David Cantlin on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

David Cantlin is the Facility and Operations Manager for the City of Fife in Washington State, where he is implementing his Bee Clover project. His goal is to educate the people of Fife of the wonderful benefits that clover provides, as well as using public lands to create stronger habitats for pollinators, as well as a more enriched ecosystem. In this episode we hear about the City of Fife’s initiative to increase the amount of blooming clover available to bees on their city properties.

In this episode, we hear about the City of Fife’s initiative to increase the amount of blooming clover available to bees on their city properties.

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“Clover attracts bees and other pollinators, so it benefits the ecology of the area.” – David Cantlin

Show Notes:

  • Why people in David’s position often remove clover from their land
  • What changed David’s mind about clover
  • How David experimented with using clover on his land
  • David’s goals with his project
  • How clover can help improve an ecosystem for plants as well as pollinators
  • What the process was in establishing clover in Fife
  • The symbiotic relationship between clover and turf grass
  • How the different clover varieties have worked in David’s project
  • How the people of Fife have received the abundance of clover
  • What’s next for the Bee Clover project

“This program, if it takes off and we can expand, may be a revival for the bees.” – David Cantlin

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Dr. Chelsea Cook on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Chelsea Cook is a postdoctoral researcher, funded by the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, at Arizona State University. Chelsea’s focus is using behavior, neurophysiology, and genetics to understand how social insects organize, especially to accomplish critical tasks. As you will hear in this episode, she is currently working on how an individual honey bee learns may influence foraging behavior, and the genetics and physiology underlying learning and foraging. During her PhD, Chelsea studied the social organization of the thermoregulatory fanning behavior in honey bees at the University of Colorado with Mike Breed. She told us that she has “a general interest in the organization of anything ‘social’, from neurons to bacteria to cancer to humans.” In addition to her academic research, she is also a co-founder of a small start-up company focused on improving honey bee health, and she is passionate about increasing access to science, especially bringing biology to underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Listen in to learn how different bees divide up the responsibilities of finding and gathering food, and why they developed this method of foraging.

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“I can only imagine if in my neighborhood, every couple of days the grocery store closed and popped up somewhere else. How would you deal with that?” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

Show Notes:

  • The daily difficulties pollinators face in finding their food
  • What different factors go into a pollinator choosing their food source
  • The division of labor with bees in gathering food
  • Chelsea’s hypothesis on these bees and their roles
  • How she ran her experiment
  • The role of the neurotransmitter tyramine in bees
  • How social colonies culturally share information
  • Why Chelsea develops many of her own tools for studies

“It may be more beneficial for a whole society to divide that labor rather than have one individual doing both the exploration and the exploitation [of resources].” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

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Amy Cox on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

How can we ask not what greenspaces can do for us but what greenspaces can do for the environment? Portland-based Pro Time Lawn Seed was one of the first businesses to tackle this question, with the founder of the company developing low-maintenance and low-input lawn seed mixes, and the new owners expanding the mission to promote pollinator habitat, species diversity and soil health. PolliNation wanted to learn more, so in this episode, I visit an eco-lawn in a Portland backyard with Pro Time owner Amy Cox (on the left, also in the picture are co-owners Josh Middleton and Dawn Griffin). We look over a lawn seeded with Fleur de Lawn, a mix developed in conjunction with Dr. Tom Cook at Oregon State University, who began working on lawn alternatives in 1985. We talk about the benefits of using eco-lawns, how they work, and to establish them, and then walk across the lawns looking for bees. Pro Time has seventeen new eco-lawn, meadow, wildflower and native seed mixes in their selection.

Listen in to learn more about eco-lawns, what brought Amy into this business, and what makes eco-lawns ideal for all different kinds of home owners.

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“I think I’ve always wanted to something that helped other people, and that’s turned into something that can not only help people, but animals, insects, and the environment.” – Amy Cox

Show Notes:

  • How Amy got into the eco-lawn business
  • What still inspires Amy about this business
  • The benefits of having and keeping an eco-lawn
  • How easy it is to maintain an eco-lawn
  • What makes eco-lawns easier to maintain than regular lawns
  • The different types of eco-lawns and where they are best suited
  • Why Pro Time Lawn Seed began working on the eco-lawn
  • Why the Pacific Northwest is the ideal place for this kind of business to thrive
  • How Pro Time Lawn Seed bridges the gap between them and science and education
  • What separates Amy’s company from others in the seed business
  • What is in Pro Time Lawn Seed’s seed mixes

“Probably all that’s required [in maintaining an eco-lawn] is a little bit of patience, maybe following a bit of instruction, but it’s not difficult.” – Amy Cox

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Lila Westreich on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Lila Westreich is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, in the Department of Environment and Forest Sciences. She has a B.S. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the effect of varying landscape composition on the solitary mason bee, Osmia lignaria. Lila is currently working on the analysis of nutrition in pollen as well as the genetic sequencing of plant pollen to connect native solitary bees with the landscape around them.

Listen in to learn more about what drew Lila to Osmia lignaria, and how she is finding the effect of these bees on their landscape, and vice versa.

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“Orchard mason bees are really easy to work with, they’re easy to buy, which is rare for a native bee, and they’re really easy to place in different places, so it was easier for me to use than bumblebees.” – Lila Westreich

Show Notes:

  • Why Lila was so drawn to the orchard mason bee – Osmia lignaria
  • How Osmia lignaria‘s select flowers in different landscapes
  • How the solitary mason bee cares for it’s larvae
  • The pollen collection method that has left Lila with “vats of pollen” to study
  • What mason bees are looking for when they are collecting pollen
  • What Lila is hoping to learn by putting mason bees out early and late in the season
  • How climate change is affecting mason bees
  • The “special mud” of the mason bee

“What we found was really interesting. We found that bees were collecting pollen with the same concentration of protein at every site we studied. This was in spite of the fact that there were totally different plants at the different sites. What this tells us is that the bees are specifically choosing pollen from the landscape with higher protein levels and they only work with that pollen.” – Lila Westreich

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Research Retinue on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

The OSU Research Retinue goes into depth on research papers that have been recently featured in the news. We convened Retinue this week to review a paper that got a fair amount of press over the past few months. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicides in the world and is regarded as relatively non-toxic to bees and other pollinating insects. A study by Erick Motta and his colleagues from the University of Hawaii at Manoa demonstrate an indirect link between glyphosate and honey bee health in a laboratory study, namely a link to bacteria found in honey bee guts that helps fend off diseases.
This week’s retinue consists of OSU undergraduates Addison DeBoer (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Lacey Jane (Zoology), Isabella Messer (Horticulture) and Umayyah Wright (Geography).

Learn more about the recent research studying the effects of glyphosate on honeybees, and how glyphosate can indirectly affect their gut homogenate.

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“Those lactobacillus bacteria are supposed to not be sensitive to the glyphosate, so it’s weird that the single dose would affect them, but when there’s a double dose, there seems to be no change.” – Addison DeBoer

Show Notes:

  • What makes up the microbiome of a honeybee
  • How glyphosate works as an herbicide
  • Why glyphosate indirectly affects bees health
  • How the study was conducted
  • The two different kinds of significant bacteria found in the honeybee gut
  • What could have improved the study
  • How the timing and frequency of applying glyphosate affects honeybees
  • The different ways that science and news outlets are reporting this story

“The bees that had none of the gut homogenate and the bees that have the gut homogenate and glyphosate were affected almost exactly the same, which shows that the effect of glyphosate basically counteracts all of the positive effects of the gut homogenate.” – Addison DeBoer

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Garth Mulkey on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This episode explores the fascinating relationship between bees and specialty seed crops. Oregon vegetable and flower seed industries are deeply invested in the health of pollinators. Moreover, the great conditions for growing seeds in the state has led to a proliferation in the variety of different flowering crops grown in Oregon. An estimated 14,000+ acres are planted to vegetable seed production statewide, for a farm gate value of $27 million in 2012. This is good news for bees. We caught up with Garth Mulkey to learn more.

Garth operates a farm in Monmouth Oregon and a seed business (GS3 Quality Seeds Inc). This summer we walked through one of his sunflower fields with his beekeeper Tim Wydronek, OSU’s Vegetable and Specialty Seed Crop Specialist Dr. Kristine Buckland and Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Sarah Kincaid. Garth is also one of the early adopters of the Oregon Bee Project’s Flagship Farm Program.

Listen in to learn how Garth helped develop the bee protection protocol for specialty seed growers, and why specialty seed growers need bees.

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“[The bees] are even more critical in our hybrid productions, because the females in this production do not produce their own pollen, so if we don’t have bees, we don’t harvest seed.” – Garth Mulkey

Show Notes:

  • What makes Oregon such an ideal place to grow specialty seeds
  • Why the bees are so necessary in Garth’s hybrid productions
  • How to best prepare bees for pollination
  • What Tim Wydronek is looking for from the growers before pollination begins
  • Why Garth’s group came up with a bee protection protocol
  • What no-till farming is and why it is used with specialty seed growers
  • How and where Garth’s specialty seeds are used around the world
  • The process of generating a protocol to protect pollinators in such a large group of growers

“As a group who specializes in hybrid production, we realize the importance of having pollinators, and lots of them. So as a group, we decided we needed to be at the forefront of educating the public and the legislators on what our needs are and what we’re doing.” – Garth Mulkey

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Courtney MacInnis and Dr. Steve Pernal on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Courtney MacInnis received her MSc from the University of Alberta in 2017. As a MSc student, Courtney examined the viability and infectivity of Nosema ceranae spores in various substrates associated with honey bee colonies. Courtney is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta, supervised by Drs. Lien Luong and Steve Pernal. Her research aims to examine the pathological impacts of two emerging pathogens, N. ceranae and Lotmaria passim, on their honey bee host.  In her spare time, Courtney enjoys curling, barre, eating pastry, and curating an extensive collection of bee-themed items.

Dr. Steve Pernal has has been employed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada since 2001 as a Research Scientist in Beaverlodge, Alberta where he leads a national honey bee research program and also serves as Officer-in-Charge. Steve’s work has been diverse, and has included the detection, control and mitigation of residues associated with oxytetracycline-resistant American foulbrood disease and the development of food-grade therapies for chalkbrood disease. He was also involved in devising therapies and management strategies for the control of Nosema ceranae as well as other emerging parasites of honey bees. Steve has also been an integral member of three successive large-scale Genome Canada projects evaluating markers for resistance to AFB and Varroa. He was instrumental in the establishment of the National Bee Diagnostic Centre, also located in Beaverlodge, which has recently completed a 4-year national survey of honey bee pests and diseases in Canada.

Listen in to learn how the small fungus Nosema affects bee colonies, how and where it thrives, and what is being done to stop it in the research community.

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“Nosema is kind of a tough nut to crack. There have been many people besides ourselves that have worked on alternative treatments to Nosema over the years and have largely proved unsuccessful.” – Dr. Steve Pernal

Show Notes:

  • What causes Nosema disease
  • How Nosema ceranae has affected the wintering of bees
  • How Nosema causes so many problems in colonies
  • What happens inside a bee when infected with Nosema, and how it targets the mid-gut of the bee
  • The vulnerable stages of Nosema that can be taken advantage of
  • How different beekeepers try to mitigate spore production in their colonies and equipment
  • How Nosema ceranae often survive in unideal environments
  • The hardiness of these spores and why they are so hard to eradicate
  • What methods Steve and Courtney recommend in reducing Nosema spores
  • How to tell if your colony is infected by Nosema, and how to differentiate between Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis
  • How to test your colony for Nosema infection
  • What work is being done at Beaverlodge to fight Nosema’s effects on pollinators
  • Why fumagillin is not perfect in it’s treatment of Nosema and the side effects it has on colonies

“The only way to tell for sure if [your bees] have Nosema, if you don’t care about the species, would be microscopy. But if you’re curious whether you have a Nosema apis or ceranae infection, you have to use molecular techniques to differentiate between the two species.” – Courtney MacInnis

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Dr Sara Galbraith on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Sara Galbraith is a postdoctoral researcher in the Forest Animal Ecology Lab at Oregon State University in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. She has a B.A. in Biology from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Idaho and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica. Her research focuses on understanding the influence of human-caused and natural disturbances on pollinator communities, especially in forest habitats. Sara has studied how land use change in Costa Rica and wildfire severity in southwestern Oregon influence wild bee communities, and she is currently investigating the influence of forest management on pollinator health in the Oregon coast range. Outside of work, Sara enjoys hiking with her dog and watching the Great British Baking Show.

Listen in to learn how forests are managed, how it affects pollinator habitat, and how bioassays gather essential insights into improving pollinator health.

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“We know so much about these mason bees and some of the other species that we manage that could work for these types of experiments, that it gives us the abilities to test all sorts of hypotheses.” – Dr. Sara Galbraith

Show Notes:

  • How forests are managed, and why that affects the bees we see
  • Why herbicides can affect bee habitats in very complex ways
  • How researchers learn the ways that habitats are affected by forest management
  • The methodological challenges of researching the changing bee habitats
  • What can be learned through using the bioassay in studying pollinators
  • Why forests are so important to the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest
  • What is measured in a bioassay
  • How the myriad data collected through the bioassay can be used
  • The ways that natural disasters affect pollinator habitats in forests
  • What Sara and her team are currently working on
  • What wood lot owners can do to help their pollinator habitats thrive

”There are a lot of challenges in measuring the quality of habitat for bees, especially because they are such mobile organisms. So some of our biggest challenges are really methodological.” – Dr. Sara Galbraith

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Michelle Flenniken on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Michelle Flenniken is an Assistant Professor in the Plant Sciences Department at Montana State University. She is a microbiologist investigating honey bee host–pathogen interactions and Co-Director of the Pollinator Health Center at MSU. Michelle received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Iowa, then was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, before obtaining her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Montana State University. She did postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco prior to becoming a faculty member at MSU.

Listen in to learn how viruses affect pollinators, how virologists study them, and which ways beekeepers can best protect their colonies from infection.

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“When you think about a bee colony, it’s a great place for viral infections. They’re really crowded, if you think of honeybees, there’s over 40,000 individuals crawling all over each other.” – Michelle Flenniken

Show Notes:

  • How pollinators can get infected by viruses
  • The difference between horizontal and vertical transmission
  • Why monitoring your mite infestations can help minimize viral transmissions
  • How virologists have been studying and finding these myriad viruses
  • What common viruses affect United States pollinators
  • How the names of the viruses are determined
  • The process of infection with viruses and pollinators
  • How beekeepers can best test their colonies for viral infections
  • What beekeepers can do to reduce the damage caused by viruses
  • What Michelle sees as some of the most exciting research in virology right now
  • The evolution of how bees fend off viruses
  • How different RNA strands are used to create defenses against viruses

“I think that many of us get human centric when we start thinking about viruses and pathogens and we think that there are specific viruses that infect humans and those that affect other animals, but for insects and plant viruses, viruses can have a broader host range which include completely different genre.” – Michelle Flenniken

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Project Apis m. on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Our guest today is Danielle Downey, the Executive Director for Project Apis m., whose mission is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Danielle has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for 25 years. Her background includes training and research from bee labs in Minnesota, Canada and France; beekeeper education, work with commercial beekeepers and queen breeders, regulatory work as a State Apiarist in Utah and Hawaii, and wrangling bees for TV and film. She has worked closely with the Apiary Inspectors of America, Bee Informed Project and a bee breeding project with collaborators in Hawaii, Louisiana and Europe selecting and refining Varroa resistant bees. She holds a BSc from University of Minnesota and an MSc from Simon Fraser University.

Listen in to learn how Project Apis m. has accomplished valuable and sustained research for both pollinators and the agriculture and beekeeping industries.

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“We know that scientific research is the best way to answer questions about how to do business and improve agriculture…and beekeepers and growers, at the time of Colony Collapse Disorder, had really pressing questions that nobody was answering.” – Danielle Downey

Show Notes:

  • What got Danielle into studying bees
  • When and why Danielle started the Project Apis m.
  • Why a project like Apis m. is so valuable for everybody in the agriculture and beekeeping industry
  • How Danielle has centralized support for their project’s goal
  • How Project Apis m. maintains their scope and goal over their long timeline
  • What Project Apis m. has accomplished since it’s inception
  • Why Danielle is looking to change our chemical treatment of varroa
  • Why Project Apis m. believes that “practical is tactical”
  • What makes a promising proposal for Project Apis m.
  • What Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” program has done to help growers establish pollinator habitats
  • How Danielle’s project has helped them learn more ways to fight common pollinator problems
  • The importance of cover crops in efficiently grown agricultural areas
  • How farmers can use unused or unprofitable portions of their farm to create pollinator habitats
  • How Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” intersects with monarch butterfly conservation

“What it takes to make the change on the ground is to show and prove what is happening, and then outreach to educate on the alternatives, and change those practices.” – Danielle Downey

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