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Dayhoff: ‘Small actions that will have big impacts’: The buzz about bees in Westminster

At the Dec. 14 meeting of the Westminster mayor and Common Council, the city staff and elected officials were busy as bees as they deliberated upon the importance of pollinators in our community and agreed to adopt Resolution 20-14 designating the City of Westminster, Maryland, as a Bee City USA affiliate.

Earlier in the year, on Sept. 28, Monica Schmitt and Kate Fisher of the Carroll County Beekeepers Association (CCBA) gave a presentation to the Mayor and Common Council on obtaining a Bee City USA certification for Westminster.

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Of note, Schmitt is also the director of “Mission Beelieve,” a beekeeping program for local veterans and first responders. According to Mission Beelieve, “Who else better to protect pollinators than the men and women who protect us every day?”

In a recent email, Fisher explained, “Our hope is that Westminster’s Bee City USA initiative will inspire residents to take small actions that will have big impacts. Planting pollinator-friendly native plants, reducing or eliminating lawn chemicals, and allowing dandelions to bloom are three simple ways for residents to help support the initiative and the bees that call Westminster ‘home.’” (In full disclosure – I like dandelions.)

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Dr. Mona Becker, an environmental science teacher and former member of the Westminster Common Council added, “Pollinators provide a vital ecosystem service … Pollinators contribute to food production and food security, as well as the global economy. Climate change has negatively affected pollinators. Plant species are blooming earlier each year, some species of plants are blooming a month earlier than they were 45 years ago. There is a danger that pollinators and the plants will be out of sync in the future. Westminster is situated in a rural, agriculturally rich area. Providing healthy habitats for pollinators will not only highlight the importance of pollinators in our ecosystem but will benefit our local farming community.”

On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group
On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group (Kevin Dayhoff)

Much has changed in Westminster and Carroll County since the days in the early 1700s when farmers from Europe first began to settle in the area we know today as Carroll County. One thing remains the same – agriculture is still the number one industry in Carroll County. Without bees and pollinators agriculture would essentially not exist.

Historically, Carroll County has always been preoccupied with the health and welfare of bees. An Oct. 5, 1923, article in the Democratic Advocate reported about a parasite that was preying upon the local bee population. “Carroll County is distinguished at this time as having within her borders more honey bees per square mile than any other part of Maryland… [Experts] have made a thorough study of the new pest in the bee yards of Rockward and Sterling Nusbaum, near Taneytown. The Nusbaum boys are Maryland’s largest commercial honey producers…”

In reference to recent efforts to raise awareness about the role of pollinators in our community, Councilmember Ann Gilbert said in an email earlier in the week, “Westminster is the hub of Carroll County; agriculture is our history and part of our culture. Through this initiative and partnership, I hope we raise awareness of the contribution bees and other pollinators make to our world.

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On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group
On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group (Kevin Dayhoff)

“If you are a gardener, farmer, or even just someone that likes pretty things growing in your yard, then bees are your best friend. Simply, it is another way as a community we can bring people together to make their community a better place…this will also help the pollinators…”

Whether or not you farm in Carroll County – your quality of life is directly dependent upon agriculture – and pollinators. It is only fitting that the City of Westminster recognize the role of pollinators in the life of our community. A fact not lost on Westminster Councilmember Tony Chiavacci, who said in a text, “Bees are much underappreciated for how critical they are to our food supply. I am glad we can play small part insuring they have a place thrive in our area.”

This barely scratches the surface of an ongoing story about how pollinators play a critical role in our quality of life in Carroll County. Meanwhile a Bee City committee has been assembled to enhance understanding among local government staff and the public about the vital role that the pollinators play in our community. (I am a member of the committee.)

The Westminster Bee City Committee contributed to this article. The members of the committee include: Assistant Westminster Street Superintendent Zac Amoss; Monica Schmitt, CCBA vice president and founder of Mission Beelieve; Kate Fisher, CCBA member and beekeeper; and Sam Chamelin, HSP community garden manager. Dr. Mona Becker, an environmental science educator, is also on the committee, along with Liz Jones with the Carroll County Public Library, Elly Engle, assistant professor of environmental studies, and Aaron Burroughs, Department of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member.

On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group
On Sept. 11, 2020, the City of Westminster Recreation & Parks Department and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association hosted a program about pollinators and pollination at Wakefield Valley Park in Westminster. The event featured presentations by local beekeepers and naturalists. Kevin Dayhoff | Baltimore Sun Media Group (Kevin Dayhoff)

Meanwhile, for more information on the Carroll County Beekeepers Association go to the association’s website www.carrollcountybeekeepers.org. The association meets every third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the Bear Branch Nature Center.

For more information on the importance of pollinators in our community go here: www.beecityusa.org or to the U.S Forest service website, www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/importance.shtml. Another great source of information (with links to even more resources) may be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website, http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/habitat/wabees.aspx

Go pollinators.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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