Oregon State University Extension Service

104 – Bonnie Shoffner – The finer points of pollinator outreach (in English)


[00:00:00] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is PolliNation a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Andony Melathopoulos, Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health in the Department of Horticulture.

[00:00:32] It's summertime folks, it's beautiful weather out there. And I know lots of you are busy out at farmer's markets at Master Gardener Plant Clinics at County fairs - doing tabling, telling people about pollinators. And we had a really great episode last year with Kelly Rourke, from Pollinator Partnership, who was telling us about National Pollinator Week, which is a real focal point. And in that show she emphasized the key features of what makes a [00:01:00] good outreach event.

[00:01:01] And that's what my next guest excels at, Bonnie Schoffner is the Restoration Volunteer Coordinator at Metro here in Portland. And as you'll hear in this episode, there's a lot of components to good outreach events. You need a good location where people are going to be, you're going to need compelling activities, things that can really appeal to a broad range of people. And you're going to need to think a little bit about managing volunteers. So in this episode, Bonnie lays it all out, you'll hear all of Bonnie's secrets in a 30 minute interview. It is a good, good, good day.

[00:01:40] Here at PolliNation. I'm so excited to be welcoming my good friend, longtime collaborator, Bonnie Shoffner from Portland Metro.

[00:01:49] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:01:49] Hi, I'm so excited to be here and talk about what I love - pollinators.

[00:01:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:01:52] Well, I think that's where I first met you, at Sauvie Island. There was an [00:02:00] event at Sauvie Island and I was just amazed cause I walked in there and I saw two things that were really unique. I saw a whole lot of different activities engaging the public around pollinators, but I also saw a lot of different people there - like people who don't usually come out to pollinator events. And I just want to maybe just start with, what got you interested in pollinator education? How long have you been doing it? How long before that moment, when I stumbled in and was amazed were you cracking this nut?

[00:02:25] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:02:25] I have been doing pollinator education at that point for about two years. Because I love plants and I love wildlife and I saw these adorable, fuzzy bumblebees, you know, everyone's seen them, they're so cute. And they're like buzzing. And sometimes they're so heavy with pollen and they're like stumbling around and sometimes they're sleepy in the morning. And I was like, "I love bumblebees." And I realized that in the beginning, you know, I have a college education, I consider [00:03:00] myself an educated person - I didn't know much about bees.

[00:03:04] And I thought, "how is this possible? Was I asleep in that class?" But then I realized that, you know, you learn a little bit about social bees at a certain age in grade school, and you learn about honeybees and then you see these bumblebees and that's all you know. And when I started studying it, I thought, like many people out there that there's only social bees because I knew bumblebees and I knew honeybees and they're big, you know, colony social bees. And then I found out there's these solitary bees and I'm like, "what's solitary bees? What's that about?"

[00:03:35] And they're like your favorite mason bee, you know, the little ones that they had the blocks and you help your orchards. They are like the gateway bee, everybody can have mason bee family. Everyone loves mason bees and they're like, "that's a solitary bee." And I was like, "oh, I didn't know that." And so that is what kind of hooked me. And then when I learned that a lot of these things that I saw flying around were [00:04:00] bees and not like little flies or mites or gnats. Then I became totally engrossed in finding out like how many bees are there and what did they do and where did they live and where did they go in the winter and what's happening? And so the story behind the bees is what intrigued me.

[00:04:16] And when I try to engage people, it's all about the connection and the stories. So their connection with nature and what they're seeing and their stories and our stories and connecting in that way. And so the Pollination Picnic or Pollination Celebration that we had at Howell was about connecting our stories and their stories. And so I remember we had the best booth that we came up with together. You remember this? It was the "bee petting zoo."

[00:04:49] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:49] I have to say, I don't know if I came up with it. You had the name and [00:05:00] Sarah Kincaid, a common friend of ours who was on a previous episode, really emphasized the need of people to interact with real creatures. And I just came with some real creatures on ice, but you took it from there. Like you had the name set up, you promoted it and I was amazed when I went through that exercise - people were enthralled. I didn't expect it, but you did. You knew that it was going to have that effect. So tell us a little bit about that activity.

[00:05:29] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:05:29] So like you said, people want to engage with real animals. So petting zoo, we're all familiar with that. You would go to the County fair or you would go to the zoo, or any place- as a little kid hopefully you were lucky enough to be able to go to a petting zoo. And pet an animal you've never seen before and it is transformative. And I remember the first time I went to a petting zoo, I think I got knocked over by a goat, but you know, we all have these memorable experiences. [00:06:00] With the bees, there is this fear of the sting. And once they pet a male bee, we will do the male bees so either male honeybee drones, or male mason bees.

[00:06:15] Especially the mason bees are so gentle once they touch it with their own fingers that cute little beautiful bee - it changes everything. And I have kids that were terrified of bees and they're not allergic, but they're just scared of them because that's kind of the story that they've been told in their experiences. The stories they've been told is important because they don't have their own experience with the bees. And that gives them their own experience and they touch it and it's fuzzy and it's little, and it's cute.

[00:06:43] Especially when the mason bees come out of their cocoons and you see them - that's what's life changing for a lot of people. They see them come out of the cocoon, eat their way out and they come out and they're kind of clinging to the cocoon until they get strong enough and ready to fly away. And then they have their first [00:07:00] flight of their life and you see it. And you're like, "I saw the first flight of their life" and I see tears in adults eyes. And that's the connection, the transformative connection of where they have their own experience with the bee - that's what we're trying to get to. And we want to offer different options.

[00:07:18] Not everybody wants to pet the bee, and so we have all these other fun games. So the idea is to be able to connect with people in a way that is relevant for them, and that they can have their own experience, positive experience with the bee and have their own story and they can go back, like, "I was at the bee petting zoo on Saturday. Have you ever petted a bee? I got to pet a bee!" I hear the kids, like I saw siblings one would pet the bee and then they would like, "you got to pet the bee, go and pet the bee."

[00:07:44] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:07:44] Well, you know, I really love the way that you put that, because I do think that there is this way of people being able to have their own kind of experience. In a way it can be intimate, but sometimes when people are holding a bee, there's a whole crowd around them and [00:08:00] cheering them on, coming out of like a cocoon. And I think that connection and just that, you know, for people who are want to try this - with mason bees, it's really easy, just holding some cocoons back. The males will emerge right there at the activity, if you have them in a cooler and a ice block and you bring them with you know, like a freezer pack in there.

[00:08:25] We bring them up to temperature and then you can actually see cocoon emergence at an event in the spring. People are literally cheering them on is like, "yay!" Let's go to Howell Island and Sauvie Island. Howell Regional Park, right? And so when we walk around that facility on the Pollination Picnic. What is our next stop? What was the next thing people saw?

[00:08:56] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:08:56] So we have this passport, so, [00:09:00] you get your passport stamped at all the stations, so that encourages you to go around and try different activities. So one of the activities we had was, "the bees in your own backyard." So you would go to one of the booths and we would have a puppet that would show how they pollinate where it goes from flower to flower and how the pollen gets passed and how it pollinates. And then kids could do that themselves and they could draw pictures about it and learn some of that. Then we have another booth, "what's in your picnic basket." And then we look at all the food that you would have in your picnic basket and what pollinators contribute to it.

[00:09:46] You want to kind of offer different ways for people to connect in. We have antenna art - insects of course use different type of antenna for different things, and you get to create your own headband antenna and decide [00:10:00] how you're going to use your antenna. So that's a way. We have a honey tasting station where you can taste some bitter honey and some more sweet honey and realize that even though it's all honey, depending on what sort of plant the bees were on - it's very different.

[00:10:17] And then you get a chance to be a bee and we have the "pollen relay race." So what you get is you put on these aprons that have Velcro on it, and you start at your bucket, which is like your hive, and then you have to run down to the flower buckets. They have little balls that have Velcro on them and, you know, bees don't have fingers, so you can't use your fingers and you have to like the bees, get that pollen and stuck to your little Velcro apron.

[00:10:46] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:10:46] If I remember, right, this is a Megachilid bee so it's got scopa on its abdomen.

[00:10:52] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:10:52] Exactly! So you don't have the little pollen baskets where you can stuff it full of pollen. You have to just stick it to your [00:11:00] belly, not using your hands. And then it's a timed thing and you run back and you're trying to get as much pollen in a short period of time. And at the end of it, I ask all the kids, "what did you learn from this game?" And they're like," it's really hard to be a bee!" And I'm like, "yeah, it's really hard to like get that pollen have it stuck to you, make sure it doesn't fall off and get it back to where you need to feed your babies." And so it's like for a brief second, they get experience of being a bee. And so we have art, we have the touching a live animal, we have interactive displays.

[00:11:35] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:35] That's the next thing I want to get to. I think you're really good at doing this and Metro has been really great with coming up with these interactive displays. So we talked about some of those other activities, but, you kind of covered the theme, but not the construction. So I think with all of these activities, there's a way in which it's not a person at a table with a poster explaining it to people. Like you've done a [00:12:00] very good job, I was thinking about the one you have where the bees nest - you've got a couple of them, you've got the bean bag throw. There's a number of them where the participant is really not passively absorbing information.

[00:12:13] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:12:13] They have to truly engage, so when I make an activity I want it to be a game. I want it to be a game that has several levels to it. So like, if you're a little kid, you know, you're just like using the puppet and moving the colorful things around. But if you're an older sibling, you can understand the concept of cross pollination - so it has different levels to it. There's lots of things that you can touch and pick up. And then there's an aspect of if you're the parent of the young kid and the older sibling here's something you can do for your own backyard. Here's a plant list that will give you things that bloom throughout the year so that the bees will stay and be in your yard.

[00:12:53] So you want to have things for different age levels and some people are tactile, they like to touch things, so you have stuff that like to [00:13:00] touch. Some people are visual learners, you want to have lots of bright, beautiful pictures of bees so that people will be inspired. So I look for that in all my activities. I want things that usually are very visual - so if English isn't their first language I try to have some bilingual stuff. Or if they don't know how to read yet, if they're young that there's ways for them to engage with all of these.

[00:13:27] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:27] It's true. They all have that kind of element, I've learned a lot being around you. Like one of the things I've learned about, I think the very first kind of big tabling event I did under your guidance. And I just remember being confronted with a two minute conversation or two minute interaction - especially when we do, like, for example, the zoo events. Aliyah at the Fish and Wildlife Service has also been a mentor for me in this regard of just being able to, you know, think through an activity [00:14:00] and it has to be engaging and you may not have 30 minutes and a power point.

[00:14:07] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:14:07] Exactly. That's what I tell everyone. It is the elevator speech. So you know, at the zoo, it's Twilight Tuesday, it's a great event. There are people moving around, looking at all these different booths and getting food and listening to the band. So you have like one to two minutes with people, so you have to hook them. I tell them it's kind of the carnival festival feel - I want to go capture their attention. And so what we did is, you know, when we captured their attention was we had games like, what personality of bee are you? So I have these beautiful pictures of bees and it's like, do you like to go really fast? You're like long-horned bee and people get to do something.

[00:14:45] So they vote for the bee that's most like them or the bee they like with a bead into a container. And then when they say, "oh, I like to sing, so I'm like a bumblebee" and then they're like, "oh, okay, that's what I like. I [00:15:00] like to sing." And I'm like, "do you know why a bumblebee sings?" And then we talk about buzz pollination. So you hook them with an interest, something that they have an action that connects to them, and then you give them a little snippet of information. And as you know, you've seen me go into my full buzz pollination dance.

[00:15:18] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:18] With your head gear!

[00:15:19] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:15:19] With my head gear where I look like a bee and I'm vibrating at a middle C and I'm all the way there. And they remember that, but there's just like, "yeah, there's this crazy lady and she was telling me about buzz pollination and, like, I get how it works now." And because if you're enthused, your enthusiasm will carry over. So the best teachers are people that have passion and love. And so all the folks I've been lucky enough to work with, have that passion and love of pollinators. And that's what translates even if the information doesn't translate. That translates to the people.

[00:15:54] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:54] Well, fantastic. Let's take a quick break. Let's come back and get deeper [00:16:00] into the rabbit hole of pollinator outreach.

[00:16:02] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:16:02] Great.

[00:16:16] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:16:16] Okay. We're back. So one thing I've always been impressed with the events that you do is whenever I hang around with you, I'm meeting people who I don't usually meet. There's a lot of committed pollinator people around and we run into them all the time and they're fascinating people, but in some ways I find it's really exciting to do events with you because I'm always running into people who may have never thought about pollinators. Like very different, so what's the secret? How do you find audiences who are not the, you know, likely suspects?

[00:16:53] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:16:53] Right? Exactly. So when we're out educating, we're like, "we don't want to preach to the choir, how do we get people that we've never [00:17:00] reached before?" So I have a few things that I like to do. So one is you start at a place that people are connected with. So Howell Park as we talked about, there is a wonderful group, a nonprofit Sauvie Island Center who does education there. So one of the reasons we get a lot of people at that event is these are families and school children that come there for that, for the Sauvie Island Center Program. And so they know the place already and they're familiar with it. And so they're like, "oh, there's this event with this community partner that we know and trust, and here's this place we is familiar and we're used to going to."

[00:17:36] And so it's kind of location, location, location and someone you know, and trust. So if you can connect, so what you might find is like, there is a community partner it could be like a local faith based group, it could be a community center, it could be the Rotary Club or the Lions - some group that you already know that knows the community and you partner [00:18:00] with them. The other thing is, who would be interested in bees? So obviously there's like, you know, bee nerds like myself, but gardeners, farmers, people who love other types of insects, people who love and watch nature.

[00:18:17] So I would first I would go gardening - number one hobby in the United States. So then you have plants stores and all the industry that's around gardening, community garden plots - they would love to have you come and talk. Garden shops, it increases traffic for their shops, and you can talk about what plants are good for for bees. So people are gonna come in and be like, "oh, I'm here and there's a talk I might as well like walk in and check it out." And then they learn something. Birdwatchers who like to watch nature and our naturalist type folk are very interested in things like this - they just don't know anything about them. So you want to hook into those large [00:19:00] groups that are interested in that.

[00:19:02] And frankly, if you have children's education, if you make it family friendly, you want to go out with your kids and do something fun, that the kids are gonna like. And so I try to do a lot of family friendly stuff because then that brings the whole family in and while maybe one of the family is interested in it. The rest all learned something and may become and be enthused.

[00:19:23] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:23] Yeah. And I think the nice thing about your programming is that you can come and just be passing through and, you know, have fun, and learn a few things. But it's not something that puts huge demands on you - you can have a good time. The one thing I did notice at one of your events that you had recently was food - just having a hot meal there for people to come in, if you can afford to put it into the budget.

[00:19:50] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:19:50] Yes! When you want to make friends with people, what do you? Do you have them over for dinner! So like you would have, if you were having a [00:20:00] potluck or, friends and family coming over, you should think of it like that. What do you do? You want them to feel welcome, you want everybody to feel welcome that they can come, they can stay as long as they like, if they have another commitment they can pop into your party and say "hi" and still have a good time and go, they can bring the kids.

[00:20:18] And so you want to think about food, water, you know, like restrooms, the creature comforts. The Pollinator Picnic we had food available that you could get that was part of the budget that was free for all participants. They were also encouraged if they wanted to just like have a picnic and bring some of their own stuff they could have that. So you want to think about if we're going to come with a family and spend a little time there you want it to be kind of the full meal deal. Which includes food!

[00:20:50] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:50] You know, one other thing, and it was on the tip of my mind and it has evaporated.

[00:20:58] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:20:58] It will come back up.

[00:21:00] [00:21:00] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:21:00] It might.

[00:21:01] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:21:01] So if I was, let's say in my community and I say, "hey, I love pollinators and I want to do something about pollinators. Where do I start?" So ideally like we did with the Twilight Tuesday at the zoo - we try to find an event that's a draw, and then we are part of it. So that way it's not all on you. So maybe it's a fair or the community center is having like a special holiday or you know, there's a lot of these like community fairs going on. So find one in your neighborhood, join it and then have a fun game. The first thing they'll ask you when you're tabling is like, "do you have an interactive game?"

[00:21:44] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:21:44] They do! I found this out now that people are asking this. When I was doing something at OMSI coming up and it was same thing. I know what my interactive game is, but I wouldn't have until I met you!

[00:21:55] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:21:55] And that's because they were like, we don't want it to be passive. We want it to engage people. And the other thing is maybe [00:22:00] have, you know, the giveaway. So in our case, because you were kind enough to get it together, we had wonderful seeds that would be good for bees. So it's also helpful to have some connected giveaway. And I really appreciated that it was something that was like actual seeds, that would be plants in real and not something plastic to give people that was connected to the theme. So that's also something to think about an engaging game, something that they can take home that will be connected to the concept.

[00:22:27] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:27] I remember what I was going to say now, and it's connected to this whole thing. This episode is going to be titled, "Things Bonnie's Taught Me!" And the next one is, volunteer management. You taught me to make sure I have food, snacks for volunteers. But volunteer management is really important if you're going to run one of these big events. I've done this before, whether it's me and you know, a bunch of totes and I almost killed myself. So you need help, tell us about volunteer management.

[00:22:57] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:22:57] All right. So yes, you don't want to try to do everything [00:23:00] yourself. It's just, it's too much. And also keeping in mind, you're trying to connect and engage people. So your volunteers have all these friends and family that may come just to see them and they will be connected and they know people in the community - so it's another way to connect. So having a volunteer is like having a friend over to your house for a party. So what are you going to do? You're going to give them clear information about when and where the party is.

[00:23:26] You're going to let them know like what type of party it is, is it a costume party? They don't want to be the one coming to costume, if nobody else has a costume. So you want to tell them like, you know, what do you need to wear? What's the weather like? Or am I going to be under shelter? Am I going to be outside? Because you want them to be comfortable. You want them to be relaxed. I'll give them the information in advance so they can practice it. So they're not put on the spot and don't know what they're supposed to be talking about. You want to be able to give them breaks, restroom breaks, food, water.

[00:23:58] When they're at these great events, of [00:24:00] course, they're going to want to walk around and take a break and be able to see all the other cool things that the event that's what makes it fun. That's what makes them come back. And to give them all an opportunity, I have some people like me who just like love talking to people and engaging, and then I have other people that maybe that's not their thing. And I can find something at the table that they're really good at that they can do. Everyone in the audience is different too. So even I want volunteers that have different ways of engaging because that will meet all the different ways of engagement of the public that are coming to our event.

[00:24:35] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:35] Okay. So a lot of great information, just maybe just to wrap this part up, tell us about the events that Metro does around pollinator education. It seems like there's a lot of different parts. You know, one of them that comes to mind is a more kind of stable thing at the zoo, the partnership at the Discovery Center there which I really love that has that beautiful [00:25:00] pollinator garden. So kind of run us through what you guys are doing for pollinators.

[00:25:06] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:25:06] Yeah, so we're so lucky at the Oregon Zoo, they have the new Education Center and next to it is the pollinator garden. So we have wonderful Master Gardeners through OSU extensions that come and will volunteer staff that. So people can come and we have the Pollinator Palace, we have a little area where we have all different types of nesting material for bees, and you can actually see the bees going in and out and the different types of bees nesting and the different types of materials.

[00:25:34] And we have native plants and other plants that are good for pollinators, and they're all labeled. You can see what they look like and what the bees would like. And then we have information - sometimes we'll have like microscopes and different things that you can see and learn about insects, particularly bees. And what you can do in your own backyard or your apartment or whatever sort of living space you're in and how you can help bees. And [00:26:00] we'll have like plant lists and other information of what you can do at home.

[00:26:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:05] I remember there's that also that nice game, they've got those laminated sheets where it's like a treasure hunt.

[00:26:11] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:26:11] Yes, it's like a bingo treasure hunt and you wander and go through, it helps lead you through parts of the pollinator garden and to find different aspects that are important for bees and other pollinators. And that's always fun. Again, it's an activity you can do and you learn something and it's fun because it helps you to really see some of the hidden gems that are in that area.

[00:26:34] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:34] Not very hidden is the huge bronze bee.

[00:26:37] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:26:37] They have some fabulous sculptures. And one of them is the huge bronze bee, which is of course a photo opportunity. I've gotten many a picture in front of it. And so that is also one of the best ways to spot that area.

[00:26:51] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:51] Okay. But there's also a bunch of events. We talked about the one the Pollinator Picnic, but there's also the National Pollinator Week.

[00:26:58] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:26:58] Yes. So we talked [00:27:00] about the Pollinator Picnic at Howell. For National Pollinator Week, we always do something usually around the Oregon Zoo and we did it on Twilight Tuesday. And also during that month, we do something at our Blue Lake Park where we have very similar activities. We talked about on a Saturday at Blue Lake. So lots of people who like to come to Blue Lake can participate. This year we started something new, "Pollinator Jenga." So we have a Jenga game when you pull out the piece, before you put it back on, you have a beautiful graphic and a little factoid about pollinators.

[00:27:35] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:35] I remember because there were those kids that came and they were like Jenga wizards.

[00:27:40] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:27:40] They were, and I set up the Jenga and apparently I did not stack it correctly. They're like, "can we fix this?" And I'm like, "please do." And so they restacked it and they had quite a heated game that lasted for quite some time.

[00:27:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:52] Okay. And you yourself work at sort of the plant propagation or you're located there right?

[00:28:00] [00:27:59] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:27:59] Yeah. So Metro has a Native Plant Center where we gather seed from the public lands and natural areas. And then obviously, if you're collecting from the wild, you want to leave a lot of the wild genetics out there. So we'll collect 10-30% and bring it back to our Native Plant Center and propagate it, grow it out. And then all of it goes out for restoration. And I am lucky enough to work with a bunch of wonderful volunteers and staff out at the Native Plant Center. And so that restoration helps pollinators as well as helps water quality and people and other animals and wildlife.

[00:28:33] And so Metro has been working with pollinator hedgerows. So that's like a hedgerow, a bunch of trees and shrubs that you grow together. And we have it so that there are plants that bloom throughout the year. So then the pollinators have food and then there are undisturbed places in the hedgerows where they can leave their eggs. So they're safe to have the eggs for over winter. And so we have pollinator hedgerows [00:29:00] on our properties. We have a few properties that had specific Prairie's that are planted with pollinator friendly flat flowers, and they're doing some visual surveys and different surveys to see how well that is helping the bees and helping our restoration.

[00:29:13] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:13] Well, I guess Howell Regional Park is one example where there's beautiful hedgerows are there any other places - if you're a enthusiastic Metro bee lover or pollinator lover are there some other spots for people to check out?

[00:29:27] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:29:27] Yes. Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville is a wonderful place that has a lot of open Prairie you'll see lupine and sidalcea. And many of our properties have that sort of habitat, Canemah Bluff in Oregon City has some beautiful habitat, Cooper Mountain which is like Beaverton/Aloha has some beautiful little Prairie's and some wonderful wild flowers with wonderful pollinators that are using those wild flowers.

[00:29:58] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:58] Yay. Metro!

[00:30:00] [00:30:00] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:30:00] So, yeah. So if you get a chance to go out in the parks, you will see some lovely bees as well as some beautiful land.

[00:30:07] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:07] Alright, we're going to take a break. We have one last segment in this show. I asked you questions, which I haven't told you what the questions are yet. But you'll do great. Trust me.

[00:30:16] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:30:16] All right.

[00:30:29] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:29] Okay, we're back. I briefly gave you like a real low down on this segment. It starts off with a book recommendation.

[00:30:37] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:30:37] "Bee's of Your Backyard." A very good friend of mine who's a wonderful entomologist, she was like, when I first started pollinator education - when I had that epiphany of like, "I don't know anything about bees, why do I not know more about bees?" She's like, "this is the book for you." It has a lot of great information about bees at all levels. So it has general stuff, it has some really [00:31:00] technical stuff. It's very engaging and easy to read for the non-entomologists like myself.

[00:31:06] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:06] So this is interesting because this is a three time in a row. I can't remember his name a guy in Indiana on the watermelon show, Dr. Malinger out in Florida and now you. In Canada, we call that a hatrick- I don't know why we do, it's three in a row for "Bees in Your Backyard." It's a great book. I had an email from some folks in Ohio who are going to produce a show with Olivia Messinger-Carril. And just for those of you out there, they want to host a episode of PolliNation and they were going to have her on the show. We've had Joseph Wilson on the show in the past like the second episode, but I really like to get her.

[00:31:53] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:31:53] To have her, that author for that book on the show. That would be fabulous!

[00:31:57] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:57] Because I understand if I remember [00:32:00] she did all the writing or did a lot of the writing like that really great descriptive, funny, light, but really deep writing - I think was her.

[00:32:10] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:32:10] Yes. And then you get a real feel for like the gestalt, the personality of the bee. As well as like, what would you look for, like in that more technical, if you like, we're trying to id it like under a microscope, a little bit of that as well.

[00:32:21] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:21] Okay, fantastic. Next we come to tool. Is there a tool for the kind of work that you do that you sort of see as your go to tool?

[00:32:28] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:32:28] My go to tool, I think would be the game. So the game that I've found is super fun is "what personally bee am I?" It's engaging, it's quick. So it fits that one minute thing. It packs up really small and it's easy to carry, which is a plus when you're the person organizing. And I've been able to even adapt it with other themes.

[00:32:51] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:51] Like adapt it? And also describe what this is.

[00:32:56] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:32:56] You [00:33:00] would have like the bee, but where would you find this bee? What sort of habitat would it be in? What sort of plant would it be in? So you can actually say like, "oh, this is our lovely mason bee, they're out early." What sort of plants would it be? "Oh, Willow. Willow is one of our early bloomers here. Where does Willow live? What sort of habitat would that be in?"

[00:33:24] So you can have a whole story - it's again, unrolling that story. So I've used it for like a plant sale where they're more focused on plants. Then you use the plants as the hook and you connect it to that game. And the game is simple. So you have big beautiful pictures of bees. And like I said, if they pick, "I like to play in the mud." They like the mason bees.

[00:33:49] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:49] So it says in like in big black letters, it says, "I like to play in the mud." And then it has a nice crisp image of a mason bee from Oregon Department of Agriculture.

[00:33:56] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:33:56] Exactly. And so they see this picture and [00:34:00] they've never really seen a bee that close that looks like that. And so they say, "hey, I like to play in the mud." And I'm like, "well, mason bees like to play in the mud. Do you know why?" And I talk about how they mason up when they lay their eggs. That's how they keep the cells safe and they're solitary bees. And, you might recognize them as the orchard bee, and people put those little boxes up.

[00:34:21] And then we have a little talk about mason bees and I have facts on the back of the picture. So if you don't remember them, they're there, and I have little vases in front of every picture and then I have just pretty colored beads and they get a vote for what bee is most like them or the bee they like the best. And then, you know, have all the little stories unrolling as they pick a bee. I tell them a little something about the bee. And then they are just like, "oh, I like to run really fast." And I'm like, "oh, you're a long-horned bee."

[00:34:55] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:55] You said there's voting. Is there ever a clear winner?

[00:34:59] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:34:59] I [00:35:00] have to say the bumblebee with the singing seems to be popular. We have some like the early riser, the miner bees, cause they come early in the season - not a lot of early risers out in the crowd.

[00:35:11] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:35:11] I've done this one before. It's funny, I remember this one in Washington County, this girl. And we were like, "do you like to play in the mud? Do you like to dance, which is the honeybee. Or, you know, are you early riser?" And she, I can't remember how it went but, she was like, "I'm an early riser." And her mom says, "no, you're not." And I was like, "I'm not going to get in the middle of this one!" So the other thing is that these go between plexiglass, like those little cardholders, so they're really easy to pack up and move.

[00:35:46] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:35:46] Right! So those little stands, you can tape them right down if it's windy. It packs up into like a little small Tupperware box. It's like you know, the size of a notebook. And so it's really light and handy. So [00:36:00] I have information too, that I give out, I have the bee cards, which has pictures of the different types of bees that they can take home. I may have seeds to give out. I have you know, like lots of different information that goes with it, that they can take it if they want more.

[00:36:14] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:14] Well and lucky listeners who are inspired by Bonnie, we're going to link those cards, we have the PDF's for them. So if you want to print them up and make a million of them, go for it.

[00:36:26] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:36:26] They're really beautiful pictures. And I find that they are really eye catching and engaging.

[00:36:31] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:31] Okay. Last question is if you were to vote, what's your favorite pollinator species?

[00:36:37] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:36:37] Well, I have to say the bumblebee, Bombus they just seem very engaging. I do feel it that they are the teddy bear of the bee world. And I've handled them, they're very gentle. I find them really intriguing how they, you know, like they're so hairy, they can [00:37:00] almost thermoregulate. And you'll find them like in colder temperatures and higher elevations, they can be places nothing else can. The fact that they buzz pollinate, that they're able to vibrate their muscles at a middle C so things like tomatoes will release their pollen. And I mean, I love tomatoes and everything that goes with that. That's like, you know, pizza and salt, sun, everything that you love. When you talk to people, if you ask them to draw bee, they draw a bumblebee.

[00:37:31] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:31] I just want to say one of the occasions for this interview is you're down at bee school and I saw your coloring sheet. So you were doing color patterns.

[00:37:40] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:37:40] Yes. For the bumblebees, there's this book, "Bumblebees of North America." And they have these color plates because they have unique coloring - like all of us, they have very different coloring. I mean, that's how you determine the bee and I could never quite make the correspondence between what the bee [00:38:00] looks like and like color palettes. But in bee school this year, they kind of walked us through.

[00:38:04] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:04] It's like a gridded picture of the abdomen.

[00:38:06] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:38:06] Yeah. So like T1, T2, T3, and you color it. And then you look at the bee and you color it, and then you can look in the book and find out what bee it is. And so I got to color in class which is really fun and it actually really helped me to use the book better.

[00:38:21] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:21] Although today was male. So you're also the other alternative, I guess, was male genitalia.

[00:38:26] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:38:26] Yeah, so that's a different show. I don't think we can do that on the air.

[00:38:32] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:32] Well, right. Well, what's that? Thank you so much for taking time to join us at PolliNation.

[00:38:37] Bonnie Shoffner: [00:38:37] Thank you very much for having me.

[00:38:48] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:48] Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu. We'd also love to hear from you, and there are several ways to [00:39:00] connect for one, you can visit our website to post an episode specific comment, suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. You can also email us at [email protected]. Finally, you can tweet questions or comments or join our Facebook or Instagram communities, just look us up at OSU Pollinator Health. If you like the show, consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating, it makes us more visible, which helps others discover PolliNation.

[00:39:30] See you next week!


Public outreach may seem simple, but impactful and effective outreach is an art. Bonnie Shoffner from Portland Metro is a real pro at pulling off pollinator outreach events and this week she shares here secrets for success. Bonnie is the Restoration Volunteer Coordinator at Metro.

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Links Mentioned:

Bonnie’s Book Recommendation: The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees (Wilson and Carril, 2015)

Bonnie’s Go to Tool: Which bee are you most like game (8 bees with different personalities, Oregon Bee Project)?

Favorite Pollinator: Bumble bees (PNW Bumble Bees color chart for females, Xerces Society)

Source URL: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/podcast/pollination-podcast/104-bonnie-shoffner-finer-points-pollinator-outreach