Robert Coffin and Josh Loy on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

In past episodes, we have highlighted the important role golf courses play in pollinator health. In today’s episode, we talk about a fantastic success story here in Oregon. Earlier this month, Stewart Meadows Golf Course in Medford, Oregon became Oregon’s first golf course with certified Monarch Butterfly Waystations. This effort came about through a great partnership between the golf course and one of Oregon’s most active pollinator protection group, the Southern Oregon Monarchs Advocates. In this episode, we hear about how the partnership came about, how to create certified Monarch Waystations, and how Stewart Meadows integrated the waystations into their course.

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“We want to put in more of these monarch waystations and pollinator habitats. To me, that is a wonderful next step, not only for the golf course, but for all the monarchs and our entire community.” – Robert Coffin

Show Notes:

  • What a monarch waystation is and why it’s important
  • What got Robert and Josh started in working on them
  • How the waystations benefit both the butterflies and the golf courses where they reside
  • How weed pressure has been dealt with on the course
  • What other types of waystations exist outside of golf courses
  • What it means when a monarch waystation is certified
  • How you can get your own waystation certified
  • The importance of maintenance with waystations and pollinator habitats
  • How the plots of land were prepared before becoming a waystation
  • How waystations have become a way of educating the public on pollinators
  • Why the monarch population has gotten so low this year in particular

“Anything we can do to help kids experience what I and other kids my age did when we were [younger], if we can bring more of the monarch’s back, let’s do this.” – Josh Loy

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

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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
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:

Travis Owen on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Travis Owen is a self-described nature enthusiast with a passion for pollination ecology and the role of pollinators in the environmental context of Southern Oregon. His passions have grown and evolve over time. In his twenties he was a DJ, then taught himself to build furniture, began to learn the ways of plants, then pollinators. All the while, he was teaching himself how to take pictures and write about what he sees on his fantastic website: the Amateur Anthecologist. His day job is as a commercial beekeeper for an established queen breeder.

Listen in to learn more about the science of anthecology, how you can develop resources for pollinators, and what makes the honeybee unique to other bees.

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“I was really excited to share what I saw. I feel really passionate about it, and I want other people to be passionate about it, too.” – Travis Owen

Show Notes:

  • How Travis got into anthecology
  • What drew Travis into beekeeping and bees in general
  • How honeybees are actually an outsider in comparison to most other bees
  • What bees are common in Southern Oregon
  • The common plant life that the bees of Southern Oregon thrive on
  • What gives large carpenter bees their claim to fame in the insect world
  • What an anthecologist is and what it entails
  • The differences between the amateur and professional anthecologist
  • The small amount of work it takes to help support the pollinator population
  • What is the biggest threat to the bee population

“I think there’s around 3,000-4,000 [different species of bees] in the country, and they’re all so different.” – Travis Owen

Links Mentioned:

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.

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“[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:

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.

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“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: