Dr. Elina L Niño on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Elina L Niño’s research interests are broad and range from understanding reproductive processes involved in queen bee mating to developing and evaluating new control methods to combat Varroa mites. More recent research efforts have focused on understanding benefits of supplemental forage crops within agricultural systems. In her extension role, Niño is overseeing the recently UC ANR funded Master Beekeeper Program at UC Davis. Her program offers many beekeeping courses and upcoming efforts will focus on the development of the Pollinator Education Program for kids and youth.

Listen in to learn how growers can improve their pollinator effectiveness, the benefits of certain overwintering solutions, and the key to great queens.

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“I know there’s a lot of talk about letting natural selection do it’s thing, but we have to think about what we’re doing. When we put the bee colony into a hive, it’s no longer considered to be, in my mind, natural. So I think they definitely need some help.” – Dr. Elina L Niño

Show Notes:

  • Why almond growers were particularly nervous about this years pollination
  • The different overwintering options and how different farmers and beekeepers have adapted
  • How growers are getting forage into their orchards
  • Why growers should consider adding mustard to their orchard and let it go to seed
  • What makes Northern California such a great place to make a queen
  • Why these high quality queens can perform poorly
  • How beekeepers, growers, and regulators came together to protect bees, and what they created to do it
  • The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis, and why it was created

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a way to do breeding in a proper way, without putting the agriculture at risk.” – Dr. Elina L Niño

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Jim Cane on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Cane is a Research Entomologist with the USDA’s Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research in Logan, UT. Dr. Cane has been interested in comparative studies of solitary bees for 30 years, beginning with the evolutionary origins and use of lipid exocrine secretions to attract mates, repel predators, supplement larval diets, waterproof, and disinfect their nests. Work with these bees naturally led to study of their pollination services in both wildland and agricultural settings. A bee species’ pollination value reflects its sustainable abundance, wherein habitat carrying capacity is capped by nesting opportunities and foraging success. Dr. Cane has applied his long-term interest in conservation to help measure, understand, and mitigate human factors that can shift nesting and foraging opportunities for bee communities such as climate change, urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation, and rangeland rehabilitation.

Listen in to learn about the two key pollinators of alfalfa seed: the alfalfa leafcutter bee and alkali bee.

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“There is no crop has more flowers per acre than alfalfa – way into the millions per acre – and less pollen and nectar per flower.” – Jim Cane

Show Notes:

  • Why alfalfa is such a prominent feed stock
  • What makes alfalfa a specialized crop for pollinators
  • Why honey bees are not ideal pollinators for alfalfa
  • How farmers learned to make use of alfalfa leaf-cutting bees
  • Why alkali bees are the eighth wonder of the world
  • Whether or not other species of bees can be managed like the alkali bee
  • The challenges of managing alkali bees
  • Qualities to look for in a hand lens for bee observation

“An alkali bee, in her entire lifetime– all of her foraging, all of her flower visitation, she sets about 25 cents worth of seed, about a quarter pound or a third of a pound of alfalfa seed.” – Jim Cane

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Dr. Casey Delphia on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Casey Delphia is a Research Scientist at Montana State University and Associate Curator of Apoidea in the Montana Entomology Collection (MTEC) where she conducts research on managed solitary bees and wild native bees in agricultural and wildland ecosystems. Projects include evaluating the use of wildflower strips for supporting bees and pollination services on farmlands and, most recently, documenting the wild bees of Montana. Towards building a comprehensive bee species list for the state, Casey co-authored the Bumble Bees of Montana as well as two recent checklists. In her spare time, Casey enjoys collecting bees in the desert southwest, the tropics of Belize, and the many interesting habitats found throughout Montana.

Listen in to learn about Dr. Delphia’s bee atlas projects, why Montana is a “black hole” of bee data, and where to find the coolest native bees of Montana.

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“It’s really great to be working on bees in Montana and it’s also not so great. It’s great because there are so many things to discover and it’s also not so great because there are so many things to discover.” – Dr. Casey Delphia

Show Notes:

  • Where to find the coolest native bees of Montana
  • What Dr. Delphia is hoping to accomplish in her recent bumblebee atlas project
  • Why Montana is a “black hole” of bee data
  • The challenges of bumblebee identification
  • Dr. Delphia’s upcoming project documenting the native bees of Montana
  • How Dr. Delphia collects specimens for her research
  • Dr. Delphia’s go-to tools for the field and the lab

“When somebody starts working with bumblebees and then they tell me it’s easy, then I realize they’re really not paying attention and they don’t know what they’re doing. The more you learn, the more you question what you know.” – Dr. Casey Delphia

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Steve Peterson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Steve Peterson has been working with cavity nesting bees for a long time. How long is a bit of a mystery, as Steve is going full bore placing blue orchard bees out in California almond orchards at the time of writing (and catching up with Steve at this juncture would be very, very hard). Suffice it to say that soft-spoken Dr. Peterson would never say this out loud, but he knows A LOT about managing solitary bees. His company, Foothill Bee Ranch, helps people figure out how to make solitary bee systems work in crops like almonds, cherries, plums, strawberries, alfalfa seed, carrot seed, onion seed and lettuce seed.

Listen in to learn Steve’s experience in making and maintaining mason bee nesting blocks, and why he advocates using a wood laminate in its construction.

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“I’ve always been interested in that you can raise these bees and sort of have a lower input in terms of having to put them into cold storage so soon.” – Steve Peterson

Show Notes:

  • Why the Orchard Bee Association’s annual meeting is the best kept secret in the bee world
  • What Steve has learned from his nesting projects
  • What makes California and Utah bees different and why
  • The materials Steve uses for nesting
  • How to manage your pest and parasite population in building nests
  • The innovation that Steve and Agpollen had in mass-produced nesting materials
  • The good and bad of using reed for your nesting tubes
  • What Steve finds in his mason bee tubes that are not mason bees
  • What different parasites can infiltrate the mason bee nesting tubes
  • Why Steve documents a lot of data in his nests and what he uses it for
  • The tradeoffs of the wood laminate versus traditional wood nesting boards

“I do like to try and keep track of things like how many cells were made per nest, how many females were in each nest, how many pollen balls, how many of each of those pests.” – Steve Peterson

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Sarah Kincaid on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Sarah Kincaid is an entomologist and pollinator specialist in the Insect, Pest, Prevention, and Management Program (IPPM) with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Sarah is a founder and ODA IPPM project lead for the Oregon Bee Project. The Oregon Bee Project brings together state agencies, farmers, and conservationists to protect and promote Oregon bee species vital the state’s agricultural and native landscapes. The Project aims to provide resources and networking opportunities in areas affecting bee health and to highlight pollinator projects underway with in the state and also has funded research examining the role non-Apis pollinators play in the pollination of several specialty crops. Sarah is also the author of an identification guide to Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon crops based on data from native bee surveys in 24 specialty crop systems. The guide is designed to provide the growers, the general public and natural resources professionals with basic information about agriculturally relevant bee genera. The guide serves an area of the country were few native bee identification resources are available. In this episode, Sarah talks about an initiative in the Oregon Bee Project called the Flagship Farm Program.

Listen in to learn how Sarah and the Flagship Farms program work with farmers to create sustainable ecosystems for pollinators, and how you can participate.

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“We’re a specialty crop state and many of those depend on pollination, and if they depend on pollination, that means they provide a resource for the bees themselves.” – Sarah Kincaid

Show Notes:

  • What makes Flagship Farms unique among pollinator programs
  • Why Oregon has a higher diversity of bees in agriculture than many other states
  • Why the Flagship Farms program was created and what Sarah is hoping to accomplish with it
  • What kinds of farms and farmers Sarah is hoping will join the program
  • What Sarah has seen so far in the participating farms
  • The unique properties that different crop farms offer for pollinators
  • How the Flagship Farms program has built a community of conservancy minded farms
  • What resources Sarah and her program offer the Flagship Farms

“Given that there’s a narrative that paints agriculture in a really negative light when it comes to insect biodiversity, we came up with the idea that there is a positive story that we can tell here.” – Sarah Kincaid

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Christina Mogren on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Mogren is an assistant researcher of pollinator ecology at University of Hawaii Manoa, with a research program focused on how nutrition can be used to increase pollinator health to mitigate stress caused by pesticides, parasites, and disease. After receiving her PhD in Entomology from UC Riverside, she went on to two postdoctoral positions with the USDA-ARS in Brookings, SD and the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge, LA. She currently serves the beekeeping community of Hawaii with a 60% research and 40% extension appointment.

Listen in to learn the relationship of pollinators with native flora and fauna of Hawaii, and what is being done to aid local agriculture and beekeeping.

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“A lot of the plants [in Hawaii] evolved with bird and beetle pollinators, there’s only one native genus of bee.” – Dr. Christina Mogren

Show Notes:

  • What kinds of pollinators are native to Hawaii
  • How their isolation on the island has affected the evolution of Hawaii’s only native bee
  • Why Hawaii is one of the leading places to grow queens
  • What makes Hawaii’s relationship with varroa unique
  • How Christina is developing educational resources for Hawaiian residents interested in beekeeping
  • How the volcanic activity affects pollinators
  • Some of the unique crops that Hawaii hosts
  • How having pollinators present influences the crop yield
  • The problems that some of the local crop present that could be solved with other bee species

“We have a lot of seismic activity, and when you have those, it turns into sting central. Bees don’t like volcanoes either.” – Dr. Christina Mogren

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Robyn Shephard on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Oregon is one of the biggest vegetable seed producing states in the US. In this episode, we catch up with Robyn Shephard, an agronomist with Lakeside Ag-Ventures, in a red radish seed field to learn how hybrid systems work and the steps vegetable seed growers are taking to keep bees healthy during pollination.

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“In a hybrid system you have a male line and a female line, that cross and create the next variety that a farmer will plant to create something like a fresh market radish.” – Robyn Shephard

Show Notes:

  • The science behind the hybrid radish system
  • Why hybridize these specific radish plants
  • What types of radish are desired around the world
  • The role bees play in this industry
  • What diseases there are that can affect this crop
  • What can be done to control pests and help the bees

“During bloom you can have serious diseases of radish, like white rust, which would result in severe loss in seed yield even if flowers were properly pollinated.” – Robyn Shephard

Links Mentioned:

Project Apis m. on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Our guest today is Danielle Downey, the Executive Director for Project Apis m., whose mission is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Danielle has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for 25 years. Her background includes training and research from bee labs in Minnesota, Canada and France; beekeeper education, work with commercial beekeepers and queen breeders, regulatory work as a State Apiarist in Utah and Hawaii, and wrangling bees for TV and film. She has worked closely with the Apiary Inspectors of America, Bee Informed Project and a bee breeding project with collaborators in Hawaii, Louisiana and Europe selecting and refining Varroa resistant bees. She holds a BSc from University of Minnesota and an MSc from Simon Fraser University.

Listen in to learn how Project Apis m. has accomplished valuable and sustained research for both pollinators and the agriculture and beekeeping industries.

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“We know that scientific research is the best way to answer questions about how to do business and improve agriculture…and beekeepers and growers, at the time of Colony Collapse Disorder, had really pressing questions that nobody was answering.” – Danielle Downey

Show Notes:

  • What got Danielle into studying bees
  • When and why Danielle started the Project Apis m.
  • Why a project like Apis m. is so valuable for everybody in the agriculture and beekeeping industry
  • How Danielle has centralized support for their project’s goal
  • How Project Apis m. maintains their scope and goal over their long timeline
  • What Project Apis m. has accomplished since it’s inception
  • Why Danielle is looking to change our chemical treatment of varroa
  • Why Project Apis m. believes that “practical is tactical”
  • What makes a promising proposal for Project Apis m.
  • What Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” program has done to help growers establish pollinator habitats
  • How Danielle’s project has helped them learn more ways to fight common pollinator problems
  • The importance of cover crops in efficiently grown agricultural areas
  • How farmers can use unused or unprofitable portions of their farm to create pollinator habitats
  • How Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” intersects with monarch butterfly conservation

“What it takes to make the change on the ground is to show and prove what is happening, and then outreach to educate on the alternatives, and change those practices.” – Danielle Downey

Links Mentioned:

Linda Hardison is the leader of the Oregon Flora Project, based out of Oregon State University’s Herbarium. The Oregon Flora Project seeks to present scientifically sound information about the vascular plants of Oregon that grow without cultivation in formats that are useful to generalists as well as to scientists. With projects such as their interactive Oregon Plant Atlas, their smartphone app, and their upcoming book “A Flora of Oregon”, they are cultivating an invaluable resource for scientists and hobbyists throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Listen in to learn more about the Oregon Flora Project, the amazing benefits their research and data collection has on pollinators, and what’s in store for the future.

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“The Oregon Flora Project is striving to make information useful and relevant…to a broad sector of the population.“ – Linda Hardison

Show Notes:

  • The mission of the Oregon Flora Project
  • How the Oregon Flora Project benefits pollinators
  • What started the project
  • What benefits have been found in making the OFP database
  • How Linda’s team streamlined the dichotomous key identification process
  • How the Oregon Flora Project is taking advantage of new software and open-source platforms
  • The exciting possibilities for citizen scientists to contribute
  • What’s next for the Linda’s program
  • How gardeners will benefit from a new development of Oregon Flora Project
  • Why Linda’s favorite tool is a plastic bag

“A lot of people aren’t going to go to the effort and expense of making a plant specimen for a herbarium, so by having observations, the data sets are so much richer and so much more than if we had to rely only on specimens.“ – Linda Hardison

Links Mentioned:

Bee habitat in agricultural landscapes is key element in any good strategy for pollinator health. But farmers have a lot going on and may not have clear answers to some important pollination questions.

Our guest is here to help us with these issues. Jessa Kay Cruz is the Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist for California with the Xerces Society.

Based in Sacramento, Jessa works closely with landowners and farmers, developing strategies for overcoming misconceptions when it comes to pollinators and their habitats.

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“One thing that has happened with modern agriculture is that we really lost biodiversity in our agricultural systems..” – Jessa Kay Cruz

Show Notes:

  • How diverse agricultural landscapes are today compared to past decades
  • Why food deserts are being created for bees
  • How farmers can be stewards of the land
  • Some of the misconceptions about bees that growers have
  • How the Xerces Society provides support for farmers and growers
  • As a farmer, what are key considerations when you want to put in a pollinator habitat?
  • Why even some organic pesticides are harmful to bees and how to separate spray areas from habitat areas
  • How to select the plants to put in when making a habitat area
  • Why it’s important to plant a diversity of different types of plants
  • Why planting un-flowering plants can help create nesting areas for bees
  • How to prepare the habitat area before you plant
  • Why you might not want to till up the soil

“Bees are just like people that way, they have different preferences, and they eat a good diversity of different sources of pollen. And different pollen provides certain nutrients for bees.” – Jessa Kay Cruz

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