Dr. Dave Smitley is a professor and researcher at Michigan State University.

He works with the turf grass and nursery industries to deal with emerging pest problems, and the greenhouse industry to grow plants in ways that are safe around pollinators.

In this episode we talk about practical tips as well as national initiatives to protect pollinators in urban landscapes.

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“You want to avoid putting in certain plants that you almost are required to use an insecticide on to keep it healthy.” -Dave Smitley

Show Notes:

  • How Dave began to research the safety of plants at garden centers for pollinators
  • How pollinator health is different in horticultural industries than in agricultural industries
  • How butterfly species are also part of the research into nursery plant health
  • Strategies that people can take around their garden to protect pollinators
  • What the modern threats to bees are
  • Why people end up with pest problems in their gardens
  • The products you can use to get rid of pests that won’t bother bees
  • How the largest plant centers have been pressured to change how they get their plants
  • What to look for when you are buying plants at the garden center
  • How nurseries have developed pollinator friendly plant lines
  • About the GrowWise BeeSmart initiative
  • Why lawn care effects bees as well
  • Some of the most pest-prone plants to keep your eye out for
  • How invasive pests change the game

“We have a lot of education to do for protecting pollinators.” – Dave Smitley

Links Mentioned:

Mike Burgett is the Emeritus Professor of Entomology at OSU, where he has taught since 1974.

He has conducted a huge amount of work on apiculture research, including a survey of beekeepers and growers in the Pacific Northwest of the US, which is our main topic for today.

Today we’ll discuss pollination markets as they are today, the history of beekeepers in this region and the unique pollination scenarios in the Pacific Northwest.

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“I wanted to know how much of a beekeeper’s income is dependent on pollination rental.” – Mike Burgett

Show Notes:

  • Where bees are being used for pollination in the Pacific Northwest
  • The fruit industries that need controlled pollination
  • Why the almond industry in California has an effect on commercial beekeepers in Oregon and Washington
  • How many colonies are needed to pollinate certain crops in the Pacific Northwest
  • Why Mike started the survey of local pollination markets in the Western US
  • The trends that he has seen in the last 30 years, and how commercial beekeepers stay profitable
  • How the price of pollination fees has changed
  • What has happened to the almond industry and why prices have increased so much
  • Why it’s a profitable time to be a beekeeper
  • The work that he has done in Southeast Asia with bees

“Your renting bees not to guarantee a crop. You’re renting bees to guarantee against crop failure. Pollination is the cheapest crop insurance a grower can get.” – Mike Burgett

Links Mentioned:

Dr. David Lowenstein is a post-doc researcher at Oregon State University’s Department of Horticulture.

Today we talk about Dr. Lowenstein’s fascinating research on urban pollinators during his time in Chicago.

In this episode we discuss biodiversity in a city, what property owners can do to attract pollinators, and the unique challenges of urban bee research.

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“Think of each homeowner as a land manager. So you’re working with a number of different perspectives.” – Dr. David Lowenstein

Show Notes:

  • Why Dr. Lowenstein starting researching wild pollinators in cities
  • About the biodiversity within a city
  • How pollinator numbers can be enhanced in cities
  • What property owners can do to encourage pollinators
  • The unusual places where bees nest in cities
  • The bee habitat he encountered in Chicago for his research
  • How you take a sample of plant life in a city lot
  • The unique challenges related to urban ecology work
  • How different bee communities can visit different plants in the same location
  • Why many urban bees that are pollinating are not honey bees
  • How vacant lots in cities with population decline effects bees
  • What Dr. Lowenstein has heard from everyday people about bees when doing his highly-visible urban research

“Even if we are producing an environment that is just great for pollinators, there’s a lot of factors that are out of our control.” – Dr. David Lowenstein

Links Mentioned:

Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, Dr. Joseph Wilson has coauthored a marvelous book called The Bees in Your Backyard.

We discuss the book in detail in the interview, including how to tell bees apart from other insects, common bee myths, and more.

Dr. Wilson has conducted research on evolution and ecology of bees and wasps, and frequently guests on radio and news media to discuss this increasingly hot topic.

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“Misconceptions can lead to misguided efforts to save bees.” – Dr. Joseph  Wilson

Show Notes:

  • Why they decided to write the book The Bees in Your Backyard
  • Some of the fundamental characteristics that make a bee
  • How to identify common myths about bees
  • Why most people don’t know about bees that are not honey bees
  • How they wrote the book so that it appealed to scientists and people who had never read a book about bees
  • How they made a key to help people understand how to identify a bee
  • About the research that Joseph does that goes beyond bees
  • The positive movement in citizen science when it comes to bees
  • Why bee research is hard because many places don’t have baseline data on bee populations
  • How to develop a backyard bee habitat
  • Why Joseph is fascinated with a type of bee that is only 2mm long

“As people learn to identify the bees in their yard, we can use that as baseline data.” – Dr. Joseph Wilson

Links Mentioned:

Today’s episode is all about getting the public involved in surveying and identifying different species of bees. Dr Elaine Evans is our guest. She’s the new Extensions Educator working on bee conservation at University of Minnesota.

Dr. Evans has been working on education and advocacy for native pollinators for a long time, and is the lead on a fascinating project called the Minnesota Bumblebee Survey.

Listen in to this episode to understand how you can get involved in some important citizen science initiatives.

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“We have really good evidence of decline in bumble bees. There are some bee species that seem to be stable though.” – Dr. Elaine Evans

Show Notes:

  • Why the University of Minnesota’s Extension decided to focus on pollinators this year
  • Getting citizens involved in monitoring bees
  • How Dr. Evans became interested in bees
  • About the book she wrote on bumblebees
  • How she started the Bumblebee Watch program
  • What’s going on with the decline of bumblebees in North America
  • How Citizen Science works in Minnesota to track bees
  • Ways that the Bumblebee Watch program uses pictures to identify bees
  • How to teach people to tell different bee species apart
  • How the program uses volunteers to track cavity nesting bees

“The Bee Squad is looking at using honey bees as a gateway to other pollinators.” – Dr. Elaine Evans

Links Mentioned:

Francis Ratnieks on PolliNation with Andony MelathopoulosWelcome to the first episode of PolliNation Podcast.

“A hairy vegetarian wasp.”

That’s how professor Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex describes the bee.

Professor Ratnieks has done a lot of research on bees, from honeybee biology to practical solutions for beekeepers and homeowners interested in encouraging pollinators.

This wide-ranging interview is full of tips for how to select pollinator plants, reasons for becoming a beekeeper, and common myths that people have about bees.

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“If you a beginning beekeeper, I would greatly advise getting some assistance from an experienced beekeeper.” – Francis Ratnieks

Show Notes:

  • Where Francis got his interest in honeybees
  • Why the advice on honeybees given to the public is not often that good
  • What the benefits are to keeping bees in cities
  • The unique challenges to keeping bees in urban areas
  • Tips for keeping bees in a way that doesn’t bother your neighbors
  • How many bee colonies a city block can support
  • Why planting floral resources may be the best way to save the bees
  • Why foreign species of plants may be just as good for honeybees as local varieties
  • How honeybees can fly up to 12km to find pollinators
  • Dispelling the myths that the public has about bees
  • How to recognize different species of bees
  • Avoiding bee stings and telling the difference between a bee sting and yellow jacket sting
  • What you can do to help bees in urban areas

Links Mentioned:

“Bees only sting if you get close to the hive, not when they are foraging.” – Francis Ratnieks

PolliNation is a podcast from Oregon State University Extension Service that tells the stories of researchers, land managers and concerned citizens who are making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators.

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More Episodes Coming Soon!