Mike Rodia on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Ralph (Mike) Rodia, a life time member of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) and the Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association [WVBA], has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, was a research scientist, college educator, occupational health inspector and supervisor (Oregon OSHA), Oregon Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal, and has been active in the OSBA at the regional and state levels for the last 20 years. His experience in the preparation and implementation of laws and rules has allowed him in the past, and now as OSBA’s Agricultural Liaison to interact with governmental agencies at all levels, to foster and advance beekeeping in Oregon, particularly as it relates to residential beekeeping.

Listen in as we talk with Mike Rodia about residential beekeeping and the ways to work with your local government to keep your local hives nuisance-free.

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“Residential beekeeping didn’t really exist 30 or 40 years ago, so the cities have had to address it as problems have come up, so each [city] will vary each time it comes up with a problem.” – Mike Rodia

Show Notes:

  • What residential beekeepers need to know about their local laws
  • How Mike got started with beekeeping
  • What a nuisance standard is, and how it can be used to help
  • Why the public misunderstanding of bees versus hornets or yellow jackets can cause such huge issues for residential beekeepers
  • What Mike has experienced with unnecessary rules and regulations on residential beekeeping in municipalities and counties
  • How Mike circumvented regulations in an Oregon house bill with education instead
  • How the committee behind the bill developed the education guidelines
  • What Mike recommends for municipalities looking to manage their residential beekeeping issues
  • Mike’s advice for residential beekeepers that get cited

“Rules do not make or break problems with beekeeping. They don’t really help anything, they don’t accomplish anything.” – Mike Rodia

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Dr. Bob Peterson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachilie rotandata) don’t make the headlines like honey bees do, but they are pretty important to agricultural production. These bees pollinate alfalfa plants to make the seed that gets planted out across hay fields across the US and beyond. This week we learn about the peculiar management system associated with leafcutting bees. Our guide is Dr. Bob Peterson, who is Professor of Entomology at Montana State University, where he leads the research, teaching, and outreach program in Agricultural and Biological Risk Assessment. Dr. Peterson also shares insights from his work around alfalfa leafcutting bee management and vector control.

Dr. Peterson has authored or co-authored 110 peer-reviewed journal articles, 14 book chapters, and one book. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including environmental risk assessment, insect ecology, and various special-topics graduate courses. In 2019, he will become president of the Entomological Society of America, the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn about the uniqueness of leafcutting bees, how they’re managed, and how to keep your bees safe in using pesticides.

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“The goal here is that we manage populations using the best science to have the minimal impact on the environment. That’s the ultimate goal.” – Dr. Bob Peterson

Show Notes:

  • How alfalfa leafcutting bees are managed
  • The life history of the alfalfa leafcutting bee
  • Why honey bees are not good pollinators for the alfalfa crop
  • The technology used to manage alfalfa leafcutting bees
  • What conflicts arise between mosquito control and managing leafcutting bees
  • Why understanding the difference between toxicity and risk is so crucial in using pesticides
  • What techniques leafcutting bee operators can use to minimize collateral damage of pesticides
  • Why honeybees are more sensitive to pesticides, despite being larger than leafcutting bees
  • The alternatives to pesticide in combating mosquitoes
  • Bob’s advice for those managing leafcutting bees on minimizing their exposure to pesticides

“When you look at an alfalfa field, if it has what looks like little metal or wooden sheds in the field, that’s where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of leafcutting bees are doing their jobs.” – Dr. Bob Peterson

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Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

PolliNation was joined this week by Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch from Virginia Tech. As you will learn in this episode, the Couvillon Lab investigates the dynamics of how pollinators collect their food in the landscape, with a specific focus on honey bee foraging, recruitment, and health. Dr. Couvillon is in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Schürch is a Research Assistant Professor studying the Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Insects. Over the last few years he has become increasingly interested in the honey bee waggle dance both as a tool for foraging ecologists, as well as from a basic science perspective. Today they talk about their collaborative work on using honey bee dance behavior as a way to assess habitat quality for bees.

Listen to today’s episode to find out what we can learn from bee dances, and how home gardeners can make a difference creating their own pollinator habitat.

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“Let’s say you want to assess a large area for bee forage availability. If you are a traditional ecologist, you would walk transects and catalog the flowers you see, collect nectar and pollen samples to determine how much each flower is producing, and you have to account for competition. […] Even if you could do all that we calculated that it would take over 1,600 days to cover 90 km2. This is why we turned to the honey bee. The honey bee can do a lot of this hard work for us.” – Dr. Margaret Couvillon

Show Notes:

  • How to measure the efficacy of small pollinator habitats
  • Why the size of the habitat may not as big of a factor in pollinator population growth
  • Why a bee’s dance can point to their pollen sources
  • How researchers are able to use the bee’s dance to extrapolate useful data
  • How a bee’s dance moves dictate distance and direction of food
  • What we can learn from the inaccuracy of a bee’s dance
  • How Margaret and Roger are using this research to develop habitat restoration for pollinators
  • What one can answer with this research
  • What our guests will be focusing on in their upcoming research
  • The techniques Margaret and Roger use to create the most useable data in researching bee dances
  • What can be learned from studying the miscommunication of the bee dances

“If you put an observation hive in a landscape and observe the duration of the honey bee dances, which translate into foraging distance, you will be able to say [whether a habitat is good or bad for the bees] at a given time.” – Dr. Roger Schürch

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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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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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