Pollinator Week on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Eleven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

With it being literally a month away, PolliNation caught up with Kelly Rourke of the organization that has been organizing National Pollinator Week across the US (Pollinator Partnership (P2)), Kelly Rourke.

Kelly is Pollinator Partnership’s (P2) Senior Program Manager, who not only manages National Pollinator Week, but also North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) and P2 grants and scholarships. Kelly has loved nature, in all its capacities, since she was a young girl growing up in upstate New York. Now settled in San Francisco, she has been able to explore and appreciate a very different environment. Kelly holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has also received a Master’s of Science in Environmental Management (Ecology Concentration) from the University of San Francisco. Her background in ecology, conservation, and culture has propelled her career in the non-profit sector. Prior to Pollinator Partnership (P2), Kelly worked at another bay area-based environmental non-profit called Conservacion Patagonica (CP). CP’s mission is to establish national parks in Chile and Argentina where there is not only fragile ecosystems, but also, complex cultural and societal struggles.

Listen in to learn about National Pollinator Week, how the Pollinator Partnership helps the world’s pollinator populations, and how you can take part.

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“Protect their lives, preserve ours.” – Kelly Rourke

Show Notes:

  • How National Pollinator Week got started
  • When national news about pollinators spurned positive action in our government
  • What National Pollinator Week is looking to accomplish with the public
  • How Kelly believes we all can help the world of pollinators
  • What Pollinator Partnership does for the world’s pollinator population
  • What makes a good National Pollinator Week event
  • The upcoming documentary film Pollinator Partnership is releasing
  • What resources the Pollinator Partnership offers for everyone to help the cause

“Pollinator Partnership creates a wide array of materials to show people how they’re connected to pollinators and resources to get them involved.” – Kelly Rourke

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OSU Research Retinue on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

OSU Research Retinue on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

The OSU Research Retinue reviews a research study that garnered a fair amount of press this month on the connection between lawn mowing frequency and bee abundance and diversity. The study, led by Susannah Lerman from USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, compared the bees visiting lawns mowed weekly, every two or three weeks. The two year study was published in the May issue of the journal Biological Conservation.

This week’s Research Retinue consisted of OSU undergraduates Addison DeBoer (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Matthew Bucy (Environmental Sciences) and Umayyah Wright (Environmental Sciences). Special thanks to Isabella Messer (Horticulture) who helped the group research the paper (check out Isabella’s bee blog entries).

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The OSU Research Retinue (counter-clockwise): Isabella Messer, Matthew Bucy, Umayyah Wright and Addison Deboer.

“I feel the general public won’t have time to read this paper and it would be great to have a simple message summarizing the findings on social media”. – Umayyah Wright

“So, say you are approached by someone – walking on the street – and they heard about the article but have no time to read it what would you tell them the one important take away of this paper?” – Matthew Bucy

“Don’t go for more that three weeks without mowing your lawn because the grass will get too long for the bees, which almost the opposite of the final line of the paper of taking the “lazy lawnmower” approach.  But mowing once a week had more species richness and mowing twice a week had more bee abundance compared to mowing the lawn every three weeks”. – Addison DeBoer

Show Notes:

  • How the study was conducted and what was measured
  • What the study found was best for bee populations in lawn maintenance
  • What key elements are most important in increasing and maintaining pollinator health
  • How researchers can improve the study for next time, and what they got right
  • Why homeowners should consider changing their mowing habits to better suit pollinator health
  • Why this study is very important for busy homeowners
  • What people without lawns can do to help the local pollinator habitat
  • Which is more important: bee richness or bee abundance
  • What the Research Retinue would improve in the next study similar to this one

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Heather Higo on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Heather began working with honey bees in 1987 at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada and completed a Master’s degree in bee research under Mark Winston. On completion she took on the position of SFU bee research coordinator, managing the university’s honey bee colonies and bee research lab, and mentoring students until the lab closed. In 2007, Heather began running a small queen rearing operation in Langley, British Columbia, Canada and continued in the bee community giving talks and teaching queen rearing and IPM workshops in the Fraser Valley while also working in Plant Health for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). In 2011, CFIA assigned her to work on the Bee IPM Project with University of British Columbia (UBC) and Agriculture Canada to improve honey bee mite and disease resistance through breeding and testing. After a short time back at CFIA, in 2015 Heather returned to bee research with UBC as the BC Field Manager for the Marker Selection and Beeomics projects, where she led a team sampling and testing colonies throughout BC as part of a five-province effort to develop new technological tools to enhance our breeding selection capabilities and improve the bee industry. In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious Fred Rathje Award by the Canadian Honey Council for her years of service to Canadian beekeepers. Heather is currently working for UBC on queen selection tools and other research projects in addition to rearing queens.

Listen in to learn more about how you can get started rearing your own queens, the many facets of it’s preparation, and Heather’s tips in getting started.

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“Basically you can rear queens with one queenright, a queen starter colony, and a few mating nucs, so it doesn’t have to be atrociously expensive.” – Heather Higo

Show Notes:

  • What Beemasters is and who it’s for
  • Why people go to the trouble of rearing their own queens
  • Why the preparation of queen rearing is so crucial
  • How to get past the daunting task of grafting
  • Some of the specialized tools you need to start rearing your own queens
  • The general timeline of queen rearing
  • Why separating the different queens is so important
  • What are typically the first days of life for a new queen
  • What to do if you end up with extra queens

“A calendar is really important with queen rearing. You need to be organized, you need to have a calendar, and you need to know what’s happening on what day.” – Heather Higo

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Lincoln Best on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Lincoln Best is the Lead Taxonomist for the Oregon Bee Project/Atlas. He is obsessed with natural history, the little things, and designing plant communities to support biodiversity. He has studied the biodiversity of native bees from Haida Gwaii to Tasmania, and from Baja California to Taiwan. Few things excite him more than observing 4mm native bees on their floral hosts in arid habitats.

Listen in to learn about Lincoln Best’s manifesto for native bees and plant communities, and his best practices for volunteers in the Oregon Bee Atlas.

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“A lot of our environmental issues are landscape issues. So in order to have a healthy landscape, we need to know how to manage places and also restore them.” – Lincoln Best

Show Notes:

  • What Lincoln believes to be the key to solving our environmental issues
  • How to maximize environmental benefit from the biodiversity of plants
  • What Lincoln has been doing with the Oregon Bee Atlas
  • The process of organizing and cataloguing thousands of bee specimens
  • What makes Southern Calgary ideal for studying the effects of biodiversity on pollinator habitats
  • The importance of proper labeling
  • Lincoln’s best practices for data and specimen collection
  • How species abundance plays into specimen collection

“It’s really interesting for someone like me that loves to hunt for flower populations and look for these strange bees to be able to get that data right out of the collection.” – Lincoln Best

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Sally Rockey on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Last month the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) announced a $7 million investment in Pollinator Health. FFAR targeted key gaps in our ability to focus research into innovative and concrete initiatives that can change practices in the world. This week we are joined by Dr. Sally Rockey, who became the inaugural Executive Director of FFAR in 2015. Prior to this role, Dr. Rockey was an award-winning leader in Federal research. She spent 19 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she held a number of positions within the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Very early in her career she became the head of the competitive grants program, overseeing the extramural grants process and portfolio. Dr. Rockey brought her experience in agriculture research to her 11-year career at the National Institutes of Health, where she emphasized the connection between agriculture, food, and health. As Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Dr. Rockey oversaw the operations of the largest Federal extramural research program and led groundbreaking initiatives and activities that have and will have a lasting positive impact on the research community.

Dr. Rockey received her Ph.D. in Entomology from the Ohio State University and did postgraduate work at University of Wisconsin prior to joining the government. She has devoted her career to improving people’s lives through research and will continue her mission by seeing FFAR become an essential component of the scientific enterprise.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn more about FFAR, the work they are doing to help pollinator research, and how they are helping citizen scientists.

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“We consider the topic of pollinators and pollinator health to be vital to agriculture and to the success of the United States’s agriculture.” – Sally Rockey

Show Notes:

  • What FFAR is and how it was established
  • How FFAR worked to reach beyond standard conservation in helping pollinators
  • How citizen scientists can get involved with FFAR
  • The future of FFAR
  • How FFAR is associated with the USDA
  • What research FFAR is doing to improve pollinator habitats
  • Why education outreach is so important in achieving FFAR’s goals

“Because the public plays such an important role in pollinator health, it’s important to be able to educate the public.” – Sally Rockey

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Travis Owen on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Travis Owen is a self-described nature enthusiast with a passion for pollination ecology and the role of pollinators in the environmental context of Southern Oregon. His passions have grown and evolve over time. In his twenties he was a DJ, then taught himself to build furniture, began to learn the ways of plants, then pollinators. All the while, he was teaching himself how to take pictures and write about what he sees on his fantastic website: the Amateur Anthecologist. His day job is as a commercial beekeeper for an established queen breeder.

Listen in to learn more about the science of anthecology, how you can develop resources for pollinators, and what makes the honeybee unique to other bees.

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“I was really excited to share what I saw. I feel really passionate about it, and I want other people to be passionate about it, too.” – Travis Owen

Show Notes:

  • How Travis got into anthecology
  • What drew Travis into beekeeping and bees in general
  • How honeybees are actually an outsider in comparison to most other bees
  • What bees are common in Southern Oregon
  • The common plant life that the bees of Southern Oregon thrive on
  • What gives large carpenter bees their claim to fame in the insect world
  • What an anthecologist is and what it entails
  • The differences between the amateur and professional anthecologist
  • The small amount of work it takes to help support the pollinator population
  • What is the biggest threat to the bee population

“I think there’s around 3,000-4,000 [different species of bees] in the country, and they’re all so different.” – Travis Owen

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Briana Ezray on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Briana Ezray received her BA in biology from Willamette University and worked for the Oregon Department of Agriculture on a survey of native bees pollinating crops. She began her PhD in 
Entomology at the Pennsylvania State University in Dr. Heather Hines Lab. Overall, her research involves topics such as bumble bee biogeography and mimicry, bee community disease ecology, and conservation biology. Specifically, her research examines two different directions which allow her to understand spatial, historical, and seasonal dynamics in bumble bees. First, she is working to better describe and understand the evolutionary and ecological processes driving why bumble bees mimic or match each other’s color patterns in certain geographic regions. Second, she is exploring seasonal patterns of disease prevalence and transmission in bee communities.

Listen in to this episode to learn more about Mullerian mimicry, it’s role in the evolution of bumblebees, and why it is the subject of Briana’s research.

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“Species that have some sort of poison or danger like a sting will mimic each other so that it’s a kind of group defense.“ – Briana Ezray

Show Notes:

  • What bumblebees are usually doing right after hibernation
  • What gives the bumblebees their color
  • How to identify the most common types of bumblebees in Western Oregon
  • What is Mullerian mimicry and how it affects how similar some bumblebees look
  • Why certain visual traits are localized to certain areas
  • What the “standard hybrid zone” is and how it affects the coloring of bumblebee species
  • What Briana is trying to accomplish in researching these coloring complexities
  • How Briana was able to study the evolution of the bee coloring
  • When a bee would avoid Mullerian mimicry to stand out from other species

“Oregon is one of those places that has a lot of species [of bumblebee] that look like each other.“ – Briana Ezray

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Dr. Chris Marshall on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Chris Marshall is the curator of the Oregon State Arthropod Collection (OSAC) located at Oregon State University. In this episode, Dr. Marshall discusses the value of museum collections in being able to piece together patterns of bee biodiversity across space and time (OSAC’s collection was started around 1860). Dr. Marshall also talks about a newly funded initiative (through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s Pollinator Health Fund) to develop interactive museum tools to help people in the Pacific Northwest better understand the native bee fauna here. Before assuming the curatorship of OSAC, Dr. Marshall was at Cornell University (where he did his PhD), the Smithsonian and the Field Museum in Chicago.

Listen in to learn the role of a museum in biodiversity and pollinator research, how citizen scientists can help, and OSU’s new grant-funded bee project.

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“[The Pollinator Health Fund grant] allows us to do two foundational things. First it will allow us to make the historical records of native bees in our collection available to be part of an Atlas, that is both graphical – essentially a road map you can view online – but also the map would be interactive so that the data underlying that point on the map are accessible allowing a person to examine, critically, the basis for the points on the distributional map for themselves. But also, as museums, we see ourselves contributing to the task of building the collection over time. So we see the project as being interactive not just for the user of the data, but also to researchers who want to add to that Atlas for future researchers use“. – Dr. Chris Marshall

Show Notes:

  • What role museums play in understanding pollinator diversity
  • How field research on biodiversity only gives a small sample of a species’s timeline
  • What is a plant host record and how it is used
  • How museum collection of specimens have evolved over time
  • Why the ability to extract DNA from older specimens used to prove so difficult, and is now much easier
  • What the important elements of a properly curated pollinator specimen are
  • Chris’s advice for people starting their first collection
  • What citizen scientists and hobbyists provide by collecting and properly curating specimens
  • Why creating a regional bee atlas will be so helpful to understanding of bee biodiversity
  • The checklist of regional bees Chris is developing and what it will be used for

“Natural history museum specimens provide the ability to sample past ecosystems in a way that you might not have thought of before.“ – Dr. Chris Marshall

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Bee Buddies on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This week we are joined by Heath Keirstead and Jerry Paul from the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD). Heath is BSWCD’s Communication and Community Engagement Manager and Jerry has been involved with BSWCD as a volunteer and Board Member. PolliNation caught up with Heath and Jerry at the BSWCD office to talk about caring for orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria) in the spring and their outreach initiative – the Bee Buddies program – that is encouraging stewardship of people cultivating these bees.

Listen in to learn how best to take care of your mason bees, when to place them outside, and how the Bee Buddy program helps the pollinator community.

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“If any of you have the chance, take a mason bee or any pollinator, look at it under the microscope and I think it’s going to open up a whole new world to you.” – Jerry Paul

Show Notes:

  • When is the best time to put out mason bees
  • Why mud preparation is the best thing you can do for your mason bees
  • How to tell if your flowers are ready to be pollinated
  • How to protect the larval mason bees during transport
  • Why the location of the nest box is so important to the mason bee’s success
  • Which plants are the most beneficial to the mason bee
  • Why the Bee Buddies program was started, and what it’s goals were
  • How caring correctly for mason bees can give them a 90% survival rate
  • How the Bee Buddies program is bringing attention to larger environmental issues
  • What the outreach of Bee Buddies looks like
  • How to get involved with Bee Buddies
  • What other organizations are contributing to environmental conservation

“With a mason bee, you can target your crop. They only fly up to about 300 feet from their nest box.“ – Heath Keirstead

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John Gates on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

John Gates has been a beekeeper for 43 years. He served as the Apiculture Specialist British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Apiculture Program 1975-2002. He was a full-time commercial beekeeper from 2002-2015, specializing in bee breeding, stock production and pollination. He has lectured widely in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. Today, John joined us to talk about how you can build your own stock and offset colony losses by making nucleus colonies (nucs).

Listen in to learn about how John got started with nucleus colonies, how he has influenced other beekeepers, and what he saw change in his bees over time.

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“I started with Dr. Laidlaw’s book in one hand and a grafting needle in the other, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. It took a while until I was successful grafting those first few larvae.“ – John Gates

Show Notes:

  • What a “nuc” or nucleus colony is
  • What got John into making nucs
  • Reflection on John’s time working with British Columbia beekeeping legend John Corner
  • Why John’s operation of developing nucs brought in even more income than expected
  • The timeline of a nuc-making operation
  • How queen rearing fits into nuc production
  • John’s work with the British Columbia government revealed the importance of nuc-making to a profitable business
  • How stock improvement integrates into John’s beekeeping system
  • The importance of queen rearing workshops in getting the ball rolling

“I guess there had been some people producing queens in the past, but we didn’t really know much about it, so we just wanted to see if it was possible here. Can we produce good quality queens that will winter well, will be productive and gentle?“ – John Gates

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