He thinks they’re cute, for one thing. (Just look at that wee proboscis, those dangly antennae, and those compound eyes, wider and more open than a doe’s.) He can’t get enough of them and, at times, his enthusiasm gets the better of him. “I would argue, as would many other beeologists,” he says, “that most bees are arguably cuter than most kids.”
It’s hard to tell if he’s joking. But Droege’s job at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is part-science and part–public relations. His clients are the bees, and he’s on a mission to persuade humans to love them as much as he does.
Droege is a wildlife biologist at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, where he is developing a program to inventory and monitor North America’s native anthophiles. Some of his duties involve fieldwork, which he enjoys so much that he describes a trip to analyze the bee fauna in South Africa’s Kruger National Park as a “vacation.” “I can’t think of anything that feeds my spirit more,” he says, “than to be doing uninterrupted natural history in a warm, sunny, bee-filled part of the world while others endure snow up north.” Fair enough. Even if you never trek along with him, Droege will do his darnedest to convince you that bees pausing above the dry landscape’s flowers are just as worth swooning over as the pride of lions stalking past.