Dr. Ramesh Sagili on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Ramesh Sagili is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University and heads up OSUs mighty Bee Lab. He is a regular guest on PolliNation and this week he comes on the show to tell us how to manage colonies for an intense honey flow (happening right now in Western Oregon with the onset of the blackberry flow). It’s also been an unusual year with colonies brooding up early in the year and this brings on the threat of varroa mites. Dr. Sagili explains why an early spring can be both a blessing and a curse and what to do about it.

On today’s episode, learn how to keep your bees healthy and productive, what is most important in maintaining your bees, and how to prevent varroa mites.

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“Close to 50% of the nectar that [honeybees] bring in around the year is from blackberries.” – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Show Notes:

  • How beekeepers can get ready for blackberry nectar season
  • What the process is of getting honey into the colonies
  • What honey supers and queen excluders are
  • Why wax production is such an important factor and can’t be overlooked in honey production
  • Why this season is the perfect time to consider dividing your colony
  • What other opportunities are available for beekeepers during this season
  • How to learn when to perform key maintenance with your bee boxes
  • How to use your honey supers
  • Why beekeepers should be concerned with mites for this season’s bees
  • What treatments are available for varroa mites
  • What Sagili’s lab is doing this upcoming year at Oregon State University

“Oregon is not a great place to raise queens, but I think between the window of June through August, it’s a good time raise your own queens here.” – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Links Mentioned:

Ron Miksha on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Ron has worked with honey bees since childhood, producing a million pounds of honey and thousands of queens and packages. He has had bee farms in Pennsylvania, Florida, Saskatchewan, and Alberta and has migrated bees for pollination in the eastern USA. His comb honey farm in southern Alberta produced 50,000 comb sections a year. Presently, Ron is teaching beekeeping and bee economics and he is studying ecology at the University of Calgary. In his free time, Ron writes about bees, science, society, and comb honey production in bee journals, magazines, and on his bad beekeeping blog. Ron is kept in Calgary by his wife, two teenagers, and a couple of backyard beehives.

Listen in to learn the evolution of migratory beekeepers since the 1970’s, and why Ron believes that our current pollination system isn’t sustainable.

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“We can do more with fewer acres by using the honeybees, and they’re being provided by commercial beekeepers.” – Ron Miksha

Show Notes:

  • How Ron got started in beekeeping and crop pollination
  • How pollination’s role with beekeepers has changed since Ron started
  • Why it paid so differently on different coasts in the early days of pollination
  • How American infrastructure development helped early migratory beekeepers and pollinators
  • Why the economy’s rising inflation led to a larger almond crop
  • Why farmers initially needed so much convincing that they needed pollinators for their crops
  • How migratory bees have single-handedly changed the almond crop in California for the better
  • What the key crops for beekeepers were and what they are now
  • How migratory beekeeping is hard on the bees
  • Why the new opportunities for beekeepers is also often extremely difficult for them
  • The risks and advantages of being a migratory beekeeper
  • The future of migratory beekeeping and why Ron thinks it is not currently sustainable
  • How new innovation in agriculture may prove pollinators to be obsolete

“My father said, ‘you’ve got a drivers license and three hundred hives of bees, go do it’.” – Ron Miksha

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

Jen Holt is the brand new Coordinator for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program at OSU.

In this episode, we’ll learn about how Jen got interested in bees, what she sees for the future of the program, and the ins and outs of how the program functions today.

We discuss beekeeping education from the start to the master – how to take a regular person and turn them into a beekeeper. Jen is co-appointed to the OSU Pollinator Health Program, so we talk about creating synergy between the two programs.

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“We don’t want people to be turned away from beekeeping just because they don’t have the knowledge to succeed.” – Jen Holt

Show Notes:

  • How Jen learned to become a beekeeper
  • Some of the things that people who are interested in working with bees worry about
  • The many levels of the master beekeeping program in Oregon
  • How the geographic diversity of Oregon presents challenges and opportunities
  • How the master beekeepers teach the program in different part of the state
  • How the curriculum is developed for the program
  • How the program is powered by volunteers
  • What Jen Holt sees going forward for the program
  • How beekeeping connects us back to ancient times

“I would like to increase the partnership in the program between honey bees and native bees, because honey bees are often a gateway to learning about native bees.” – Jen Holt

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: