ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Sometimes the smallest things are our biggest helpers, which is the case with pollinators in Maryland. Honeybees and monarch butterflies are two particular pollinators that over the past several years have seen declines in their respective populations due to habitat destruction, parasites and insecticide use. Bees and butterflies help to pollinate more than 75 percent of crops and flowering plants. Just in time for National Pollinator Week (June 15-June 21), the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) continues to make conditions favorable for these beneficial insects to once again thrive by reducing roadside mowing, using beneficial insects for vegetation control and creating meadows of nectar and pollen producing native species.

One of the greatest challenges to honeybee colonies is referred to as colony collapse disorder. The significant challenge to monarch butterflies is the destruction of habitat. The loss of valuable pollinators is having an effect on crops nationwide.

Through its mowing reduction and Statewide Native Plants Establishment Program, SHA has planted a variety of plant species specifically designed to attract honeybees and monarch butterflies. Meadow restoration occurs along roadside medians, shoulders and near stormwater management facilities. A few specific nectar-producing varieties include: Butterfly Weed, sunflowers, asters, Coreopsis (Tickseed), swamp milkweed and black-eyed Susans.

“Planting native meadow species is not only a great way to reduce mowing, it adds beauty and provides habitat for wildlife,” said Doug Simmons, acting SHA administrator. “The fact that the plants we sow attract valuable pollinators makes this even more rewarding.”

Monarch butterflies migrate annually from North America to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. Biologists have noticed a slight increase in monarch butterfly populations over the past year. There is still a steep hill to climb as approximately 90 percent of the butterflies vanished over the past 20 years.

SHA has developed a landscape design guide which provides direction for SHA landscaping plans. The design guide includes an array of information that explores how SHA landscape designs provide durable roadside naturalized landscaping while maintaining and enhancing valuable wildlife habitat. For more information on the SHA Landscape Design Guide, click here.