 million dollars of agricultural produce are attributed to honey bee pollination in Maryland annually.

More than 100,000 pounds of honey are produced by Maryland beekeepers annually. Honey is produced in both the country and city, with city beekeepers sometimes producing more honey per hive than their rural neighbors!

Using beeswax and hive by-products, dozens of home-based businesses produce top-quality, value-added products, such as soaps, lip balms, and candles.

Honeybees are in Trouble

Bee colonies are on the decline in Maryland. The Bee Informed Partnership 2011-2012 survey indicates that 26% of honeybee colonies were lost in Maryland during the winter. The number of honey-producing colonies in 2007 is 45% less than in 1975 and 60% less than in 1981.

Honeybees face many stressors, including:

Pesticides: Increased use of pesticides, including homeowner applied pesticides, poses a risk to native and managed bees alike.

Pests and Pathogens: Bees face an unprecedented array of disease organisms, dozens of viruses, and a poorly understood phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder in which the entire colony suddenly disappears.

Regulations: Uninformed local council members and commissioners may consider bees a safety concern and so attempt to prevent beekeeping. In fact, properly managed bees are gentle bees and help keep more aggressive and less desirable bees out of our communities! Thus, encouraging responsible beekeeping in our cities not only increases the pollination of backyard crops but also helps prevent diseased and more aggressive bees from moving in.

Poor Nutrition through Habitat Loss: Often, development means areas that once bloomed with a variety of flowers are paved over or covered over with flower-free lawns.

You Can Make a Difference

Keep bees! Adding colonies increases genetic diversity and supports long-term colony survivorship. Begin by taking a short course with a beekeeping club. For a list of Maryland clubs visit: www.mdbeekeepers.org/clubs.html

Educate local representatives about the importance of keeping beekeeping lawful. Your voice can make a difference!

Follow the label for pesticide applications. Better yet, avoid applying altogether or use Integrated Pest Management.

Buy local honey to support local beekeepers. To see what farmers markets offer honey visit marylandsbest.net

Plant habitat for pollinators. Information is readily available online. Be sure to plant non-invasive species.

Honey Bees Have More than Just Agricultural Value

Pollination services also provide an array of ecological benefits that cannot easily be assigned a dollar value

Honey bees pollinate native wild trees and vegetation which in turn provides many important ecosystem services including:

  • Food and habitat for wildlife
  • Improved water filtration
  • Removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • Better flood and erosion control
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Sustainable urban landscapes.

For more information on bees and beekeeping in Maryland contact:

Dennis vanEngelsdorp
Assistant Research Scientist
Department of Entomology
3136 Plant Sciences Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
dennis(dot)vanengelsdorp(at)gmail(dot)com

Elizabeth Hill
Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Educator
University of Maryland Extension
6615 Reisterstown Rd, Suite 201
Baltimore, MD 21215
esh(at)umd(dot)edu

The University of Maryland is equal opportunity. The Univer-sity’s policies, programs, and activities are in conformance with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, religion, age, na-tional origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, or disability.

Contact Elizabeth Hill for full reference list.