Garth Mulkey on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

This episode explores the fascinating relationship between bees and specialty seed crops. Oregon vegetable and flower seed industries are deeply invested in the health of pollinators. Moreover, the great conditions for growing seeds in the state has led to a proliferation in the variety of different flowering crops grown in Oregon. An estimated 14,000+ acres are planted to vegetable seed production statewide, for a farm gate value of $27 million in 2012. This is good news for bees. We caught up with Garth Mulkey to learn more.

Garth operates a farm in Monmouth Oregon and a seed business (GS3 Quality Seeds Inc). This summer we walked through one of his sunflower fields with his beekeeper Tim Wydronek, OSU’s Vegetable and Specialty Seed Crop Specialist Dr. Kristine Buckland and Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Sarah Kincaid. Garth is also one of the early adopters of the Oregon Bee Project’s Flagship Farm Program.

Listen in to learn how Garth helped develop the bee protection protocol for specialty seed growers, and why specialty seed growers need bees.

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“[The bees] are even more critical in our hybrid productions, because the females in this production do not produce their own pollen, so if we don’t have bees, we don’t harvest seed.” – Garth Mulkey

Show Notes:

  • What makes Oregon such an ideal place to grow specialty seeds
  • Why the bees are so necessary in Garth’s hybrid productions
  • How to best prepare bees for pollination
  • What Tim Wydronek is looking for from the growers before pollination begins
  • Why Garth’s group came up with a bee protection protocol
  • What no-till farming is and why it is used with specialty seed growers
  • How and where Garth’s specialty seeds are used around the world
  • The process of generating a protocol to protect pollinators in such a large group of growers

“As a group who specializes in hybrid production, we realize the importance of having pollinators, and lots of them. So as a group, we decided we needed to be at the forefront of educating the public and the legislators on what our needs are and what we’re doing.” – Garth Mulkey

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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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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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Jeff Reardon on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Representative Jeff Reardon has served the East Portland District of Happy Valley (District 48) in the Oregon Legislature since January 2013. Shortly after coming to office there was a tragic pesticide poisoning of bumble bees in a suburban big-box parking lot in Portland. Although he had been thinking about pollinator health before his election, he quickly found himself at the lead of an initiative to strike a Pollinator Health Task Force and then a comprehensive House Bill around pollinator health. House Bill 3362 is without equal in the United States and has not only tasked the Oregon State University Extension Service and state agencies to work on pollinator health, but has also committed resources towards carrying out this work. Representative Reardon was born and raised in the blue-collar town of Kelso, Washington and is a Vietnam Era Veteran (having served on a nuclear submarine in the Western Pacific). He had a busy career before entering politics, not only as a high school teacher but also as a communications manager with Tektronix.

Listen in as we talk about Reardon’s landmark bill, what it has done for pollinators, and how he involved the bee-keeping community.

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“[The Oregon Pollinator Health Bill] is one of my favorite projects, ever.“ – Jeff Reardon

Show Notes:

  • How Reardon’s landmark bill got started
  • How the bill evolved from initial intention
  • Who the key players were in passing the legislation
  • What is in the bill, and who it was for
  • How communication with beekeepers has helped revise the law for the better
  • Why Jeff is so passionate about the project

“We’re really concerned about how to inform the backyard gardener about pesticides and pollinators. If the trained license applicators are having this much trouble, then what do we do for the backyard gardeners?“ – Jeff Reardon

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BEEvent on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

BEEvent is really without equal in the US. Started in 2014, this annual event provides gardeners and land managers with the practical knowledge and tools to help bee pollinators. The conference is organized by the Linn County Master Gardeners and the 2018 conference (3 March, 2018 in Albany, Oregon) will focus on “Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape in your Garden” (featuring former PolliNation guest Linda Hardison). Andony was joined by three organizers of BEEvent, Ranee Webb (Master Gardener, President of Linn County Master Gardeners 2016-2017), Susan Morton (Master Gardener and “Bee Czar”) and Rich Little (entomologist and Master Gardener).

Listen in to learn more about the BEEvent, Oregon’s pollinator conference, and what this event provides gardeners and pollinator enthusiasts of all kinds.

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“There is a lot of hunger out there to do something to help [pollinators], but people don’t know what to do, and we’re giving them that information.” – Susan Morton

Show Notes:

  • What’s happening at this year’s BEEvent
  • Who the speakers are and what they will be speaking about
  • How attendees will learn about caring for a more diverse set of pollinators
  • Why the BEEvent is the perfect event for the curious home gardener
  • How the first BEEvent got started
  • The future of the BEEvent
  • What have been the BEEvent’s successes
  • The other ways that the organizers contribute to helping pollinators
  • How master gardeners can contribute to the cause for pollinators
  • What resources the OSU extension service provides
  • What gardening and beekeeping resources will be available at the BEEvent
  • What are the guest’s favorite books, tools, and pollinators

“Bees need more than food. They need a place to sleep and a place to rear their young, so your yard has to provide all of that.” – Rich Little

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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:

David Phipps is considered one of the Northwest’s leaders in golf course environmental stewardship and innovation. While working as the superintendent at Stone Creek Golf, he received the GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2012, as well as the 2004-2005 Cooperator of the Year by the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District. David received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Oregon State University in Horticulture, Turf and Landscape Management, and currently works for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America as the NW Region Field Staff Representative.

Today we’re talking about pollinator habitats curated within golf courses, how they can best be utilized, and David’s amazing contributions to conservation and the golf industry.

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“I think there’s a place in almost every model of golf course [for pollinators].” – David Phipps

Show Notes:

  • How David became involved in the intersection of golf and conservation
  • Why David’s program became the gold standard for golf courses around the country
  • How courses around the world have contributed to pollinators in different ways
  • The ways David developed the habitat alongside the course
  • What lessons David has learned from the pollinator habitat projects
  • How irrigation and improper preparation can cause habitats to fail
  • The way that pollinators fit into different kinds of courses

“If you’ve got an area that’s not going to see balls landing but you can still benefit from the beautification of the wildflowers, those are areas that can be utilized.” – David Phipps

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Lynn A. Royce, Ph.D. did her doctoral research on tracheal mites of honey bees and has studied pollinators for over 30 years.

She is a passionate scientist who cares deeply about implementing research in practical applications to improve honey bee health.

In this episode, we talk about her organization Tree Hive Bees, and how you can perform “bee-lining” to trace wild bees back to their colonies in trees.

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“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about how bees perceive stuff and why they would look at one tree over another.” – Lynn Royce

Show Notes:

  • Where honey bees used to live in the wild
  • How the honey bee would find a big enough cavity in a tree
  • How a bee colony looks like when they don’t have a man-made bee hive
  • How bee-lining works
  • How to catch bees in order to trace them back to their wild home
  • Why she started Tree Hive Bees
  • What we can learn from the bees’ natural habitat

“Maybe we need to go back to the bee tree and see what we’ve changed that we might be able to get back to the bees that might help them.” – Lynn Royce

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:

Laura Taylor works for the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. In this episode, find what happens when a local government wants to do something to help pollinator health.

As a conservation technician and an educational coordinator, Laura created an innovative program to monitor wild pollinators around restoration sites.

Learn how she got the monitoring program off the ground, what you can do for landowners wanting to help create pollinator habitats, and how they teach people to identify pollinators.

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“What can we do to encourage people to convert their monoculture lawns into something more diverse that will support a myriad of wildlife including pollinators and beneficial insects?” – Laura Taylor

Show Notes:

  • How wild pollinators fit into the mission of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Some of the biggest challenges to pollinators in this area
  • How they work with land owners to set priorities for conservation and pollinator habitat
  • What initially drew her interest in pollinators
  • How they build their Meadowscaping Handbook
  • How their pollinator monitoring program works
  • What the program does to educate landowners
  • How long it takes to teach someone to be able to identify insects and bees
  • What they learned from teaching people about bees in the first year of their program
  • What the future holds for the pollinator monitoring program

“Our pollinator monitoring, citizen science program sounds like a data collection program, but the main inspiration for it was the education benefit it would have for participants.” – Laura Taylor

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