Mack the “Bee Dog,” Cybil Preston Receive Governor’s Customer Service Heroes Award
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Mack, the bee-sniffing dog, and handler Cybil Preston were honored as the second recipients of Governor Hogan’s Customer Service Heroes Award. The award, presented monthly, recognizes and celebrates front line workers for customer service excellence. Preston is the chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The department is the only one in the country with a bee-disease sniffing dog on staff – a position held by five canines since 1982.
Working for the department’s Apiary Inspection Program, the three -year-old yellow Labrador retriever helps Preston inspect commercial hives for American Foulbrood — one of the most widespread and the most destructive of the honey bee colony diseases. A trained dog can inspect 100 honeybee colonies in 45 minutes, versus human inspectors who average 45 colonies in one day. Early detection of the disease saves Maryland beekeepers substantial monetary loss from eradication of diseased bees and destruction of infected equipment.
“I am pleased to present the Customer Service Heroes award to Cybil Preston and her partner Mack ‘Bee Dog,’ who provide crucial protections for Maryland agriculture,” said Governor Hogan. “Cybil and Mack do a tremendous job protecting our bees and one of our state’s vital industries.”
Honey bees are critically important to the world’s agriculture industry, pollinating crops valued at more than $40 million in Maryland alone. Research shows that every third bite we take is thanks to a pollinator, with managed honey bee colonies being the largest and most portable of the pollinators.
“Mack and Cybil provide an important service in inspecting Maryland’s honeybee colonies,” said Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “Our administration, along with our state’s agricultural community, is grateful for the important work Mack and Cybil do in identifying diseased bee hives and helping to protect this important contributor to Maryland’s economy.”
Using bee dogs like Mack is cost-effective for Maryland since apiary inspections are a free service for commercial beekeepers and hobbyists. Mack’s job involves walking by beehives and sniffing the exteriors for traces of American Foulbrood infestation. When he detects the odor, he alerts Preston by sitting. Mack can only work in the colder weather from November to March – when bees are dormant – to avoid being stung.
“Mack is a tremendous asset to the department,” said Preston. “He is incredibly efficient – in a month span, Mack inspected over 1,600 bee colonies. And he is accurate – in field testing he correctly identified 100 percent of infected hives. He’s always well-received by the beekeepers. We all love Mack.”
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services K-9 trainers assisted in training and certifying Preston and Mack as an American Foulbrood detection team.
The Customer Service Initiative was announced by Governor Hogan in 2016 as a program designed to foster improvements in customer service across Maryland state agencies. The initiative focuses on three core deliverables: a renewed focus on a strong service culture in state agencies; improved customer service training for state employees; and the establishment of new service performance metrics, which will allow the administration and all Marylanders to track improvements in customer service.
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