Michelle Flenniken on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Michelle Flenniken is an Assistant Professor in the Plant Sciences Department at Montana State University. She is a microbiologist investigating honey bee host–pathogen interactions and Co-Director of the Pollinator Health Center at MSU. Michelle received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Iowa, then was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, before obtaining her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Montana State University. She did postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco prior to becoming a faculty member at MSU.

Listen in to learn how viruses affect pollinators, how virologists study them, and which ways beekeepers can best protect their colonies from infection.

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“When you think about a bee colony, it’s a great place for viral infections. They’re really crowded, if you think of honeybees, there’s over 40,000 individuals crawling all over each other.” – Michelle Flenniken

Show Notes:

  • How pollinators can get infected by viruses
  • The difference between horizontal and vertical transmission
  • Why monitoring your mite infestations can help minimize viral transmissions
  • How virologists have been studying and finding these myriad viruses
  • What common viruses affect United States pollinators
  • How the names of the viruses are determined
  • The process of infection with viruses and pollinators
  • How beekeepers can best test their colonies for viral infections
  • What beekeepers can do to reduce the damage caused by viruses
  • What Michelle sees as some of the most exciting research in virology right now
  • The evolution of how bees fend off viruses
  • How different RNA strands are used to create defenses against viruses

“I think that many of us get human centric when we start thinking about viruses and pathogens and we think that there are specific viruses that infect humans and those that affect other animals, but for insects and plant viruses, viruses can have a broader host range which include completely different genre.” – Michelle Flenniken

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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:

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:

Dr. Ramesh Sagili on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Ramesh Sagili is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. He obtained his PhD in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2007, specializing in honey bee research. His primary research focus at OSU is honey bee health, nutrition and pollination. His appointment also includes extension and hence he also works closely with the stakeholders. He initiated the creation of Oregon Master Beekeeper Program in 2010 and chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Pollinator Health in 2014. He has strived to establish a vibrant and dynamic honey bee research and extension program at OSU to cater the needs of beekeepers and producers. He has authored several important research and extension publications. In 2017 he received the Entomological Society of America’s Pacific Branch Research Award and also the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Outstanding Research Award.

Listen in as we talk about honey bee nutrition, what beekeepers need to know about nutrition supplements and sterols, and what Ramesh has learned about controlling varroa mites.

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“There is a lot we don’t understand about the role of sterols in the honey bee diet”. – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Show Notes:

  • How much is currently known about honey bee nutrition
  • The importance of the sterols in the honey bee’s growth
  • What Ramesh’s research on sterols and honey bees has shown about larval growth
  • The role that protein supplement can play in the health of your hive
  • How bees can get their necessary nutrients and sterols with artificial feed
  • What kinds of problems varroa mites present, and Ramesh’s research into mitigating their effects
  • Some of the questions surrounding varroa mites, and what we know about them
  • What “mite drifting” is, and how population density plays into it

“We had low density areas and high density areas of hive and we watched how Varroa mite infestations changed over time. This allowed us to quantify the migration of mites among apiaries.  [Preliminary findings were] that mite levels almost doubled in the high density areas. It was a real eye-opener”. – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Links Mentioned:

Dr Dewey M Caron - PolliNation - Episode Art

Dr. Dewey M. Caron is Emeritus Professor of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, Univ of Delaware, & Affiliate Professor, Dept Horticulture, Oregon State University. He spent 40+ years teaching, doing bee extension and bee research at Cornell (1967-70), University of MD, College Park (1970-1981) and University of DE, Newark DE (1981-2009).
Since retirement in 2009, he spends 4-6 months each year in Bolivia, where he keeps Africanized bees and teaches beekeeping (in Spanish). The rest of the year he is in the northern hemisphere; his 5 backyard colonies in Tigard OR are docile European bees. He moved from Newark to Portland, Oregon following retirement to be closer to 5 grandkids. He manages to return to East coast several times each year to give Bee Short Courses and lectures to various bee clubs and state organizations. He remains active in EAS. His first EAS meeting was 1967 at University of MD. He has served as President (1986), Director (both from MD and DE), Chairman of the Board for 8 years, Chair of several Board committees and currently is Advisor for EAS Master Beekeeper program. He was program and Short Course chair for 2016 New Jersey and Program Chair for 2017 Delaware, his 50th year in EAS.

Listen in to this episode to learn about how you can keep your colonies safe from varroa mites, and what tools you can use to prevent and manage them.

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“Whatever stage you have mites in your colonies, we have some tools, things that we can do that will then help blunt the advantage that the varroa mite seems to have with our European honeybee.” – Dr. Dewey M. Caron

Show Notes:

  • Why varroa management is such a problem for beekeepers
  • How the Mite-A-Thon helped Dewey in the fight against varroa mites
  • Why monitoring for varroa mites is important for beekeepers
  • The steps that beekeepers can take to manage and prevent varroa mites
  • How you can use the “Tools for Varroa Management” guide
  • What other tools are available through the coalition website
  • How the Honeybee Health Coalition began
  • Why the most hygenic bees are Dewey’s favorite

“It’s not if your colony has varroa mites, that’s not the question you should be asking. You should be asking how many mites does my colony have? ” – Dr. Dewey M. Caron

Links Mentioned:

Ellen Topitzhofer works for the Bee Informed Partnership, an innovative organization across the U.S. that works with commercial bee keepers to tackle some of their most pressing pest management issues.

In this episode, we discuss the unique pest issues in the Pacific Northwest, and explore the universal problem of varroa mites in bee colonies. We talk about how best to manage those pests, the relationship of the mites to the bees and pollination patterns, and more.

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“Some of the most beautiful places I’ve been to have been bee yards.” – Ellen Topitzhofer

Show Notes:

  • What the Bee Informed partnership is and how it started
  • How they educated commercial bee keepers
  • What makes Pacific Northwest beekeeping different than other regions of the country
  • An introduction to varroa mites
  • How to treat for these types of mites
  • What the tech transfer team does
  • The logistics of sampling for mites
  • Why varroa mites increase when colonies go into Pollination
  • How mites move from an apiary to another
  • How their research changes the way that commercial bee keepers operate
  • Why some bees drift to different colonies

“We help bee keepers colonies by testing colonies, to assist commercial bee keepers in making management decisions about queen breeding, pests, and colony health. .” -Ellen Topitzhofer

Links Mentioned: