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UMD becomes Bee Campus Affiliate

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Posted on: June 15, 2023

By Alice Carlson and Nancy Welch

In April, the University of Maryland (UMD) joined a host of other universities across the country as a Bee Campus USA affiliate, one step along the way to ensure a safe and healthy environment for pollinators in College Park. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation launched Bee Campus USA in 2015 to parallel their Bee City USA initiative. College Park is a Bee City USA affiliate, as are University Park, Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt and Laurel.

Bee Campus USA strives to help colleges and universities protect pollinators through a robust program that can be tailored to any campus. Participants in the program commit to reducing pesticide use and planting gardens with native species, moves that provide the food and shelter so critical for pollinators throughout the country. The program also encourages community outreach to spread the word about the importance of pollinators — the many species of birds, bees, butterflies, bats, beetles and small mammals whose work helps deliver fresh produce to our plates. Almost every state in the country now has a Bee Campus USA affiliate.

The university has been actively pushing to protect pollinators for at least a decade. UMD’s Honey Bee Lab launched PollinaTERPS, a group of students, staff and faculty who have banded together with local scientists and other community members to promote a pollinator-friendly campus. Members campaigned to qualify UMD through the Bee Campus USA program. 

“​​What interests me the most about this topic is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on pollinator conservation and inspire others to take action on and off campus, and hopefully inspiring families, other communities, and other campuses to join in on pollinator and native plant conservation initiatives,” Michael Ellis, coordinator of the university’s Bee Campus USA initiative, wrote in an email. 

Ellis has worked hard to bring students, staff and faculty into the initiative. As a Bee Campus USA affiliate, UMD will have to meet certain standards for annual recertification. 

Mike Hunninghake is program manager with Sustainable Maryland, an organization that promotes environmentally responsible actions throughout the state and certifies jurisdictions that meet program requirements. (Sustainable Maryland is a collaborative effort between the university’s Environmental Finance Center (EFC) and the Maryland Municipal League.) He is a strong supporter of the university’s efforts to qualify as a Bee Campus USA affiliate. 

“I think the university is doing and needs to continue to do all of the things that it can to address the environmental issues of our time. Fostering a more pollinator-friendly habitat is sort of part of that. And so they, in addition to building green buildings … They also need to think about the landscape that people and creatures occupy on the campus,” he said.

In an effort to increase local involvement in protecting pollinators, Hunninghake is working with 10 local communities along Route 1, from Laurel to Mount Rainier, to establish a corridor of pollinator-friendly habitat. 

“Pollinators are what are integral to our food supply,” he noted, adding, “Most of the agricultural products that we rely upon are the result of pollinators, and they have recently, due to various reasons, been in decline. So there is a big push to provide more pollinator-friendly habitats.”   

June is National Pollinators Month, and the university’s Office of Community Engagement and the city’s Bee City Committee are hosting a resource festival on June 17 at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

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