Among first Maryland Colleges to Join Bee Campus, CSM and Its Four Campuses Add Pollinator-Friendly Landscaping
The four campuses of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) have always featured beautiful landscaping — carefully tended flowers, shrubs and other greenery. As a newly certified affiliate of the Bee Campus USA Program, however, CSM is being more intentional about what makes up that landscaping.
It’s all about creating a pollinator-friendly environment, said Biology Professor Paul Billeter, who instigated the college’s effort to participate in the Bee Campus program. The college wants to foster habitat that encourages pollinator diversity and abundance — bees, butterflies and other helpful insects, as well as birds and bats.
To replenish this kind of habitat in the region, native species like bee balm and butterfly weed are being planted at the La Plata Campus. Golden Alexanders and lyre leaf sage are planned for the Leonardtown Campus this fall. New plantings are still being researched at the Regional Hughesville Campus, and the Prince Frederick Campus now features the largest new variety, including bee balm, lemon balm, calendula, black-eyed Susan, spirea, tansy, sweet Williams, carpet roses, dianthus, coreopsis, oregano, fall asters, tall phlox, oak leaf hydrangea, geranium, candy tuft, sedums, French lavender and milkweed.
The college community got on board very quickly with the idea of supporting pollinators, led largely by the Biology Department and the Environmental Sustainability Committee, which is headed by Vice President of Financial and Administrative Services Tony Jernigan.
At the end of 2017, Billeter was researching insects to update a zoology lecture and found the Bee Campus USA website. Billeter approached Biological and Physical Sciences Chair Jean Russ and Division of Academic Affairs Vice President Dr. Eileen Abel about the idea of participating in the program, and they agreed. Billeter then contacted Sam Droege, one of Maryland’s most active bee researchers and a member of Bee Campus Advisory Board. He was in Chile doing research but contacted Billeter the first week of January. CSM formed a committee of faculty, staff, administrators and students that devised a plan and applied for membership. In early April, Washington College in Chestertown and CSM’s four campuses were the first Maryland colleges to join Bee Campus USA.
“The Biology Department and the Campus Sustainability Committee, along with most of the CSM community, are environmentally conscious,” Billeter said. “The immediate reason for the college’s involvement is that reversing long-term human impacts and restoring degraded local ecosystems is important to us. On a different scale, two of the major requirements of participation in the program are planting pollinator-friendly gardens and educating the public. Gardening is the No. 1 hobby in the USA, and CSM is an important center of education in Southern Maryland.”
“Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of ninety percent of the world’s wild plant and tree species,” said Bee Campus USA director Phyllis Stiles. “CSM is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and the broader community. Their talented faculty, staff and students offer an invaluable resource for Southern Maryland residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”
CSM’s Bee Campus USA plan includes the planting of native, pollinator-friendly plants and a least-toxic integrated pest management plan, along with ideas for awareness events and student service-learning projects enhancing pollinator habitats.
The college’s planting blitz is being made possible, in part, by $1,000 provided by the college. Community partnerships have also assisted in this new focus, and the college community has been tapping those with green thumbs for assistance.
For instance, at the Prince Frederick Campus, milkweed was grown from seed in the lab by Assistant Professor Lori Crocker’s students. “Lori and her students also helped to plant the original garden,” said Student Success Coordinator Laura Robins. “A small assortment of wildflowers are [being incorporated in the campus’] landscaping, too, grown by the ladies in the front office — Office Manager Benita Sneade, Administrative Office Assistant Carol Ward and Administrative Office Assistant Marcia Kent. Vicki Geneva of the Calvert Garden Club donated several plants, and the general garden club donated some bee balm. Building and Grounds Technician Steve Kegley has tirelessly dug holes, dug up ivy, assembled a garden tool kit, set up a hose and sprinkler and tends the garden almost every day.”
“The depth and breadth of enthusiasm for Bee Campus was unexpected,” Billeter said. “Combining environmental awareness, gardening and education is a natural for CSM. Bee Campus brings together every level of the CSM community, from the student government association to the office of the college president. We have also forged informal relationships with external groups with similar focuses. Efforts to protect and restore native flora and fauna are highly decentralized — from ardent gardeners cultivating native plants at their houses to the Soil Conservation District recently planting five acres of pollinator-friendly plants in Waldorf sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The University of Maryland Extension Service, Master Gardeners, Audubon Society, local nurseries, Southern Maryland Beekeepers and many others have generously offered support, advice and encouragement. In summary, it’s a great idea that brings people together, both on campus and off, to work on a gratifying project.”
For additional funding, “we are applying for grants from several sources and the CSM Foundation is accepting contributions designated for CSM Bee Campus USA and also accepting contributions of plants and gardening supplies that can be considered in-kind contributions,” Billeter said.
Bee Campus USA is a partner of Bee City USA. Billeter says he hopes some Southern Maryland towns become Bee Cities USA and he hopes to recruit other Maryland colleges to Bee Campus USA as well. “We are planning a Bee-Honored program where supporters can be recognized for their contributions to our efforts,” he said. “We will be seeking grants and the CSM Foundation, generously supported by individuals, businesses and organizations, is working with our fundraising efforts.”
In the spirit of CSM’s efforts to be as bee-friendly as possible, CSM Art Professor George Bedell is creating bee habitats that are designed to also be outdoor campus sculptures.
For information about the Bee Campus USA program and application process, visit http://www.beecityusa.org/application-campus.html.
For information on other ways CSM is pursuing environmental sustainability, visit https://www.csmd.edu/about/environmental-sustainability/. For information about CSM, visit www.csmd.edu.