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

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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

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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

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John Gates on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

John Gates has been a beekeeper for 43 years. He served as the Apiculture Specialist British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Apiculture Program 1975-2002. He was a full-time commercial beekeeper from 2002-2015, specializing in bee breeding, stock production and pollination. He has lectured widely in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. Today, John joined us to talk about how you can build your own stock and offset colony losses by making nucleus colonies (nucs).

Listen in to learn about how John got started with nucleus colonies, how he has influenced other beekeepers, and what he saw change in his bees over time.

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“I started with Dr. Laidlaw’s book in one hand and a grafting needle in the other, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. It took a while until I was successful grafting those first few larvae.“ – John Gates

Show Notes:

  • What a “nuc” or nucleus colony is
  • What got John into making nucs
  • Reflection on John’s time working with British Columbia beekeeping legend John Corner
  • Why John’s operation of developing nucs brought in even more income than expected
  • The timeline of a nuc-making operation
  • How queen rearing fits into nuc production
  • John’s work with the British Columbia government revealed the importance of nuc-making to a profitable business
  • How stock improvement integrates into John’s beekeeping system
  • The importance of queen rearing workshops in getting the ball rolling

“I guess there had been some people producing queens in the past, but we didn’t really know much about it, so we just wanted to see if it was possible here. Can we produce good quality queens that will winter well, will be productive and gentle?“ – John Gates

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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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The Research Retinue is a new segment on PolliNation that goes into depth on research papers that have been recently featured in the news. The Retinue is made up of intrepid OSU undergraduates and this week involved Addison DeBoer (Biology), Lacy Haig (Zoology), Umayyah Wright (Environmental Science), Isabella Messer (Horticulture). They take up the question of the conservation implications of honey bees by examining two papers published in top research journals last month that take up this question from different angles.

Listen in to learn more about how honey bees affect global regions, which pollinators are the most effective, and how studies could improve their research.

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“Even if [honey bees] could [do the job of all the other pollinators combined], would we want them to? Because then we’d be missing out on all of the ecological variation of the other species.“ – Umayyah Wright

Show Notes:

  • How the honey bee contributes to pollination of wild plant communities worldwide
  • Why honey bee contributions to wild plant pollination can change due to many different environmental factors
  • How effective a pollinator the honey bee is in comparison to other bees
  • Why a pollinator’s native region is so important in it’s local ecosystem
  • Why simply pollinating plants is not the entire goal of pollinator protection
  • What is the most important trait of pollinators for conservation
  • Why these studies were useful, and what they need to improve
  • What the Research Retinue would like to see in the future for pollinator studies
  • Are their risks associated with beekeeping in sensitive areas
  • How different programs are taking steps to help home gardeners benefit the pollinator population
  • What home gardeners can do to help local pollinators flourish

“In the fight for bee conservation, we shouldn’t be focusing on honey bees because that’s an agricultural and economic issue, not a conservation issue.” – Isabella Messer

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Rose Kachadoorian is a Pesticide Regulatory Leader with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and oversees efforts involving pesticide registrations, certification and licensing of pesticide applicators, endangered species, and other pesticide related issues. She has been with ODA for over 20 years. She is also very heavily involved with pollinator protection issues at both the state and national level. Ms. Kachadoorian is President-Elect of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO), and is a Co-Chair of AAPCO’s Pollinator Protection Workgroup. She has also served on EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) Pollinator Metrics Workgroup.

Listen in to learn how your local and country agencies have fought for pollinator health, and what changes are taking place with farmers and regulators.

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“Communication and awareness is key to state plans.“ – Rose Kachadoorian

Show Notes:

  • How states have responded to issues about pollinator health
  • How the EPA and the states worked together to form pollinator protection
  • Why this partnership for pollinators really helps out the EPA
  • Why communication between every involved party is so important when applying pesticides
  • What bee flags are, and how Mississippi has used them
  • What best management practices exist for maintaining pollinator health
  • Why a certain incident really kicked off the pollinator protection movement in Oregon
  • How that incident caused broad awareness for all pollinators, not just honeybees
  • What makes Oregon unique in their response to incidents between bees and pesticides
  • Rose’s advice for beekeepers who suspect a pesticide-related incident
  • The process of determining the real cause of a bee-kill
  • Why pesticide labels should be checked with the EPA’s online database

“We did receive some direction from the EPA, but they really left it up to the states in developing their own plans, which really has been the smartest way to go about it.“ – Rose Kachadoorian

Links Mentioned:

Tom Landis on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Tom Landis has a PhD in Forest Ecology and has worked for 30 years as a nursery specialist for the USDA Forest Service. He now runs Native Plant Nursery Consulting and is a member of the Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, where he provides educational and hands-on Milkweed and Monarch Workshops. The Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates are a dynamic group of people united in a common goal: to help the western monarch butterfly focusing on public outreach, creating habitat by establishing Monarch Waystations, planting native milkweed and nectar species, and raising monarchs.

Listen in to learn more about the Monarch butterfly, what Monarch waystations are and why they exist, and their unique system of migration.

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“The adult butterfly weighs half as much as a paperclip, yet they fly 40 miles a day and up to 700 miles [to their destination].“ – Tom Landis

Show Notes:

  • Where the migratory Monarch butterflies live in Oregon
  • The unique migratory process of the Monarch butterfly
  • What fuels the super generation’s long migration
  • Why Monarchs need a certain kind of tree canopy to survive
  • What are Monarch waystations and who came up with the idea
  • What Monarch waystations contain for Monarch butterflies
  • How Tom is helping spread Monarch waystations throughout southern Oregon
  • What it means when you see a whole cluster of butterflies in one spot
  • How you can make your own Monarch waystation

“That’s what’s so amazing about monarchs; you think of that fourth generation, they’re flying back to where their great-great-grandparents came from, and they’ve never been there.“ – Tom Landis

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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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