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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Matt Arrington on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Matt Arrington recently graduated with a Ph.D. in horticulture from Washington State University. He has experience in applied plant research with small fruit and tree fruit.

Matt is currently working with Dr. Lisa DeVetter at the Small Fruit Horticulture program in Mount Vernon, Washington as a graduate research assistant. Key projects he is involved with include pollination and fruit set improvement in highbush blueberry.

Listen in to learn about highbush blueberries, and how honeybees can greatly benefit the pollination and harvest of your plants.

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“[Blueberries bloom] in the spring, when we usually have fairly heavy rainfall, low temperatures, windstorms, and those are all environmental conditions that are really not good for foraging activities, especially in honeybees.” – Matt Arrington

Show Notes:

  • What you need to know about high bush blueberries
  • The role of pollinators for high bush blueberries
  • Why insect pollination is so crucial for blueberries
  • The advantages of having a manager for your pollinators
  • What stocking rates are for and how they are set
  • Why blueberry growers should consider using more honeybees
  • Why attractants are used and what they are made of

”I’ll see [bumble bees] out really early in the season. They’ll be out pollinating while there’s still snow on the ground, and I’ll come home from work in the evening when it’s dark and you’ll hear them still in the bush.” – Matt Arrington

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Doug Sponsler on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Doug is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, and he went on to receive his PhD from Ohio State University. His research brings spatial ecology perspectives to the topics of pollinator foraging and toxicology, with particular emphasis on urban plant-pollinator interactions and mechanistic understandings of toxic exposure.

Listen in as we go over pesticide’s effects on pollinators, the difficulties in testing, and the advantages certain insects have in fighting pesticides.

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“It’s a bit ironic that the most convenient organism for which to study toxicology from a logistical perspective, the honey bee, is also the most problematic one for which to interpret toxicology.“ – Doug Sponsler

Show Notes:

  • What determines risk of a pesticide’s effect on pollinators
  • Why toxicity is talked about more than exposure
  • How field experiments on pesticides and pollinators can run into problems
  • How the EPA’s new BeeREX model helps in risk assessment
  • What the “dynamic hazard surface” can explain about the complexity of pesticide testing
  • Why the fully distributional nature of exposure is necessary
  • Why honeybee’s social complexity aids in defending them against pesticides

“[current models for pesticide exposure to bees in risk assessment] are good, but they do not get to the behavioral and chemical mechanics of exposure that go into bringing a bee into intersection with a pesticide.” – Doug Sponsler

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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

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Alan Turanski on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Alan leads vision, innovation and continuous improvements at GloryBee. Ranging from sustainability, technology, facilities and being a cause forward company, he is committed to ensuring GloryBee is a business as a force for good. Alan is an advocate for the honeybee and was also a driving force in developing GloryBee’s Save the Bee initiative, which donates to bee-saving projects. As a beekeeper, and someone who is considered knowledgeable in the field, Alan has served as spokesperson for the plight of the honeybee and promotion of conservation efforts, including testifying at the Oregon State Capitol in 2013 on the issue of honey bee colony losses.

Listen in as we talk about the Alan’s work with GloryBee, their raising of bee awareness, and how beginning beekeepers can get started.

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“Beekeeping is a beautiful balance between art and science, and the best beekeepers are very knowledgable scientifically, but they also instinctually are in tune with the bees.“ – Alan Turanski

Show Notes:

  • Why Alan became involved in helping save the bees
  • What Alan hoped to accomplish with his “Save The Bee” campaign
  • Why investing in education is so important to Alan
  • How the “Save The Bee” program works to help bees
  • How GloryBee has spread their message through partnerships
  • The process that honey goes through from honeycomb to store shelves
  • The many expected and unexpected flavors of honey
  • How beekeepers use the byproducts from collecting honey
  • Alan’s favorite tool and non-tool

“These [bees] are amazing creatures. The more you learn, the more you’re fascinated, and the more you’re enthralled.“ – Alan Turanski

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Al Shay on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Al Shay is currently an instructor in the Horticulture Department at Oregon State University. Al holds undergraduate degrees in art as well as horticulture. Additionally Al has a Masters in Agriculture degree from OSU. Al has been in the “Green Industry” for 38 years; 27 of which were spent in the field managing landscapes at such varied venues as; Oregon State University, Eugene Country Club, The Oregon Garden and DeSantis landscapes. In 2007 Al returned to OSU for his graduate degree and was appointed an instructor upon his graduation in 2010.

Find out more about what you can do for pollinators at your own home, and how Al blends aesthetic and functional aspects of landscaping and pollinator habitats.

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“It seemed just a horrible shame to have 500-odd acres of space here on campus and have it all strictly geared toward something you look at as you pass by. We could do a better job than that.“ – Al Shay

Show Notes:

  • How Al’s career led him to his work at Oregon State University
  • The difficulties of bridging the functional and aesthetic sides of urban landscapes
  • The way Al keeps flowering plants year round
  • How homeowners can turn their property into a more sustainable ecosystem
  • Why Al recommends you should start small with your own landscape
  • What you should consider before working on your own urban landscape
  • Al’s best practices for how to plant your seeds
  • What makes a good saw and shear for Al
  • Al’s “pollinator hotels” and how they were developed

“Just start small. Instead of doing 43,560 square feet, do 200 or 400 square feet, and really take a peek at what is going on.“ – Al Shay

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Sarah Johnson is the lead biologist for Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Native Pollinator Initiative. WPC is a nation-wide organization focusing on hands-on recovery initiatives for critically endangered species, and the pollinator initiative supports Canadian bumble bee recovery through a diverse set of programs. As WPC’s lead pollinator biologist, Sarah has overseen a variety of citizen science training programs, runs multiple field-based research and monitoring projects, and leads the development of a captive breeding program for the at-risk yellow-banded bumble bee. Prior to her current position with WPC, Sarah received a BSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Calgary – during which she published on a project investigating how wing wear affects bumble bee’s weight lifting ability – as well as an MSc in Ecology, examining how clearcut logging impacts bee-pollinated wildflower reproduction in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Sarah was also involved in the initiation of a long-term research program exploring how the agricultural landscape in southern Alberta affects pollinator diversity. As evidenced through her work, Sarah’s passion lies in the furriest (and most charming) of the pollinators: the bumble bee. However, she is also interested in conservation education, public engagement, and answering broader questions on what factors shape ecological communities.

Listen in as we talk about the bee population of Canada, her new captive breeding project, and how citizen science positively impacts her research.

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“We’re seeing sightings in areas where we didn’t know species extended to, and this is because of submissions by citizen scientists.” – Sarah Johnson

Show Notes:

  • What is happening in the bumblebee populations of Canada
  • How the Bumblebee Recovery Initiative is helping pollinators
  • What their new captive breeding project is hoping to accomplish
  • What qualities Sarah is looking for in the queen bumblebees they are breeding
  • How Wildlife Preservation Canada uses citizen science
  • Why Bumblebee Watch is such an invaluable resource to conservation researchers
  • How one citizen scientist made a breakthrough discovery
  • How Sarah’s organization trains citizen scientists
  • What makes a good bumblebee picture for submission
  • What Sarah recommends to help raise public awareness of pollinators and their involvement

[Wilson et al.] surveyed a wide variety of people, and the vast majority of them think bees are important but nobody really knows what a bee is versus what a fly is.“ – Sarah Johnson

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Skyler Burrows on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Our guest today on PolliNation is Skyler Burrows, a taxonomist working with Utah State University, the USDA Bee Lab, and formerly with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscape program. Much of Skyler’s work has been based in the trapping and identification of pollinators with the help of citizen scientists, and monitoring their diversity in a given area. His most recent project has been to create an online guide to aid in the identification of bees that may be invasive to the US, that will include a non-dichotomous key to the Megachilidae genera of the world with high quality images to target an audience without background in taxonomy.

In today’s episode, we will learn about Skyler’s work with pollinators, his projects with citizen scientists, and how you can get started in taxonomy.

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“Things like ‘Bees In Your Backyard’ are really helpful, but until you have the bee in your hand, it’s really difficult to know what you’ve got.“ – Skyler Burrows

Show Notes:

  • What is the Virginia Working Landscape program and how they are contributing to pollinator research
  • How Skyler and his team trap bees
  • Why the team uses a type of antifreeze in their traps, and it’s advantages
  • How the citizen scientists stay involved after their collection
  • The various challenges Skyler has faced in his project
  • How the great diversity of bees in the West can create difficulties for citizen scientists
  • What new citizen scientists should do to get started in taxonomy
  • Why the microscope is Skyler’s favorite tool
  • Why there is still a lot of room for discovery in researching bees and pollinator habitats

“There’s a lot of washing involved, blow drying to fluff up their hairs; there’s a lot of interesting methods [to help in identification], but we’re all just trying to make the bees look nice and pretty.“ – Skyler Burrows

Links Mentioned:

Dr Dewey M Caron - PolliNation - Episode Art

Dr. Dewey M. Caron is Emeritus Professor of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, Univ of Delaware, & Affiliate Professor, Dept Horticulture, Oregon State University. He spent 40+ years teaching, doing bee extension and bee research at Cornell (1967-70), University of MD, College Park (1970-1981) and University of DE, Newark DE (1981-2009).
Since retirement in 2009, he spends 4-6 months each year in Bolivia, where he keeps Africanized bees and teaches beekeeping (in Spanish). The rest of the year he is in the northern hemisphere; his 5 backyard colonies in Tigard OR are docile European bees. He moved from Newark to Portland, Oregon following retirement to be closer to 5 grandkids. He manages to return to East coast several times each year to give Bee Short Courses and lectures to various bee clubs and state organizations. He remains active in EAS. His first EAS meeting was 1967 at University of MD. He has served as President (1986), Director (both from MD and DE), Chairman of the Board for 8 years, Chair of several Board committees and currently is Advisor for EAS Master Beekeeper program. He was program and Short Course chair for 2016 New Jersey and Program Chair for 2017 Delaware, his 50th year in EAS.

Listen in to this episode to learn about how you can keep your colonies safe from varroa mites, and what tools you can use to prevent and manage them.

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“Whatever stage you have mites in your colonies, we have some tools, things that we can do that will then help blunt the advantage that the varroa mite seems to have with our European honeybee.” – Dr. Dewey M. Caron

Show Notes:

  • Why varroa management is such a problem for beekeepers
  • How the Mite-A-Thon helped Dewey in the fight against varroa mites
  • Why monitoring for varroa mites is important for beekeepers
  • The steps that beekeepers can take to manage and prevent varroa mites
  • How you can use the “Tools for Varroa Management” guide
  • What other tools are available through the coalition website
  • How the Honeybee Health Coalition began
  • Why the most hygenic bees are Dewey’s favorite

“It’s not if your colony has varroa mites, that’s not the question you should be asking. You should be asking how many mites does my colony have? ” – Dr. Dewey M. Caron

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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.

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“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

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