John Gruszka on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

John Gruszka served as the Provincial Apiculturalist in Saskatchewan, Canada between 1978 and 2011. As John mentions in the interview, Saskatchewan is one of the most productive honey producing places on the planet, but it suffers from quite an inhospitable winter (John says it’s the closest you get to ‘Siberia’ on the continent). In this episode, John describes how Saskatchewan beekeepers learned to become less dependent on imported package honey bees during the 1980’s. John has a biology degree from the University of Waterloo, and a Masters degree in Entomology (Apiculture major) from the University of Manitoba. He worked in Tanzania from 1971-1975, 3 years of which was on Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) sponsored beekeeping training, research and development. During his term as Provincial Apiculturalist, he served three terms as President of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalist (CAPA).

Listen in to hear about the history of pollinators in Northern Canada, wintering techniques, and how packages of bees have changed the beekeeping industry.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“I will never forget Dr. Don Peer telling me, ‘I’m a 2 percenter. If I can improve by having 2% less winter losses, 2% more honey, 2% less aggression in my hives – whatever else you are selecting for – over five years I am 10% better’.” – John Gruszka


Four colonies pushed together and insulated
into a four-pack (Southern Alberta, photo: Lynae Ovinge)

Show Notes:

  • Why anybody would keep bees in such cold climates
  • How bees were kept alive during the harsh winters of the past
  • What makes Northern Canada so ideal for pollinators
  • When the trend changed from wintering bees to relying on packages for winter
  • The key innovations afforded by packages of bees
  • How different ways of wintering bees can provide different benefits
  • Where many wintering techniques come from
  • The history of the Carniolan bee in Saskatchewan

“Beekeepers need to recognize that when it comes to queen rearing, you can do this!“ – John Gruszka

 Links Mentioned:

Share this:

BEEvent on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

BEEvent is really without equal in the US. Started in 2014, this annual event provides gardeners and land managers with the practical knowledge and tools to help bee pollinators. The conference is organized by the Linn County Master Gardeners and the 2018 conference (3 March, 2018 in Albany, Oregon) will focus on “Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape in your Garden” (featuring former PolliNation guest Linda Hardison). Andony was joined by three organizers of BEEvent, Ranee Webb (Master Gardener, President of Linn County Master Gardeners 2016-2017), Susan Morton (Master Gardener and “Bee Czar”) and Rich Little (entomologist and Master Gardener).

Listen in to learn more about the BEEvent, Oregon’s pollinator conference, and what this event provides gardeners and pollinator enthusiasts of all kinds.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“There is a lot of hunger out there to do something to help [pollinators], but people don’t know what to do, and we’re giving them that information.” – Susan Morton

Show Notes:

  • What’s happening at this year’s BEEvent
  • Who the speakers are and what they will be speaking about
  • How attendees will learn about caring for a more diverse set of pollinators
  • Why the BEEvent is the perfect event for the curious home gardener
  • How the first BEEvent got started
  • The future of the BEEvent
  • What have been the BEEvent’s successes
  • The other ways that the organizers contribute to helping pollinators
  • How master gardeners can contribute to the cause for pollinators
  • What resources the OSU extension service provides
  • What gardening and beekeeping resources will be available at the BEEvent
  • What are the guest’s favorite books, tools, and pollinators

“Bees need more than food. They need a place to sleep and a place to rear their young, so your yard has to provide all of that.” – Rich Little

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Dr. Gail Langellotto on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Gail Langellotto is an Associate Professor of Horticulture at Oregon State University, and coordinator of OSU Extension Master Gardener program. As the secretary of the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture, Gail works with industry, academic, and nonprofit leaders to document the benefits of home community gardening and to promote public support for research and extension in consumer horticulture.

Although her graduate and post-doctoral work was conducted in natural (e.g. forests, salt marshes, grasslands) or agricultural (e.g. cotton, papaya) areas – her first job was at a University in the south Bronx. Knowing that natural or agricultural field sites would be difficult to find – she quickly reconnected with her love for cities, and began to study the ecology of pollinators in urban community gardens.

Listen in to learn about ground nesting bees, the potential problems of plant lists, and how to maximize the benefits of urban landscapes for pollinators.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“[A review by Garbuzov et al.] point out that many lists of plants for pollinators are put together anecdotally; they seem to represent someone’s personal preferences for particular plants and that in order to have really good information on what plants are attractive to pollinators we need more rigorous observations and research trials.“ – Dr. Gail Langellotto

Show Notes:

  • What common misconceptions and knowledge gaps exist in the field of urban landscapes and pollinators
  • Why gardeners need to consider nest sites for all bees
  • What is the impact of a few neighborhood gardeners working for pollinators
  • How urban landscape researchers secure funding and support
  • How many environmental issues that affect pollinators have public health consequences
  • Why plant lists for gardeners can be hurting pollinator habitats
  • What bees need to create their nest
  • What the nest of a ground nesting bee looks like
  • Why many gardeners are apprehensive to leave ground nesting habitat for bees
  • What is the “landscape mullet” hypothesis
  • The trick to using an aspirator to collect insects and leave the flower head intact

“A lot of [gardeners] don’t recognize the importance of nest sites for bees, and in particular, the importance of nest sites for ground nesting bees.“ – Dr. Gail Langellotto

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Mehmet Ali Döke earned his bachelor’s in Molecular Biology and Genetics, and master’s in Biology from Middle East Technical University in Turkey. During his junior year, he started working with honey bees and was a part of the group who surveyed the beekeepers in Turkey to document bee losses and possible reasons in coordination with the COLOSS effort. In his master’s, Mehmet investigated the seasonal variation of a metabolic enzyme in honey bees.

Mehmet moved to US in 2013 to work on a doctorate degree in Entomology at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) supervised by Christina Grozinger. They studied honey bee overwintering from physiological, social, and ecological perspectives. Better understanding honey bee overwintering is valuable because it is a fascinating adaptation for an insect species and improving the winter survival can boost the sustainability of beekeeping operations to which we owe a significant portion of our food.

Upon completing the doctorate in PSU in August 2017, Mehmet started working as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras with Tuğrul Giray. They want to further investigate the evolution of overwintering in honey bees by comparing mechanisms by which honey bees survive adverse periods in tropical and temperate climates.

Listen in to learn about the effect of the winter season on bee populations, how bees have adapted, and what beekeepers can do to protect their colonies.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“Honey bees are in such large numbers, they wouldn’t be able to make it through another year if they couldn’t start the spring earlier than the other species. That’s in a way an advantage, but also a curse.” – Mehmet Ali Döke

Show Notes:

  • Why honeybees stay active during the winter
  • How the honeybee has adapted to the winter climate
  • Why in hibernation, bees create a “bee ball”
  • The difference between summer and winter bees
  • How bees are able to tell when the seasons are changing
  • The ways pheromones could be affecting a young bee’s development
  • What key factors play into colony loss in the colder months
  • How varroa mites could contribute to winter loss
  • Mehmet’s advice for preparing your bees for the winter by weight of the colony
  • The importance of genetics on bees survival through the winter

“The overall weight of the colony, when we put into a statistical correlation, didn’t correlate with how much honey they have or with how much brood they have or any other things. But it did correlate with the adult population.“ – Mehmet Ali Döke

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Matt Arrington on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Matt Arrington recently graduated with a Ph.D. in horticulture from Washington State University. He has experience in applied plant research with small fruit and tree fruit.

Matt is currently working with Dr. Lisa DeVetter at the Small Fruit Horticulture program in Mount Vernon, Washington as a graduate research assistant. Key projects he is involved with include pollination and fruit set improvement in highbush blueberry.

Listen in to learn about highbush blueberries, and how honeybees can greatly benefit the pollination and harvest of your plants.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“[Blueberries bloom] in the spring, when we usually have fairly heavy rainfall, low temperatures, windstorms, and those are all environmental conditions that are really not good for foraging activities, especially in honeybees.” – Matt Arrington

Show Notes:

  • What you need to know about high bush blueberries
  • The role of pollinators for high bush blueberries
  • Why insect pollination is so crucial for blueberries
  • The advantages of having a manager for your pollinators
  • What stocking rates are for and how they are set
  • Why blueberry growers should consider using more honeybees
  • Why attractants are used and what they are made of

”I’ll see [bumble bees] out really early in the season. They’ll be out pollinating while there’s still snow on the ground, and I’ll come home from work in the evening when it’s dark and you’ll hear them still in the bush.” – Matt Arrington

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Doug Sponsler on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Doug is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, and he went on to receive his PhD from Ohio State University. His research brings spatial ecology perspectives to the topics of pollinator foraging and toxicology, with particular emphasis on urban plant-pollinator interactions and mechanistic understandings of toxic exposure.

Listen in as we go over pesticide’s effects on pollinators, the difficulties in testing, and the advantages certain insects have in fighting pesticides.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“It’s a bit ironic that the most convenient organism for which to study toxicology from a logistical perspective, the honey bee, is also the most problematic one for which to interpret toxicology.“ – Doug Sponsler

Show Notes:

  • What determines risk of a pesticide’s effect on pollinators
  • Why toxicity is talked about more than exposure
  • How field experiments on pesticides and pollinators can run into problems
  • How the EPA’s new BeeREX model helps in risk assessment
  • What the “dynamic hazard surface” can explain about the complexity of pesticide testing
  • Why the fully distributional nature of exposure is necessary
  • Why honeybee’s social complexity aids in defending them against pesticides

“[current models for pesticide exposure to bees in risk assessment] are good, but they do not get to the behavioral and chemical mechanics of exposure that go into bringing a bee into intersection with a pesticide.” – Doug Sponsler

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Steve Frank on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Steve Frank is an entomologist who recognizes that urban trees provide a lot of services back to people living in cities. Trees also provide a lot resources to pollinating insects as well. Given the importance of trees to broad ecological systems, Dr. Frank looks for practical and innovative ways to preserving tree health. His lab also studies how the urban heat island effect increases insect pest abundance and damage on urban trees and the congruence between urban and global warming to determine if cities could serve as canaries in the coal mine of climate change to predict pest outbreaks in natural forests.

Listen in to learn about how urban environments affect pollinators, what homeowners and civil planners can do to improve them, and which plants and trees are best for the city.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“People can even help their own local micro-habitat by shading their driveway and their house and things like that, which saves you energy to boot.“ – Steve Frank

Show Notes:

  • How urbanization affects pollinators and their habitats
  • What you can do to help pollinators in your urban community
  • How cities can design their spaces to better suit their natural landscape and it’s pollinators
  • How Steve uses “habitat complexity” to better urban landscapes
  • Why stressed plants can produce many problems for pollinators
  • Steve’s recommendations on plants for pollinators at your home
  • How Steve finds his favorite books

“You have a master gardener in your neighborhood who’s really driving a community garden or something like that. That comes and goes, but the trees will still be there.“ – Steve Frank

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Alan Turanski on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Alan leads vision, innovation and continuous improvements at GloryBee. Ranging from sustainability, technology, facilities and being a cause forward company, he is committed to ensuring GloryBee is a business as a force for good. Alan is an advocate for the honeybee and was also a driving force in developing GloryBee’s Save the Bee initiative, which donates to bee-saving projects. As a beekeeper, and someone who is considered knowledgeable in the field, Alan has served as spokesperson for the plight of the honeybee and promotion of conservation efforts, including testifying at the Oregon State Capitol in 2013 on the issue of honey bee colony losses.

Listen in as we talk about the Alan’s work with GloryBee, their raising of bee awareness, and how beginning beekeepers can get started.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“Beekeeping is a beautiful balance between art and science, and the best beekeepers are very knowledgable scientifically, but they also instinctually are in tune with the bees.“ – Alan Turanski

Show Notes:

  • Why Alan became involved in helping save the bees
  • What Alan hoped to accomplish with his “Save The Bee” campaign
  • Why investing in education is so important to Alan
  • How the “Save The Bee” program works to help bees
  • How GloryBee has spread their message through partnerships
  • The process that honey goes through from honeycomb to store shelves
  • The many expected and unexpected flavors of honey
  • How beekeepers use the byproducts from collecting honey
  • Alan’s favorite tool and non-tool

“These [bees] are amazing creatures. The more you learn, the more you’re fascinated, and the more you’re enthralled.“ – Alan Turanski

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Al Shay on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Al Shay is currently an instructor in the Horticulture Department at Oregon State University. Al holds undergraduate degrees in art as well as horticulture. Additionally Al has a Masters in Agriculture degree from OSU. Al has been in the “Green Industry” for 38 years; 27 of which were spent in the field managing landscapes at such varied venues as; Oregon State University, Eugene Country Club, The Oregon Garden and DeSantis landscapes. In 2007 Al returned to OSU for his graduate degree and was appointed an instructor upon his graduation in 2010.

Find out more about what you can do for pollinators at your own home, and how Al blends aesthetic and functional aspects of landscaping and pollinator habitats.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“It seemed just a horrible shame to have 500-odd acres of space here on campus and have it all strictly geared toward something you look at as you pass by. We could do a better job than that.“ – Al Shay

Show Notes:

  • How Al’s career led him to his work at Oregon State University
  • The difficulties of bridging the functional and aesthetic sides of urban landscapes
  • The way Al keeps flowering plants year round
  • How homeowners can turn their property into a more sustainable ecosystem
  • Why Al recommends you should start small with your own landscape
  • What you should consider before working on your own urban landscape
  • Al’s best practices for how to plant your seeds
  • What makes a good saw and shear for Al
  • Al’s “pollinator hotels” and how they were developed

“Just start small. Instead of doing 43,560 square feet, do 200 or 400 square feet, and really take a peek at what is going on.“ – Al Shay

Links Mentioned:

Share this:

Sarah Johnson is the lead biologist for Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Native Pollinator Initiative. WPC is a nation-wide organization focusing on hands-on recovery initiatives for critically endangered species, and the pollinator initiative supports Canadian bumble bee recovery through a diverse set of programs. As WPC’s lead pollinator biologist, Sarah has overseen a variety of citizen science training programs, runs multiple field-based research and monitoring projects, and leads the development of a captive breeding program for the at-risk yellow-banded bumble bee. Prior to her current position with WPC, Sarah received a BSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Calgary – during which she published on a project investigating how wing wear affects bumble bee’s weight lifting ability – as well as an MSc in Ecology, examining how clearcut logging impacts bee-pollinated wildflower reproduction in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Sarah was also involved in the initiation of a long-term research program exploring how the agricultural landscape in southern Alberta affects pollinator diversity. As evidenced through her work, Sarah’s passion lies in the furriest (and most charming) of the pollinators: the bumble bee. However, she is also interested in conservation education, public engagement, and answering broader questions on what factors shape ecological communities.

Listen in as we talk about the bee population of Canada, her new captive breeding project, and how citizen science positively impacts her research.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“We’re seeing sightings in areas where we didn’t know species extended to, and this is because of submissions by citizen scientists.” – Sarah Johnson

Show Notes:

  • What is happening in the bumblebee populations of Canada
  • How the Bumblebee Recovery Initiative is helping pollinators
  • What their new captive breeding project is hoping to accomplish
  • What qualities Sarah is looking for in the queen bumblebees they are breeding
  • How Wildlife Preservation Canada uses citizen science
  • Why Bumblebee Watch is such an invaluable resource to conservation researchers
  • How one citizen scientist made a breakthrough discovery
  • How Sarah’s organization trains citizen scientists
  • What makes a good bumblebee picture for submission
  • What Sarah recommends to help raise public awareness of pollinators and their involvement

[Wilson et al.] surveyed a wide variety of people, and the vast majority of them think bees are important but nobody really knows what a bee is versus what a fly is.“ – Sarah Johnson

Links Mentioned:

Share this: