What is infectious, poorly understand and set to ramp up during the months of April and May? The honey bee disease European foulbrood has been a tremendous problem in Oregon over the last few springs. As we get set for the disease again this year we checked in with Dr. Meghan Milbrath with the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. Dr. Milbrath has been at the forefront of recent research into the disease.

Dr. Milbrath began working bees with her father as a child over 20 years ago, and now owns and manages The Sand Hill Apiary, a small livestock and queen rearing operation in Munith, Michigan. She studied biology at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and received degrees in public health from Tulane University and the University of Michigan, where she focused on environmental health sciences and disease transmission risk. Meghan worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University, studying nosema disease, and is currently an academic specialist at MSU, where she does honey bee and pollinator research and extension and is the coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative.  Meghan is active in multiple beekeeping organizations, writes for multiple beekeeping journals, and speaks about bees all over the country. She currently runs the Northern Bee Network (featured in Episode 9), a directory and resource site dedicated to supporting queen producers, and she is passionate about keeping and promoting healthy bees.

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Livestock grazing can be very expansive. Take for instance the ‘fescue belt’ in the southeastern US, which spans 1,000 miles across. This week we hear from a Dr. Megan O’Rourke who is looking to incorporate pollinator plants into pastures, potentially providing benefits to pollinators and increasing the grazing efficiency of cattle at the same time. 

Dr. O’Rourke is a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) and works to develop novel conservation strategies for working farms. Her lab focuses on pollinator conservation, ecosystem services, and ecological pest management. She works in SE Asia to develop integrated pest management strategies for vegetables. Domestically, she is working to conserve pollinators on vegetable farms and in pasturelands. Her interests span natural and social sciences and policy as she strives to transform agriculture to provide both food and conservation value. Outside academia, she has worked with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service as the organization’s climate change advisor and with USAID as a Foreign Service Officer in Cambodia on food security and environment programs.

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There has been an explosion in people keeping bees for a hobby. But for many, beekeeping is a bigger commitment than they expected. This week we are joined by Carolyn Breece who will help you figure out if beekeeping for you and what’s involved in getting started. 

Carolyn Breece supports the field research of the OSU Honey Bee Lab. She manages the lab’s 80 research and educational colonies, preparing them for experiments, and collecting data. She also teaches classes and workshops to community beekeepers, OSU undergraduates, and Oregon Master Beekeeper participants.

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Events:

BEEvent 2020 (March 7, Albany, OR)
Oregon Coast Honey Lovers Festival (May 10, Yachats, OR)

Idaho and Oregon’s Treasure Valley have a deep connection to bee management for alfalfa seed, but in this episode we hear about how that tradition is being transferred to pollinator management in vineyards. 

Ron Bitner is the newest board member of Pollinator Partnership. He  received his Ph.D. in Entomology from Utah State University in 1976, where he conducted his dissertation research on the alkali bee. He has decades of experience in management and consulting of non-Apis bees and crops requiring their pollination.  Today, Ron and his wife Mary live in the beautiful Snake River Valley of Southwest Idaho. Along with their family, they are the Owner/Operators of Bitner Vineyards LLC, growing 15 acres of premium wine grapes, first planted in 1981. They were Pacific Northwest Magazine’s 2009 Idaho Winery of the year., Canyon County 2013 Farm Family of the Year, and have the only LIVE certified sustainable vineyard in Idaho (www.bitnervineyards.com). 

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Some of the best plants for long-tongued bees like bumble bees and honey bees are grown for livestock. This week we dive deep into these livestock plants with Dr. Serkan Ates. Dr. Ates is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences. His research focuses on pasture and grazing management for improved animal production and product quality. He was recently awarded a National Honey Board grant (along with your host) to develop a dual-use system that feeds both livestock and bees. 

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There is nothing about browsing though a magazine. There are some great beekeeping magazines, but what’s missing is a magazine devoted to pollinators more broadly. Enter 2 Million Blossoms, a new quarterly magazine launched in January. We talk to the Kirsten Traynor, the editor, about the magazine and how it aims to fill this gap. 

Dr. Kirsten Traynor describes herself as an: “English major, who won a honey bee hive in a raffle and never looked back.” She earned her PhD in bee biology and is currently investigate how pesticides and other stress factors impact the social dynamics in a colony. She is the former editor of Bee World and American Bee Journal. In January 2020, she took the leap and launched 2 Million Blossoms.

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When you think of a bee you probably think of an insect hard at work growing its nest and pollinating plants. But over 10% of bees are kleptoparasites; bees that don’t build their own nests, but are parasites on other bees. In this episode we learn the fundamentals of this highly-evolved and sophisticated way of living.  To help us understand the twists and turns of kleptoparastism we had one of our listeners, Casey Hale, join us. Casey is Research Technician in the Podeva and McArt Labs in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University.

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Many of us put mason bees out in our backyard or farm. But when they leave the nest, do you know where they are going to forage? In this episode we hear how a sleuthing graduate student in Seattle is beginning to piece together a picture of what resources these bees are actually using.

Lila Westreich is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA in the Department of Environment and Forest Sciences. She has a B.S. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the effect of varying landscape composition on the solitary mason bee, Osmia lignaria. Her research with mason bees was previously featured on Episode 74.

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Hedgerows can be great ways to attract pollinators in agriculture and forestry settings. But how can such relatively small plantings impact pollinator abundance and diversity on larger scales? This week we dig deep into the science of how hedgerows contribute to pollinator health. 

Lauren Ponisio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University Of Riverside and part of the Center for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER). Her lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which species interactions maintain species diversity, and how this information can harness these processes to manage and restore diversity in human-modified systems. The Ponisio Lab’s aim is to discover new insights into how communities form, evolve, and persist through time and space, aiding in the prediction and prevention of community collapse.

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Links:

Ponisio Lab
Center for Integrative Bee Research

Dr. Ponisio’s Book Recommendation: Bees of California: Art, Science, and Poetry
Dr. Ponisio’s Tool Recommendation: Killing jar bandolier
Dr. Ponisio’s Favorite Pollinator: Male sunflower bees (Melissodes), Megachile

Literacy on pollinator biology and ecology in the US is poor. But schools can be skittish about insects, especially bees, and teachers lack resources to make pollinator education come alive. This week we hear about an initiative that to get around these obstacles – The Bee Cause Project. 

Megan Swanson currently serves as the Programs Manager for The Bee Cause Project, an organization with the goal to create the next generation of environmental stewards through the lessons of our friends, the honeybees. She is a beekeeper, writer, and environmental advocate with the intention of helping people reconnect with their environment.  

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Links:

Bee Cause Project
Observation Hive
Karl von Frisch (The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees, 1967)
Megan’s Book Recommendation: Bees: A Honeyed History (Piotr Socha, 2017), Honey Bee Democracy (Tom Seeley)
Megan’s Tool Recommendation: Campus habitat
Megan’s Favorite Pollinator: Monarch Butterfly