Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Chakrabarti is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Ramesh Sagili’s Honey Bee Lab at Oregon State University. Her chief focus lies in improving honey bee health by understanding honey bee nutrition and deciphering the effects of pesticides on pollinators. At the Sagili Honey Bee Lab, she is currently studying the key nutrients essential for improving honey bee health. She employs various techniques of molecular ecology, neuroethology, insect physiology, ecotoxicology and apicultural practices to address her research questions. She earned her PhD from the Department of Zoology and Centre for Pollination Studies at the University of Calcutta in India, where she studied the effects of pesticides on native wild Indian honey bees. She was the recipient of the prestigious Royal Society Newton International Fellowship. She also pursued research at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, UK, being awarded the prominent Newton Bhaba PhD Placement Fellowship. She has published several peer reviewed scientific journals, books chapters and extension articles. Apart from mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, she also interacts at daylong seminars with schoolchildren to teach honey bee biology and spread environmental and pollinator awareness.

Listen in to learn the importance of sterols in honeybee health, why they are so important, and the research Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti has done on them.

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“[Sterols] are building blocks of cellular membranes. That is why we are trying to focus on them, because without these sterols, you would basically have a dead bee.” – Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti

Show Notes:

  • The key nutrients that are needed to make a bee
  • Why sterols are so important for bee nutrition, and where they get it from
  • How sterols are a honeybee’s first line of defense against pests and parasites
  • What intrigued Priyadarshini about sterols and the role they play with bees
  • How Priyadarshini tested the effects of sterols and the research it was based on
  • The results of her study and what beekeepers can learn from it
  • What sterols were found in all different kinds of bee food
  • What Priyadarshini and her team are hoping to learn by continuing their study into metabolites

“It’s not just one nutrient, it’s a combination of various factors. We are focusing on phytosterols for now, and we are hoping to also look at the various factors that go into it.” – Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti

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Harry Vanderpool on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Harry Vanderpool has been a beekeeper for 25 years in the south hills of Salem, Oregon. Vanderpool Farms is now a family operation providing pollination services and farm direct honey. Harry has served as Vice President and President of the Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association and Vice President and President of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association, and enjoys working with stakeholders and sometimes conflicting agricultural sectors in a balanced manner to find solutions that will offer meaningful pollinator protection strategies.

Listen in to learn Harry’s effective communication methods, how he builds bridges with others in agriculture, and what he’s done for pollinators in the PNW.

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“We’re really all working hard and trying to make a living at the same time, and working together is the answer to that.” – Harry Vanderpool

Show Notes:

  • How Harry learned to communicate with growers who use pesticides with his bees
  • ‘Christmas tree honey’ and why it attracts honeybees
  • The key for Harry in developing good relationships with pesticide applicators
  • How to help crop producers understand the role bees play and how it will help them
  • How Harry further develops the partnership between his bees and the growers
  • Why it’s important that ‘pollination services’ are provided instead of renting the hives
  • The way Harry helps others use resources to prevent bee poisoning with pesticides
  • What resources Harry has provided to crop consultants, growers, and beekeepers in the Pacific Northwest, and how it has affected pollinator health

“There’s no easy money in agriculture, and banging your fist on the table and pointing your finger will put walls up. I want to build bridges.” – Harry Vanderpool

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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

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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

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

Mark L Winston on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Mark Winston was the recipient of the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction for his book Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive. One of the world’s leading experts on bees and pollination, Dr. Winston is also an internationally recognized researcher, teacher and writer. He directed Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue for 12 years, where he founded the Centre’s Semester in Dialogue, a program that creates leadership development opportunities that equip and empower students contribute to social change in communities.

In this episode Mark reflects on 30 years since the publication of his first book “Biology of the Honey Bee” (1987) and the forthcoming release of his latest book with Renée Sarojini Saklikar “Listening to the Bees” (2018).  He discusses how communication (both within and beyond the hive) has been a thread through his work.

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“For a number of years I was [not working with bees], but I found first that I missed it, I missed the people, I missed the bees, and then I started realizing all the stuff I was doing in dialogue grew out of my life in bees“. – Mark Winston

Show Notes:

  • Mark’s reflections on writing “Honey Bee Biology” in the mid-1980s
  • Mark’s work the role of honey bee queen mandibular pheromone
  • How to write in a way that is accessible to a broad audience
  • Mark talks about his long-running column in Bee Culture magazine
  • What has remained the same and what has changed around Mark’s thinking about bees.
  • What inspired Mark’s newest book “Listening to the Bees” (2018)
  • What is so unique about the format, style and writing in “Listening to the Bees”

“To me bees are unknowable, and I say that as someone who has done a lot of research and who has had a lot of students who helped us to learn more about bees“. – Mark Winston

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Jeff Reardon on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Representative Jeff Reardon has served the East Portland District of Happy Valley (District 48) in the Oregon Legislature since January 2013. Shortly after coming to office there was a tragic pesticide poisoning of bumble bees in a suburban big-box parking lot in Portland. Although he had been thinking about pollinator health before his election, he quickly found himself at the lead of an initiative to strike a Pollinator Health Task Force and then a comprehensive House Bill around pollinator health. House Bill 3362 is without equal in the United States and has not only tasked the Oregon State University Extension Service and state agencies to work on pollinator health, but has also committed resources towards carrying out this work. Representative Reardon was born and raised in the blue-collar town of Kelso, Washington and is a Vietnam Era Veteran (having served on a nuclear submarine in the Western Pacific). He had a busy career before entering politics, not only as a high school teacher but also as a communications manager with Tektronix.

Listen in as we talk about Reardon’s landmark bill, what it has done for pollinators, and how he involved the bee-keeping community.

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“[The Oregon Pollinator Health Bill] is one of my favorite projects, ever.“ – Jeff Reardon

Show Notes:

  • How Reardon’s landmark bill got started
  • How the bill evolved from initial intention
  • Who the key players were in passing the legislation
  • What is in the bill, and who it was for
  • How communication with beekeepers has helped revise the law for the better
  • Why Jeff is so passionate about the project

“We’re really concerned about how to inform the backyard gardener about pesticides and pollinators. If the trained license applicators are having this much trouble, then what do we do for the backyard gardeners?“ – Jeff Reardon

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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.

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“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

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