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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Lila Westreich on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Lila Westreich is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington in 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. Lila is currently working on the analysis of nutrition in pollen as well as the genetic sequencing of plant pollen to connect native solitary bees with the landscape around them.

Listen in to learn more about what drew Lila to Osmia lignaria, and how she is finding the effect of these bees on their landscape, and vice versa.

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“Orchard mason bees are really easy to work with, they’re easy to buy, which is rare for a native bee, and they’re really easy to place in different places, so it was easier for me to use than bumblebees.” – Lila Westreich

Show Notes:

  • Why Lila was so drawn to the orchard mason bee – Osmia lignaria
  • How Osmia lignaria‘s select flowers in different landscapes
  • How the solitary mason bee cares for it’s larvae
  • The pollen collection method that has left Lila with “vats of pollen” to study
  • What mason bees are looking for when they are collecting pollen
  • What Lila is hoping to learn by putting mason bees out early and late in the season
  • How climate change is affecting mason bees
  • The “special mud” of the mason bee

“What we found was really interesting. We found that bees were collecting pollen with the same concentration of protein at every site we studied. This was in spite of the fact that there were totally different plants at the different sites. What this tells us is that the bees are specifically choosing pollen from the landscape with higher protein levels and they only work with that pollen.” – Lila Westreich

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Bee Buddies on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This week we are joined by Heath Keirstead and Jerry Paul from the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD). Heath is BSWCD’s Communication and Community Engagement Manager and Jerry has been involved with BSWCD as a volunteer and Board Member. PolliNation caught up with Heath and Jerry at the BSWCD office to talk about caring for orchard mason bees (Osmia lignaria) in the spring and their outreach initiative – the Bee Buddies program – that is encouraging stewardship of people cultivating these bees.

Listen in to learn how best to take care of your mason bees, when to place them outside, and how the Bee Buddy program helps the pollinator community.

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“If any of you have the chance, take a mason bee or any pollinator, look at it under the microscope and I think it’s going to open up a whole new world to you.” – Jerry Paul

Show Notes:

  • When is the best time to put out mason bees
  • Why mud preparation is the best thing you can do for your mason bees
  • How to tell if your flowers are ready to be pollinated
  • How to protect the larval mason bees during transport
  • Why the location of the nest box is so important to the mason bee’s success
  • Which plants are the most beneficial to the mason bee
  • Why the Bee Buddies program was started, and what it’s goals were
  • How caring correctly for mason bees can give them a 90% survival rate
  • How the Bee Buddies program is bringing attention to larger environmental issues
  • What the outreach of Bee Buddies looks like
  • How to get involved with Bee Buddies
  • What other organizations are contributing to environmental conservation

“With a mason bee, you can target your crop. They only fly up to about 300 feet from their nest box.“ – Heath Keirstead

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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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