Mike Rodia on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Ralph (Mike) Rodia, a life time member of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) and the Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association [WVBA], has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, was a research scientist, college educator, occupational health inspector and supervisor (Oregon OSHA), Oregon Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal, and has been active in the OSBA at the regional and state levels for the last 20 years. His experience in the preparation and implementation of laws and rules has allowed him in the past, and now as OSBA’s Agricultural Liaison to interact with governmental agencies at all levels, to foster and advance beekeeping in Oregon, particularly as it relates to residential beekeeping.

Listen in as we talk with Mike Rodia about residential beekeeping and the ways to work with your local government to keep your local hives nuisance-free.

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“Residential beekeeping didn’t really exist 30 or 40 years ago, so the cities have had to address it as problems have come up, so each [city] will vary each time it comes up with a problem.” – Mike Rodia

Show Notes:

  • What residential beekeepers need to know about their local laws
  • How Mike got started with beekeeping
  • What a nuisance standard is, and how it can be used to help
  • Why the public misunderstanding of bees versus hornets or yellow jackets can cause such huge issues for residential beekeepers
  • What Mike has experienced with unnecessary rules and regulations on residential beekeeping in municipalities and counties
  • How Mike circumvented regulations in an Oregon house bill with education instead
  • How the committee behind the bill developed the education guidelines
  • What Mike recommends for municipalities looking to manage their residential beekeeping issues
  • Mike’s advice for residential beekeepers that get cited

“Rules do not make or break problems with beekeeping. They don’t really help anything, they don’t accomplish anything.” – Mike Rodia

Links Mentioned:

Lori Weidenhammer on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This week we catch up with Lori Weidenhammer about her book Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees. Lori was recently through Corvallis for the Oregon Bee School and this offered an opportunity to talk about the book before class one morning. Lori is a Vancouver performance-based interdisciplinary artist and educator. As you hear in the show, she is originally from a tiny hamlet called Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan. It is in this place, bordered by wheat fields and wild prairie, that she first became enchanted with bees. For the past several years she has been appearing as the persona Madame Beespeaker, practicing the tradition of “telling the bees”. As a food security volunteer and activist Lori works with students of all ages on eating locally and gardening for pollinators.

Listen in to learn more about victory gardens, the cultural importance of bees over time, and how artists and scientists work together to educate the world.

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“If you want to grow food to feed yourself, you also need to feed the bees. We need to feed the bees.” – Lori Weidenhammer

Show Notes:

  • How Lori became so passionate about bees
  • Why it has been so important to “tell the bees” about birth and death
  • How the conversation around and awareness of bees has changed
  • What the victory gardens of World War II have to do with bees
  • The many ways Lori’s community cooperates to make a community pollinator habitat
  • What makes a garden a victory garden
  • How herbs can make your garden more vibrant with pollinators and help your vegetables thrive
  • Why a pollinator garden in a very small plot can still be extremely effective
  • What Lori sees as the future of collaboration between artists and scientists
  • How to engage kids into wonder and learning of pollinators

“Community gardens come and go, so what you really need to do is also have herbs, which are perennials that come back year after year to give a really good supply of pollen and nectar, and they can also act as medicine cabinets for bees.” – Lori Weidenhammer

Links Mentioned:

Sam Droege on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This week, students with Oregon State University’s Bee School took a break in the OSU Pollinator Gardens on their last day of class (they were working on the Apidae) to ask questions of native bee biologist Sam Droege. Sam Droege is a biologist with the US Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, in Maryland. He has coordinated the North American Breeding Bird Survey Program, developed the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, the BioBlitz, Cricket Crawl, and FrogwatchUSA programs and worked on the design and evaluation of monitoring programs. Currently, he is developing an inventory and monitoring program for native bees, and online identification guides for North American bees.

Listen in to learn more about how to plant a garden for pollinators using non-native plants, and the complexities of pollinator research in the field.

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“When I’m working with people, I tell them, ‘you’re only allowed to work on a specimen for five minutes. If you haven’t identified them in five minutes, put it down and do a different specimen.’ Because at that point your return is less and less for the amount of effort.” – Sam Droege

Show Notes:

  • Which non-native plants are best for home gardeners and pollinators
  • What non-native plants act as a “bird feeder for the crow and sparrow bees”
  • The pollinator species that Sam loves and dislikes the most
  • Sam’s strategies in species identification with large studies
  • Why Sam doesn’t bother identifying male pollinators most of the time
  • Why researching pollinators almost always involves some kind of lethal trapping technique
  • What Sam would like the general public to know about pollinators
  • The role that all people play to help the pollinator population
  • How to avoid causing problems in your community with your home pollinator habitat

“With non-native plants you can get a lot of bees coming to a number of different kinds of plants, but think of these plants as bird feeders for the crow and sparrow bees. So if you put a bird feeder in the middle of the city you get lots of birds but you are not getting flamingos, warblers and shearwaters, your getting crows, chickadees… the things that don’t need our help, but the things we love having around. ” – Sam Droege

Links Mentioned:

Dale Mitchell on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Beginning in 2013, Oregon faced a series of bumble bee poisoning incidences associated with pesticide use on linden trees. In response, the Oregon Legislature passed the Avoidance of Adverse Effects on Pollinating Insects bill. A key provision of this legislation was for Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to develop a bee incidence reporting system to facilitate public reporting of incidences related to pollinator health. This week we hear about how this reporting system works from Dale Manager, a Program Manager with ODA’s Pesticide section. This week’s guest host is Oregon Bee Project’s Steering Committee member and ODA’s Pesticide Registration and Certification Specialist Gilbert Uribe.

Listen in to this episode to learn how the Department of Agriculture handles suspected pesticide-related bee incidents, and what they do to prevent them.

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“I would like to encourage any citizens within the state of Oregon to report any suspected bee related incident. That information is valuable to the department and others involved in evaluating pollinator health.” – Dale Mitchell

Show Notes:

  • When Dale got started in the Department of Agriculture’s pesticide division
  • What steps are taken in a normal bee kill investigation
  • How the investigative process changes under different conditions
  • What separates the bee kill investigations from their normal procedures
  • How the Department of Agriculture enforces their rules and regulations
  • How the ODA’s process compares to those of other states
  • Why Oregon’s data collection follows a national guideline
  • What changed since the Wilsonville bee incident
  • Why the Wilsonville incident gained so much public awareness

“Bee or pollinator concerns is only one type of investigative activity that we follow up on, but the process is really a fact finding process.” – Dale Mitchell

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Bob Peterson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachilie rotandata) don’t make the headlines like honey bees do, but they are pretty important to agricultural production. These bees pollinate alfalfa plants to make the seed that gets planted out across hay fields across the US and beyond. This week we learn about the peculiar management system associated with leafcutting bees. Our guide is Dr. Bob Peterson, who is Professor of Entomology at Montana State University, where he leads the research, teaching, and outreach program in Agricultural and Biological Risk Assessment. Dr. Peterson also shares insights from his work around alfalfa leafcutting bee management and vector control.

Dr. Peterson has authored or co-authored 110 peer-reviewed journal articles, 14 book chapters, and one book. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including environmental risk assessment, insect ecology, and various special-topics graduate courses. In 2019, he will become president of the Entomological Society of America, the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn about the uniqueness of leafcutting bees, how they’re managed, and how to keep your bees safe in using pesticides.

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“The goal here is that we manage populations using the best science to have the minimal impact on the environment. That’s the ultimate goal.” – Dr. Bob Peterson

Show Notes:

  • How alfalfa leafcutting bees are managed
  • The life history of the alfalfa leafcutting bee
  • Why honey bees are not good pollinators for the alfalfa crop
  • The technology used to manage alfalfa leafcutting bees
  • What conflicts arise between mosquito control and managing leafcutting bees
  • Why understanding the difference between toxicity and risk is so crucial in using pesticides
  • What techniques leafcutting bee operators can use to minimize collateral damage of pesticides
  • Why honeybees are more sensitive to pesticides, despite being larger than leafcutting bees
  • The alternatives to pesticide in combating mosquitoes
  • Bob’s advice for those managing leafcutting bees on minimizing their exposure to pesticides

“When you look at an alfalfa field, if it has what looks like little metal or wooden sheds in the field, that’s where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of leafcutting bees are doing their jobs.” – Dr. Bob Peterson

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Hollis Woodard on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Bees can live in some extreme environments; from the hot deserts of the US southwest, to the tundra in Alaska and northern Canada. Dr. Hollis Woodard’s research focuses on the underlying mechanisms that allow these bees to adapt to these extremes, providing insights into basic bee biology that can help us understand how bees might respond to our rapidly-changing planet. Dr. Woodard is an Assistant Professor of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside. From 2013-2015, she was a USDA-NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow working on the nutritional ecology of bumble bees with Dr. Shalene Jha at the University of Texas at Austin. She received a PhD in Biology in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she worked with Dr. Gene Robinson on the molecular basis of social evolution in bees.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn about the bees that evolved in vastly different climates, and why Dr. Woodard’s lab studies the way they have adapted.

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“I started thinking, I have learned a lot about bee nutrition and behavior to answer fundamental biological questions about bumble bees, but if this group is in trouble maybe I can take what I learned to apply to questions of how to conserve them.” – Dr. Hollis Woodard

Show Notes:

  • Bumble bee diversity and the wide range of habitats they have adapted to living in.
  • How bees in the arctic have changed to fit within their environment.
  • How bees have evolved sociality multiple independent times, but how all share common sugar metabolic pathways.
  • Why some bumblebee populations are doing okay while others are in steep decline.
  • The challenges that are facing native bees today.
  • The key challenges to a national native bee monitoring system and some of the ideas for tackling these problems.
  • Why E.O. Wilson has been such a big inspiration for Dr. Woodard.

“There are some groups across the US who are monitoring for native bees and one the things we can do [to monitor bees as a country] is start to unite some of these efforts and link up and standardize approaches. We need to move beyond the borders of a state, because many bees don’t exist within the boundaries of one state.” – Dr. Hollis Woodard

Links Mentioned:

Oregon Pollinator Week 2018 on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Oregon just hosted its largest Pollinator Week in its history and we thought it was a great opportunity to catch up with some of the people who made the over 20 events in the state happen. We start the episode at the Pollinator Festival in Klamath Falls (June 22) where we caught up with Dr. Nicole Sanchez (Assistant Professor, Horticulture, OSU) and Akimi King (Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service), we then met up with Rich Little (Linn County Master Gardeners, Oregon Bee Atlas) and Tim Wydronek (Linn Benton Beekeepers Association) at the event at the Corvallis Farmers Market (June 23), followed by Pam Leavitt (Lane County Beekeepers Association) and Alison Center (North American Butterfly Association) at the Eugene Science Center (June 23). The episode concludes at the final event of Oregon Pollinator Week at the High Desert Museum in Bend with Margaret Marshall (Master Gardeners) and Louise Shirley (Natural History Curator, High Desert Museum). It’s a great episode to learn how to engage the public around issues of pollinator health.

Listen in to this special episode to learn how young students can learn about pollinator science and health, and the way education is changing young minds.

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“It’s so cool to see so many kids out here checking out pollinators, and how sophisticated they are and how they really do know a lot about these insects already.” – Nicole Sanchez

Show Notes:

  • How Nicole is engaging school children in pollinator education
  • Why microscopes are a key component of early science education
  • The role of flies in pollination
  • Why kids will probably remember the time they made “bombs” for Oregon Pollinator Week
  • The importance of monarch butterflies in Klamath Falls
  • Why people need to know the difference between bees and wasps
  • How Tim is cleverly showing the importance of pollinators in our food
  • Tim’s advice for people interested in keeping bees of their own
  • Why Pam believes early childhood education is crucial
  • How education is changing fear of bees into curiosity
  • How to help out the monarch butterfly population
  • What makes Bend’s High Desert Museum unique
  • How the location of the High Desert Museum helps immerse it’s attendees

“I think the National Pollinator Week is very important because it gives us an opportunity to remind people what role pollinators play in their health.” – Rich Little

Links Mentioned:

Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

PolliNation was joined this week by Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch from Virginia Tech. As you will learn in this episode, the Couvillon Lab investigates the dynamics of how pollinators collect their food in the landscape, with a specific focus on honey bee foraging, recruitment, and health. Dr. Couvillon is in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Schürch is a Research Assistant Professor studying the Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Insects. Over the last few years he has become increasingly interested in the honey bee waggle dance both as a tool for foraging ecologists, as well as from a basic science perspective. Today they talk about their collaborative work on using honey bee dance behavior as a way to assess habitat quality for bees.

Listen to today’s episode to find out what we can learn from bee dances, and how home gardeners can make a difference creating their own pollinator habitat.

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“Let’s say you want to assess a large area for bee forage availability. If you are a traditional ecologist, you would walk transects and catalog the flowers you see, collect nectar and pollen samples to determine how much each flower is producing, and you have to account for competition. […] Even if you could do all that we calculated that it would take over 1,600 days to cover 90 km2. This is why we turned to the honey bee. The honey bee can do a lot of this hard work for us.” – Dr. Margaret Couvillon

Show Notes:

  • How to measure the efficacy of small pollinator habitats
  • Why the size of the habitat may not as big of a factor in pollinator population growth
  • Why a bee’s dance can point to their pollen sources
  • How researchers are able to use the bee’s dance to extrapolate useful data
  • How a bee’s dance moves dictate distance and direction of food
  • What we can learn from the inaccuracy of a bee’s dance
  • How Margaret and Roger are using this research to develop habitat restoration for pollinators
  • What one can answer with this research
  • What our guests will be focusing on in their upcoming research
  • The techniques Margaret and Roger use to create the most useable data in researching bee dances
  • What can be learned from studying the miscommunication of the bee dances

“If you put an observation hive in a landscape and observe the duration of the honey bee dances, which translate into foraging distance, you will be able to say [whether a habitat is good or bad for the bees] at a given time.” – Dr. Roger Schürch

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Ramesh Sagili on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Ramesh Sagili is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University and heads up OSUs mighty Bee Lab. He is a regular guest on PolliNation and this week he comes on the show to tell us how to manage colonies for an intense honey flow (happening right now in Western Oregon with the onset of the blackberry flow). It’s also been an unusual year with colonies brooding up early in the year and this brings on the threat of varroa mites. Dr. Sagili explains why an early spring can be both a blessing and a curse and what to do about it.

On today’s episode, learn how to keep your bees healthy and productive, what is most important in maintaining your bees, and how to prevent varroa mites.

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“Close to 50% of the nectar that [honeybees] bring in around the year is from blackberries.” – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Show Notes:

  • How beekeepers can get ready for blackberry nectar season
  • What the process is of getting honey into the colonies
  • What honey supers and queen excluders are
  • Why wax production is such an important factor and can’t be overlooked in honey production
  • Why this season is the perfect time to consider dividing your colony
  • What other opportunities are available for beekeepers during this season
  • How to learn when to perform key maintenance with your bee boxes
  • How to use your honey supers
  • Why beekeepers should be concerned with mites for this season’s bees
  • What treatments are available for varroa mites
  • What Sagili’s lab is doing this upcoming year at Oregon State University

“Oregon is not a great place to raise queens, but I think between the window of June through August, it’s a good time raise your own queens here.” – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Links Mentioned:

Mimi Jenkins on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Mimi Jenkins is a PhD candidate at Clemson University in wildlife biology studying how wildflowers in watermelon fields affect the diversity and crop pollination services by native bees to watermelon. Mimi works with watermelon growers in coastal and central SC as well as researchers at Clemson and the USDA Vegetable Lab in Charleston, SC. Mimi holds a Masters in Biology from the University of Akron where she studied plant-pollinator interactions in Ohio wetlands. Mimi has also worked at USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center identifying bees and other pollinators. Mimi first became fascinated with bees at the University of Pittsburgh working as an undergraduate research assistant in Tia-Lynn Ashman’s lab. In the future, Mimi hopes to continue in the field of conservation of pollinators working in urban and sustainable agriculture.

Listen in to learn about Mimi’s work studying the pollination of watermelon, and how farmers can improve their crop through cultivating pollinator systems.

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“Watermelon is one of those crops that is entirely dependent on pollinators in order to set fruit.” – Mimi Jenkins

Show Notes:

  • How watermelons rely so completely on pollination to survive
  • How much a pollinator needs to provide to fully pollinate a watermelon flower
  • When the seedless variety became popular and how that affects the process
  • How farmers plant their watermelon crop to maximize their numbers
  • How the native bees that interact with watermelon change across the US
  • What watermelon growers need to take into account with their pollinator systems
  • What Mimi is finding in her studies of pollinators in South Carolina
  • The great side effects of having flower strips for pollinators
  • Which flowers brought the greatest diversity in Mimi’s experience

“We don’t need to be spraying herbicides everywhere to clear all the weedy flowers that are naturally there; we can use those areas to provide that additional resource for pollinators. ” – Mimi Jenkins

Links Mentioned:

  • Connect with Mimi Jenkins at her website