Lynn A. Royce, Ph.D. did her doctoral research on tracheal mites of honey bees and has studied pollinators for over 30 years.

She is a passionate scientist who cares deeply about implementing research in practical applications to improve honey bee health.

In this episode, we talk about her organization Tree Hive Bees, and how you can perform “bee-lining” to trace wild bees back to their colonies in trees.

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“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about how bees perceive stuff and why they would look at one tree over another.” – Lynn Royce

Show Notes:

  • Where honey bees used to live in the wild
  • How the honey bee would find a big enough cavity in a tree
  • How a bee colony looks like when they don’t have a man-made bee hive
  • How bee-lining works
  • How to catch bees in order to trace them back to their wild home
  • Why she started Tree Hive Bees
  • What we can learn from the bees’ natural habitat

“Maybe we need to go back to the bee tree and see what we’ve changed that we might be able to get back to the bees that might help them.” – Lynn Royce

Links Mentioned:

Ellie Andrews is a PhD student in Development/Rural Sociology at Cornell University. As honey bees across the US face a range of challenges, keeping bees healthy and productive requires ever more skill and investment. Her research seeks to understand the sociological dimensions of these educational imperatives: how are new beekeepers learning to keep bees and how are experienced ones adapting to new challenges?

Ellie is interested in how people evaluate and use different sources of information about beekeeping, how the motivation to “save the bees” informs beekeepers’ management decisions and colony survival, and how individuals’ approach to “sustainable beekeeping” may change as they gain experience and expertise. Her research is based on interviewing beekeepers across New York State and beyond, observing beekeeping clubs and classes (including serving as an officer in her own club), helping put together Cornell’s new and improved Master Beekeeping program, and going into the archives to research the origins of beekeeping extension programs and the professionalization of beekeeping over the last century.

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“In 2008, people started answering the survey saying they were keeping bees in order to save them.” – Ellie Andrews

Show Notes:

  • How Ellie became interested in the intersection of bee keeping and sociology
  • What rural resilience means
  • How bee keeping as a social activity can become more robust
  • Why more people are doing bee keeping now in order to “save the bees”
  • What sustainable bee keeping means for different people
  • How people are learning about bee keeping
  • The role of bee clubs and how they are doing
  • Why lots of bee clubs are experiencing a revitalization
  • The enormous surge in bee keeping around WWI and WWII and what that can teach us

“There’s no consensus on what sustainability means for bees, for agriculture more broadly, and natural resource management beyond that.” – Ellie Andrews

Links Mentioned:

Ellen Topitzhofer works for the Bee Informed Partnership, an innovative organization across the U.S. that works with commercial bee keepers to tackle some of their most pressing pest management issues.

In this episode, we discuss the unique pest issues in the Pacific Northwest, and explore the universal problem of varroa mites in bee colonies. We talk about how best to manage those pests, the relationship of the mites to the bees and pollination patterns, and more.

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“Some of the most beautiful places I’ve been to have been bee yards.” – Ellen Topitzhofer

Show Notes:

  • What the Bee Informed partnership is and how it started
  • How they educated commercial bee keepers
  • What makes Pacific Northwest beekeeping different than other regions of the country
  • An introduction to varroa mites
  • How to treat for these types of mites
  • What the tech transfer team does
  • The logistics of sampling for mites
  • Why varroa mites increase when colonies go into Pollination
  • How mites move from an apiary to another
  • How their research changes the way that commercial bee keepers operate
  • Why some bees drift to different colonies

“We help bee keepers colonies by testing colonies, to assist commercial bee keepers in making management decisions about queen breeding, pests, and colony health. .” -Ellen Topitzhofer

Links Mentioned:

Jen Holt is the brand new Coordinator for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program at OSU.

In this episode, we’ll learn about how Jen got interested in bees, what she sees for the future of the program, and the ins and outs of how the program functions today.

We discuss beekeeping education from the start to the master – how to take a regular person and turn them into a beekeeper. Jen is co-appointed to the OSU Pollinator Health Program, so we talk about creating synergy between the two programs.

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“We don’t want people to be turned away from beekeeping just because they don’t have the knowledge to succeed.” – Jen Holt

Show Notes:

  • How Jen learned to become a beekeeper
  • Some of the things that people who are interested in working with bees worry about
  • The many levels of the master beekeeping program in Oregon
  • How the geographic diversity of Oregon presents challenges and opportunities
  • How the master beekeepers teach the program in different part of the state
  • How the curriculum is developed for the program
  • How the program is powered by volunteers
  • What Jen Holt sees going forward for the program
  • How beekeeping connects us back to ancient times

“I would like to increase the partnership in the program between honey bees and native bees, because honey bees are often a gateway to learning about native bees.” – Jen Holt

Links Mentioned:

Bee habitat in agricultural landscapes is key element in any good strategy for pollinator health. But farmers have a lot going on and may not have clear answers to some important pollination questions.

Our guest is here to help us with these issues. Jessa Kay Cruz is the Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist for California with the Xerces Society.

Based in Sacramento, Jessa works closely with landowners and farmers, developing strategies for overcoming misconceptions when it comes to pollinators and their habitats.

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“One thing that has happened with modern agriculture is that we really lost biodiversity in our agricultural systems..” – Jessa Kay Cruz

Show Notes:

  • How diverse agricultural landscapes are today compared to past decades
  • Why food deserts are being created for bees
  • How farmers can be stewards of the land
  • Some of the misconceptions about bees that growers have
  • How the Xerces Society provides support for farmers and growers
  • As a farmer, what are key considerations when you want to put in a pollinator habitat?
  • Why even some organic pesticides are harmful to bees and how to separate spray areas from habitat areas
  • How to select the plants to put in when making a habitat area
  • Why it’s important to plant a diversity of different types of plants
  • Why planting un-flowering plants can help create nesting areas for bees
  • How to prepare the habitat area before you plant
  • Why you might not want to till up the soil

“Bees are just like people that way, they have different preferences, and they eat a good diversity of different sources of pollen. And different pollen provides certain nutrients for bees.” – Jessa Kay Cruz

Links Mentioned:

Ruth Marsh is a multidisciplinary artist based out of Halifax, NS. Her work uses absurd and often comically deadpan narratives to address loss, absence and longing in the context of living creatures and the natural world. She is interested in investigating themes of environmental loss through labour intensive meditations on transformation: life to death, experience to memory and the surrealistic degradation of information that occurs with each successive change of state.

In this episode, we talk about her work repairing bees. She creates these labor-intensive repairs using found objects, and uses exhibitions of the work to bring together people from the scientific and art community.

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“I am hoping that when someone sees an individual bee that has been repaired with so much care that they can build an empathetic relationship with a creature that might not necessarily be seen as an individual and not necessarily relatable to in a human way.” – Ruth Marsh

Show Notes:

  • How Ruth creates her work and why
  • Why people send her bees in the mail
  • About her stop-motion video with the bees she repairs
  • How her work showcases the diversity of bees
  • The distinct rolls that scientists and artists can take in engaging people around issues in pollinator health
  • What it’s like to see one of Ruth’s exhibitions
  • The importance of amateur scientists
  • How to taxidermy a bee
  • How artists can be activist for change

“There seems to be a really strong grassroots movement making people aware of issues faced by pollinators, so there’s a more hopeful aspect to my work.” – Ruth Marsh

Links Mentioned:

Scott MacIvor is an Assistant Professor of Urban Ecology at the University of Toronto at Scarborough in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Scott is also a researcher at the Green Roof Innovation Testing (GRIT) lab at the University of Toronto in the faculty of Landscape Architecture. Scott has published 12 peer-reviewed articles on green roof ecology and performance, and works with the City of Toronto Planning Division on a number of projects, which have included the ‘Bees of Toronto’ Biodiversity Series book, and the ‘Guidelines for Biodiverse Green Roofs’.

Today we’re talking about the Bees of Toronto book, what makes the city special for pollinators, and why urban habitats are so important for bee conservation.

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“We are really interested in mainstreaming biodiversity.” – Scott MacIvor

Show Notes:

  • Why Toronto is a great place for bees
  • How the history of Toronto has made it a great place for pollinators
  • The different kinds of bees that you can find in Toronto
  • Is there such a thing as an invasive bee or not?
  • How they came about writing the Bees of Toronto book
  • The many different types of people who care for bees in Toronto
  • Why more and more of people’s experiences with nature are happen within an urban realm
  • How artists are being inspired by pollinators
  • Some of the threats to bee declines in cities
  • Why soil conditions are important for more than 75% of the bees in Toronto
  • The limiting factors of studying bees in cities
  • Why cities might act as a refuge for bees
  • How bees interact with their landscapes in different ways
  • Why all landscapes need to be conservation areas

“We know about our bees in Toronto than almost any other city in the world.” – Scott MacIvor

Links Mentioned:

Laura Taylor works for the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. In this episode, find what happens when a local government wants to do something to help pollinator health.

As a conservation technician and an educational coordinator, Laura created an innovative program to monitor wild pollinators around restoration sites.

Learn how she got the monitoring program off the ground, what you can do for landowners wanting to help create pollinator habitats, and how they teach people to identify pollinators.

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“What can we do to encourage people to convert their monoculture lawns into something more diverse that will support a myriad of wildlife including pollinators and beneficial insects?” – Laura Taylor

Show Notes:

  • How wild pollinators fit into the mission of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Some of the biggest challenges to pollinators in this area
  • How they work with land owners to set priorities for conservation and pollinator habitat
  • What initially drew her interest in pollinators
  • How they build their Meadowscaping Handbook
  • How their pollinator monitoring program works
  • What the program does to educate landowners
  • How long it takes to teach someone to be able to identify insects and bees
  • What they learned from teaching people about bees in the first year of their program
  • What the future holds for the pollinator monitoring program

“Our pollinator monitoring, citizen science program sounds like a data collection program, but the main inspiration for it was the education benefit it would have for participants.” – Laura Taylor

Links Mentioned:

Aimee Code is the Pesticide Program Director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

During her career she has worked in urban and agricultural setting to mitigate the risks of pesticide use and promote integrated pest management programs.

She also works with communities ​around the country to implement policies and practices to restore dwindling pollinator populations.​

Today we discuss how to mitigate the use of chemicals and pesticides on farms and around pollinator habitats, as well as what to do when you have to use chemicals.

We talk about the best places to build and locate pollinator habitat, and more.

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“If we take step back we realize that about half of the US land base is agriculture.” – Aimee Code

Show Notes:

  • What the Xerces society is all about
  • The initiatives that they have to work with farmers to better preserve pollinators
  • How to look for habits in agriculture landscapes
  • What the society does to put pollinator habit back in place where it was lost
  • Why they are focusing on habit for pollinators instead of other aspects of conservation
  • How pesticide exposure commonly happens
  • How to create more resilient farming practices so that less chemicals are being used
  • The growing body of research on how harmful fungicides can be to pollinators
  • How to choose where your pollinator habits are going to be located
  • Why native bees are often more at risk to pesticides than honey bees

“He used to work to deter insects on his farm. Now he’s working to support beneficial insects. It’s a complete shift in his thinking.” – Aimee Code

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Meghan Milbrath began working bees with her father as a child over 20 years ago, and now owns and manages The Sand Hill Apiary, a small livestock and queen rearing operation in Munith, Michigan.

She studied biology at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and received degrees in public health from Tulane University and the University of Michigan, where she focused on environmental and disease transmission risk. Meghan worked as a postdoctoral research associate under Zachary Huang at Michigan State University, studying nosema disease, and is currently an academic specialist at MSU, where she does honey bee and pollinator research and extension and is the coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative.

Meghan is active in multiple beekeeping organizations, writes for multiple beekeeping journals, and speaks about bees all over the country. She currently runs the Northern Bee Network, a directory and resource site dedicated to supporting queen producers, and she is passionate about keeping and promoting healthy bees.

Today, we discuss queen rearing, keeping healthy bees, and how to make the best use of the Northern Bee Network.

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“We need this national system of bees because we need to eat food. My little backyard operation doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of that national system.” – Dr. Meghan Milbrath

Show Notes:

  • Why genetics is such an important part of how a colony performs
  • What queen breeding involves
  • How people go about trying to make bees that can better handle different diseases
  • Why demand for queens is unbelievably high
  • What the Northern Bee Network is and how they provide access for bees in their area
  • Why Northern backyard beekeepers don’t need bees from the South
  • How to get involved in the network
  • What to do if you want to sell local queens
  • Other things you can do on the Northern Bee Network website
  • How bees are bred to develop resistance to diseases
  • Resources for small scale queen-rearing operations
  • How the trading and exchange portion of the network functions
  • What they are going to do with the Northern Bee Network in the future
  • Why it’s important when you’re starting out to find people who are raising bees really well

“The most important thing is to talk to people and work with someone who is already keeping bees really well.” – Dr. Meghan Milbrath

Links Mentioned: