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.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“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:

Kristen Healy on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Kristen Healy is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Louisiana State University. She obtained her B.S. in Zoology and M.S. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Rhode Island, her Ph.D. in Entomology from Rutgers University, and a MPH in Environmental Health from UMDNJ. A key focus of her research at LSU has been collaborating with the USDA Honey Bee lab in Baton Rouge to evaluate how different stressors impact honey bee health. This has included evaluating the effects of mosquito control adulticides on honey bees. Most of her findings suggests that when done correctly and according to label instructions, there should be minimal impact to honey bees. Dr. Healy is now working with the USDA bee lab to evaluate the impact of other stressors, including mites and deformed wing virus, on honey bee health.

On this episode of PolliNation, Kristen and I will be talking about mosquito abatement techniques, their effect on pollinator health, and the research Kristen’s team has done to keep them safe.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“They really wanted to know if what they were doing with mosquito control was killing bees, so they asked if we could help address that topic.” – Kristen Healy

Show Notes:

  • What is the importance of insecticides on mosquitoes
  • What methods are used in mosquito abatement
  • How mosquito abatement programs can mitigate damaging pollinators
  • The two main factors in an adulticide’s potential risk to pollinators
  • Why mosquito control is often performed at night
  • The team that Kristen and LSU assembled to study adulticides on the bee population
  • How Kristen was able to balance her team’s research with stakeholders
  • What results came from Kristen’s team’s study
  • How honeybees can be bred to better withstand pesticides
  • What Kristen sees in the future of mosquito abatement and pollinator health

“I think that the key thing [for the future of mosquito abatement and pollinator health] is both communication and education.” – Kristen Healy

Links Mentioned: