01 Francis Ratnieks – The Benefits of Bees in Urban Areas


Speaker 1: 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. Adoni Melopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health in the Department of Horticulture. Today we're talking about honeybees in the city and I'm really pleased to have Professor Francis Ratnick from the University of Sussex. Now Professor Ratnick has done a lot of research in apocultural science right across the board from basic honeybee biology to very practical solutions for beekeepers, but also as we're going to learn today for homeowners who are interested in encouraging pollinators. Now this podcast is full of really good tips, so listen carefully.

There's going to be ideas for how to select pollinator plants, but also if you're an urban beekeeper who's keeping bees in the city, how to make sure that your bees don't get into your neighbor's hair. So it's really information packed episode. I hope you enjoy this interview with Professor Francis Ratnick. Thank you so much for joining us today, Francis.

Pleasure. Well, the way from England. The way from England.

And you were recently in Oregon. It's great to connect with you. One thing I was really impressed with just getting to meet you for the first time is just how wide your interests are in research. You've made a name for yourself doing foundational research on honeybee pheromones and behavior, but you've also done some real practical and applicable work on controlling things like honeybee parasites. But I'm also aware that you've done a lot of work on issues pertaining to residential beekeeping. And I just wanted to begin with getting a sense of how you got interested in asking these questions. Was it just a great model for asking questions or was there something else?

Speaker 2: Well, Anton, I've always been interested in both basic and applied questions with honeybees. And I've been a beekeeper ever since I took up grad school at one time, I owned 180 bee hives.

So I've always had an interest in the applied questions and helping bees. And with a honeybee, basically, you've got an amazing insect which does incredible things. So it's great for doing basic biology, but also it's a very important insect. So it's also necessary to do applied biology to try and help the honeybee. So moving on to your question, you know, how did I get involved with urban things or helping bees in urban areas?

There's been a lot of interest in honeybees and bees in general over recent years. And a lot of the advice given isn't necessarily all that good. Lots of kind of well-meaning people, I'm sure.

But sometimes the advice isn't very good. So how it happened was I was actually at a flower show in London. I was being interviewed on the BBC to do with some bee garden somebody had got. And as I was wandering around this huge plant and flower show, I saw a display of lavender plants. And lavender is normally blue, but they had all different colors like white and pink and blue and all different varieties. And I remember thinking at that time, well, I hope they haven't bred them in such a way that some of those varieties are not good for bees. Well from that came the idea, well, why not do a project, you know, looking at how the different varieties of lavender, do they all attract bees? And then from that came a bigger project, you know, not just lavenders.

And from that came not just plants or urban ornamental plants, but a wider project on helping bees in urban areas. So I got the funding to hire a PhD student to work in that area. So in one sense, you know, I got a good PhD student.

Speaker 1: That's a great story. So all the way from a garden show to to a PhD, it brings up this question, though, as well. Are there benefits to keeping bees in the cities? And if there are, what are the challenges and problems that residential or urban beekeepers are faced? What have you found?

Speaker 2: Well, there's a lot of hype in Britain about keeping bees in cities and, you know, people are being encouraged to keep bees in cities. And some people say even cities are really good places to keep bees, you know, better than the countryside.

So we also wanted to inject a bit of realism into this whole issue. In my opinion, you know, keeping bees in the city, the main reason to keep bees in the city is if you yourself live in the city, you know, if you want to have an apiary in your garden and you live in the city, that's a logical place to keep them. I just think now most people in over half the world's population now live in cities, so we're going to have a lot of city beekeepers. I don't necessarily think we're helping the honeybees by keeping extra bee hives in cities, because I don't think the honeybee is any fundamental danger in the first place. You sometimes, you know, hear people saying, well, I want to help the endangered honeybee, or usually it's some organization promoting honeybees. For example, the London City Council and saying, well, if we have more bee hives in the city, will we helping the endangered honeybee, or will we be helping crop pollination? But the truth is the urban bees are not going to fly into the countryside to pollinate crops, or very seldom will do so. I think the main reason to keep bees in the city is that's where you live. And you know, as a prospective beekeeper, as a beekeeper, you want the joys of beekeeping.

Speaker 1: That's wonderful. I can imagine for here in the United States as well, there's a similar kind of sensibility around saving the bee, but there is enormous pleasures that people can get from keeping bees in their backyard.

It's really, as you and I both know, keeping bees is really a great hobby. What are some of the challenges that people might experience if you take this, take this up? What are some of the problems you're inevitably going to face?

Speaker 2: Do you mean if you're in the city or just in general as a beekeeper?

Speaker 1: No, no, not in general as a beekeeper. If you're taking up beekeeping in the city as a hobby, what are some of the problems and challenges you'll face?

Speaker 2: Well, when people learn beekeeping, and obviously, you know, many beekeepers are experienced, and it's quite difficult maybe for me to think back to the time when I didn't know much about beekeeping.

But the problem with keeping bees in the city, I think, is where you're going to keep them. And if you're not very knowledgeable, and what happens if something goes wrong? For example, if you've got a very large back garden, it doesn't really matter if something goes wrong. By going wrong, I mean, let's say you have a colony of honeybees, which is quite defensive. Honeybees very enormously in how defensive or aggressive they are.

And once in a while, you know, there's a really nasty colony. If you're a city beekeeper who's got their first hive or the first few hives, and there's a problem, you won't have the experience. So I do think that ideally beekeepers wouldn't learn beekeeping in their own garden. If it's a small garden in a city, they would have the experience to know, for example, how what to do with the colony, which is highly aggressive, how to reduce swarming, that type of thing, before kind of inflicting it on their neighborhood. And their neighbors.

Speaker 1: That rings true as well. In my experience, it's just starting out and being able to get the basic beekeeping education can sometimes be a challenge.

Speaker 2: Yes. And another thing, Anthony, is not every garden is equal. I kept, for example, bee colonies in very small garden I had in the Bay Area near San Francisco, and I erected lattice fencing around my mini apiary. So that basically made the bees a lot easier to keep without knowing the neighbors, because the lattice fencing forces the bees to fly high. So they fly over people's heads.

And also they don't really see what's going around. So if you've got a garden and you have a good apiary location within it, you know, surrounded by hedges or maybe on one side is a wall of the property, you know, a garage or something can you put lattice fencing around it, you're going to be able to keep bees in a way which is much less going to affect your neighbors and need yourself or your own family in your own garden. Then if you, for example, plonk a hive down in the middle of your lawn, such that when the bees are taking off and landing, they kind of come in low and somebody's there, you know, doing something, kind of bee comes in and bumps into that person. So a lot of it's also knowing enough about the bees so you can locate your apiary within your garden or whatever other piece of land you use in a suitable way.

Speaker 1: So there are two issues. There's one just basic beekeeping, but there are these knowledge of how you can work with bees in densely populated areas. And I want to take up that research that you have done on both lattices and hedges.

Can you tell us a little bit more about how they operate? You talked a little bit about how bees will move up to avoid the hedge or lattice, but how wide do these have to be? And could you put bees right up against the property line if you had the had the proper barrier?

Speaker 2: Well, I'm not sure if you'd want to put your own hives right next to your property line. You know, that is as close to the neighbor as possible. You want an ideal apiary will be sheltered anyway from the wind and things like that. So if you, for example, look around your property and you've got, I don't know, a garage and on one side of the garage, there's a hedge. Maybe you've already got two kind of sides providing some shelter so you can put the bees into that corner, you know, a couple of beehives. And then maybe the other two sides, you can erect some lattice fencing and it wants to be about six or seven feet high, i.e. a little bit taller than a human.

So that when the bees leave the apiary, they have to fly over the fencing or the hedging or whatever it is and they get to, you know, six, seven or eight feet above the ground. And that's where they stay. And we're all, you know, humans walking around at sort of six foot or less for the most part. So the bees are just zipping over our heads.

Speaker 1: How do the bees operate around these barriers to the edges? Do they, I could imagine a bee colony that encounters a barrier will go up, but will they go around the barrier?

Speaker 2: Well, they'll go up and they'll stay up. So the point is you get basically, you know, the bees will eventually start flying quite high above the ground. But like an aeroplane coming into an airport, they'll kind of make a bit of a slow takeoff. But they can perfectly easily fly vertically. And that's what the barrier is intending to do, to get them to fly up before they start flying along.

Speaker 1: That's great. I'm real surprised about the lattice. You must have, I would have thought the bees would just, if the hole was big enough, they would just fly through, but they seem not to. Were you surprised by that finding?

Speaker 2: They tend not to fly through the lattice. Obviously, you know, you need to have a lattice, which the holes aren't too big. But one of the reasons you want lattice is you don't want the apiary to be totally shaded.

You do want light coming in and you don't want to have a sort of gloomy, cold apiary where the bees are kind of, you know, it's permanently in the shade and also doesn't make it easy as a bee keeper because when you're managing your hives, having good light enables you to, for example, inspect the hives properly and to look into the cells when you're inspecting for disease and so on and so forth. So you're trying to sort of optimize several different things at the same time. And again, this is where experience comes in. And this is where I think it is a challenge to be a beginning bee keeper and maybe to start keeping bees in your own garden because you don't have those skills. Well, of course, if you are a beginning bee keeper, I would greatly advise getting some assistance from an experienced bee keeper. And that's how I learned, you know, I was surrounded with experienced beekeepers when I learned my beekeeping because I was in a rather unusual situation. I was in a university laboratory specializing in honeybees, but basically it meant I had lots of advice whenever I needed it.

Speaker 1: Come back to something you mentioned earlier, how you became interested in questions around residential and urban beekeeping, those lavender plants. One question I get asked a lot is how many colonies could you could a square mile of a city support? You've done some real innovative work looking at floral resources around the city and both plant species, but also on the landscape level. Can you tell us a little bit about that work and the implications that you can draw from it from answering this question about colony density in the city?

Speaker 2: Yes, well, it would be quite easy to have a high density of colonies in a city if you have thousands of people living in every square mile and there's even one person, a thousand, it's a beekeeper. You could in principle have a lot of beehives more than was good.

And in nature, honeybee density varies enormously from about a tenth of a colony per square kilometer to about 10. Typically, it might be one or two or something like that. So it would be quite easy to have that number in a city and maybe to have too many in a city. And also there's all kinds of people that for reasons I can't quite understand, they're trying to promote beekeeping in the city and they usually say things like, oh, there's loads and loads of flowers in cities. There's parks and gardens and green spaces, but we did a project where we had beehives set up in the city near where we are based here in Brighton and also in the university campus, which is kind of in the countryside and using the dances of the bees, we examined how far they were flying. And really we didn't find any evidence that the city was better or worse in the countryside. And we actually did two projects on that. So my current feeling is that the city on average or urban areas on average, you're probably about as good as the countryside on average.

Speaker 1: So let me get this straight. You would look at the length of the bee dance and figure out how far they were dancing. And in an urban and in a rural area, they would dance as far, which would imply that they're not having to go farther in the city or shorter in the city for food. Is that correct?

Speaker 2: Yeah, well, we did a couple of projects. And one project we had hives in the city and on the campus. And by and large, there was fairly similar foraging. And in the city, the bees got most of their food within a kilometer.

The other thing is that honeybees can fly at extremely long distances. People often get the wrong idea. They say, oh, you know, I see you've got lots of flowers in your garden. Does that mean the bees in your hives forage on them? And I say, well, no, because honeybees can fly up to 12 kilometers. They routinely go a few kilometers.

So you can get it really wrong to think the honeybees are just sort of flopping out of the hive and foraging on the next flower. But we did another project with them. A lot of the urban research was done with a PhD student called Mihail Garbusov. And I also had a postdoctoral researcher called Margaret Cuvillon, who's now in Virginia.

She's got the job a bit like yours, Anthony, but she's in Virginia, not in Oregon. And here, what we did was we examined where the bees were foraging based. The hives were based here in the laboratory. And by decoding the dances, we could figure out where they were flying to, where they were foraging. And then using maps, which told us where the urban and rural areas were, we could tell if the places they were flying were urban or rural. And then taking into account the distances involved and using some fancy statistics, it was possible to show that there was no difference in the amount of foraging in the urban area versus the rural area. So the people who say that the towns are really brilliant for bees and fantastic, I think they're hyping it up a little bit. I would say, on average, the towns and the countryside are very similar.

Speaker 1: That's really remarkable research. And I think if I remember, there's a video on current biology, just giving a little synopsis of that work. We will link that in the show notes just so people can see how this work was done. It's a really innovative way to get at this question.

Speaker 2: Yes. My lab has got a website. It's called the last sea. Sorry, we've got a website. We've also got a YouTube channel. The YouTube channel is called Lassie, L-A-S-I-B Research and Outreach. And we've got over a dozen videos on that on all kinds of things.

And it includes some, much of what I've been talking to you about actually. So people can see some of these videos. And the dance decoding work is particularly well represented on this Lassie YouTube site. Okay.

Speaker 1: For the listeners, we will have that linked on the show notes. So please, I really have seen some of these videos. They're great. So I encourage you to visit the site. You know, this does raise the question. And I think you've been really, been raising this point in some of your articles about, for a lot of people, it seems you want to save the bees. You keep more bees. But you've made the case that maybe that's backwards, that if somebody in the city is really interested in bees, they should engage in planting more floral resources in the city. Expand a little bit on that. And how does one decide from all the flowers that are available to a gardener what to plant?

Speaker 2: Okay. Well, just backing up a bit. Yes. If somebody wants to help bees, getting a hive won't help bees. Getting a hive will make that person a beekeeper, but it won't help bees. But if you want to help bees, the best way to do it, if you have a gardener, is just to plant some flowers that the bees find attractive. That is, they can collect pollen and nectar from.

Now, it won't be making a massive difference, but it will be making some difference. Now, we did research examining a whole variety of over 30 varieties of summer flowering, what are called ornamental garden plants, you know, basically plants which have pretty flowers on them. And we came to a very interesting conclusion. We found that the most attractive plants to bees and other insects attracted more than 100 times as many as the least attractive. Now all of these plants were, yeah, right. So all of these plants were pretty to look at from a human perspective and you know very easy things to grow and buy but just by carefully selecting them you could have plants which were much better for the insects at no extra cost. And how do you know which plants are good for insects?

Well there are all kinds of lists available but unfortunately they're not as accurate as they might be. But what you can do is just look at the plants that your neighbors or people are growing and if you can see bees on them or indeed other insects like butterflies you know they must be good. And you can also observe plants even before you buy them. You know for example if you're going to a nurse or eat a by a few plants you know before you buy them if it's a sunny day and if it's in the right time of year you can see they've got flowers on them and do they have insects. So it's not just a matter of going to the internet and looking for a list. You can actually use your own eyes to determine which are better.

Speaker 1: That's great and I remember one of the striking findings was you know there's a common wisdom that only native plants are good for pollinators but I think there were a number of species on your list that were exotic or bred flowers.

Speaker 2: Well garden plants come from all around the world for example in England we grow a lot of dailies. Well they come from Mexico and lavender comes from the Mediterranean. Now there are some bees particularly wild bees which maybe aren't quite as broad ranging in their tastes but honeybees and bumblebees to the most part have pretty broad tastes and the reason that foreign plants say Mexican plants are good for British bees is nectar is basically sugar and water and they don't really care where it comes from. The same applies to butterflies if they are sipping nectar they don't mind where the plant comes from but they're very picky about where they lay their eggs. So if you have a for example there's a Chinese plant called Budley or butterfly bush which is very much grown in England in gardens and many butterfly species will use it to gather nectar but none of them lay eggs on it.

Speaker 1: That's really interesting and we have an issue in Oregon where only sterile varieties of buglia are allowed but that's really interesting because you know there is a controversy over butterfly bush but just because it provides nectar doesn't mean it can support the broad range of plants that are required for the caterpillars to feed.

Speaker 2: Yeah well butterflies are harder to help than I mean honeybees are relatively easy to help because you're not having to worry about their caterpillars you know they the larvae of course are in the beehive and they're being fed on pollen and nectar you know so they have the same food requirements as the adults so in that sense the bees are easier to help and another sense in which especially honeybees are easy to help in urban areas already anywhere is that they fly such long distances so you know there was that movie what was Kevin Costner about you know he what was it called Field of Dreams.

Oh right yeah. If you plant you know if you if you make it they will come and make a baseball field and a whole bunch of sort of ghostly baseball players showed up. If you plant flowers in your garden that honeybees like and especially if they're blooming at a time of year when flowers aren't so abundant which in our areas in the summer the bees will show up because they will fly you know honeybees will fly up to 12 kilometers but routinely will fly several kilometers and that's not how we walk or drive all kinds of bends and curves and junctions you know bees can fly on a straight line so if you basically were in your house and you think well and you look on a map and you think well where's everything within two kilometers that's roughly two kilometers about a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half everywhere within that distance of where my hives are it's a pretty big area.

Speaker 1: Welcome back so you know we've talked a little bit in the interview about the public's perceptions of bees and how they may not you know we may not have real good guidelines to connect our interests with helping bees with actually helping bees that this is a more complicated question than just putting a beehive in your backyard. I want to ask you a little bit about work that you've done around how people understand bees do they even know what a bee is?

Speaker 2: Well it's a good question well a bee is a hairy vegetarian wasp and in the case of the honeybee it's a social hairy vegetarian wasp. I think most people do know what bees are but if you ask them to give a scientific definition and they won't be able to do that small children know what bees are you know bees are certainly something which without any scientific training at all most people know what they are but most people perhaps don't realize how diverse bees are I don't know how many hundreds of species of bees are in Oregon it's probably a thousand bee species in Oregon but if you were in your garden or in a park you'd probably see not very many species and probably a lot of them would be honeybees or maybe bumblebee workers here in England in the gardens on the flowers about 85 percent of the bees we see are either honeybee workers or bumblebees so that's the majority that people see and I think it's not really necessary for people to know too much about bee biology because I do think they have the the important general messages already they know that bees are useful you know they know that honeybees make honey they pollinate crops so I think in general people feel pretty positive about bees being important.

Speaker 1: If people wanted to get more involved with taking up you know in the same way that birders have taken up making doing amateur science and observing bird taxa is it really difficult to train people to differentiate different bee taxa?

Speaker 2: Well it's very easy to recognize the honeybee for example in a range of common species so you can get started in a simple way and go on from there and of course there are many insects which look like bees which aren't one of the fascinating things of course is that there are in England we've got lots of what we call hoverflies I think in America you call them flowerflies but some of them look a really good mimics of honeybees and wasps and indeed some of them mimic bumblebees presumably to gain some measure of protection by looking like a more dangerous insect so so you can be a bit fooled and I know there's a famous well-known book of bees published a number of years ago and when it was republished thank much to the chagrin of the authors the publishers put a fly on the front of to whoever was the kind of slightly entomologically challenged person that did that they they didn't actually put a bee they didn't even put a hoverfly they just got a fly on the front I think they thought that if it's on a flower and it's not a butterfly it must be a bee but indeed there's all kinds of insects which visit flowers so if you look at look at flowers and see the insects which are on them you can see some interesting stuff and if you're interested in nature it's a good way of getting going you also see some interesting predators there's various insects which lurk on flowers and also spiders and you know if you're unfortunate you're a foraging bee or fly you'll get eaten instead of getting a meal so certainly somebody that's interested in nature looking at flowers you can learn a lot and also for children it can be incorporated into um curricula for children at any age and indeed you know if science teachers want to say do a little bit with bees with their pupils in a biology class or a whatever type of class it is you don't actually have to have a beehive on the school to get the kids to do something with bees and another interesting thing with the bees is this when the bees are foraging they don't sting honey bees and also bumblebees can sting and defend their colony really all bees can sting but they will almost never sting when they're foraging they only sting to defend their colony so if a beekeeper has got you know a bunch of beehives in some town in Oregon and they're flying around the neighborhood you know within the city the local people don't have to worry that they are going to be stung by those foraging bees the bees are only going to sting if you get close to the hive

Speaker 1: well that's really interesting and I guess you know that is an issue that um residential beekeepers may face is somebody may be stung by an insect and they may in fact have bees uh but it may not have been a bee that had done the stinging do you have any sense is this true is it do people commonly mistake wasp yellow jackets and hornets with bees or can people pretty much discriminate between the two and they're fairly accurate

Speaker 2: well most people probably if you showed them a bee a honey bee or a bumblebee and a yellow jacket they probably would get it right but when they get stung they often would blame the bee when it would be the yellow jackets fault now yellow jackets of course are completely wild and um normally speaking you know you know where the beehives are once in a while you get a a bee colony you know nesting in the you know hollow tree or something but most for the most part you know people know where the beehives are then can avoid them whereas the yellow jackets in every spring they build their colonies and there can be large numbers of colonies and you know one year I had three or four in my garden and you often don't know that the colony's there until you kind of you know I don't know you're mowing your lawn or something can you annoy them and the next thing you know you're getting stung so the yellow jackets can and their colonies can pop up anywhere and of course there are also some yellow jackets which um scavenging bins and stuff like that so they come much more in contact with humans and through their activities than do the honey bees or the other bees

Speaker 1: I guess I have one last question um just tying the this interview up to uh together there seems to be a way in which cities and the public have some kind of role to play and it may not be the role that they think people who keep bees may want to really think about do they really like bees and want to get involved with bees is one of the lessons I think I've gotten out of the interview rather than you know contributing to be you know being uh doing their part for bee decline what things do you think moving forward based on your research what would be some of the helpful things that could be done to kind of move cities forward to make them um uh part of a solution for pollinator decline to find broadly

Speaker 2: well I I don't think that cities are going to sort of prevent the decline of bees or wildlife on their own for one thing you know the urban areas in even in Britain which is maybe one of the world's most urbanized countries still only less than 10 percent of Britain is urban areas in the United States it's probably only two or three percent so the vast majority of the country is rural and I think it's in farmland and in natural areas that most of the conservation is going to be done but in cities you know people live in cities and people like to experience nature and there are some species that do live in cities you know honeybees many bumblebees all kinds of bees live in cities and so we can certainly help those species but equally we can make our cities more attractive because um it's part of nature people like to have nature around them they like to see birds flying butterflies bees buzzing it just makes life more pleasant and there are things that can be done for example um we did a survey of a local park recently this is um a park run by the local town council which had um a large number of flower beds in it and we surveyed those flower beds and they were all in full bloom and we found that although the flowers were very attractive you know if you like that kind of thing bright garish colors the most part but the the species or varieties selected were really not good for bees and with a bit of um planning and I'm not I'm not knocking the the park and I'm not saying every plant that should be planted has to be good for bees but I think only two of something like three of the 79 varieties being grown and which were in bloom at that time were highly attractive so I think we could do a little bit better than that and we looked at another local park um in the city here Brighton and the park had had the idea the local authority the park department had had the idea of letting the grass grow long in about 40 percent of the park area and so we came along and sort of surveyed this and we found that there was a hugely expanded amount of wild flowers these hadn't been planted they were there all along all they needed was a bit less mowing and there was a huge increase in number of bees and butterflies and we also spoke to the local people using the park and by great majority they were very much in favor but I should say that the local authority were were smart they didn't let all the grass grow long there was still plenty of short grass for children to play for football for picnicking but there was enough long grass to sort of have a balance so we can get make our cities more bee friendly at no cost by being a bit smarter I guess Anthony.

Speaker 1: That's wonderful thank you so much and we have we ask all our guests three questions at the at the end of our interviews and we've had a little conversation about these your answers and I know in the first question a bee book that you would recommend or has been influential to you there's I think you mentioned that there's so many of them it's difficult to choose.

Speaker 2: Yes I mean I have to say I would say there are many good bee books but there's also lots of rather boring ones for example there's a famous bookshop in Portland what is it called Pals books yeah Pals and it was there a couple of years ago and they've got shelf after shelf of books on bee keeping and it's all the same stuff you know beekeeping to this beekeeping on roofs beekeeping and you know they keep reinventing the wheel on it so you know I think you've got to browse around and find what's a good book for you I mean I like some rather academic books on bees and I hesitate to recommend them to your you know to the people who'll be listening to this but there certainly is good stuff written about bees and just browse around start by going to the library and just checking out a few books don't have to spend money.

Speaker 1: How about beekeeping tool or tool that you use in your research that you're indispensable to you?

Speaker 2: Well I think what I said to you about this what I'm going to say is perhaps a bit surprising to people but the most important tool in research is your own eyes and when I was a young boy growing up my brother who's two years younger than me we used to look for insects and caterpillars and we were quite competitive and we'd be using our eyes a lot and I think people walk around and they never see what's going on around them so just use your eyes they're the most wonderful instruments and you've got them you don't even have to go to Amazon you've already got them.

Speaker 1: That's great well although you don't never know what's going to be in Amazon in the future but this not going to be as good as the real thing.

Speaker 2: Well you know we've got our own senses and start by using your own senses.

Speaker 1: And I guess the last question is is there a bee species or in the case of honeybees a race that you really really like it's you're really drawn to it?

Speaker 2: Well I do like the honeybee I've studied bees around the whole world and I've studied stingless bees in Mexico and Brazil and they're wonderful and all kinds of insects so I like the honeybee very much because it is so many things you can do with it I mean in terms of research there's almost no question in biology you can't address through doing research with the honeybee and also the honeybee is pollinating half of all the crop pollination done by bees of which there are 20,000 species in the world is done by just one of those species the honeybee and of course it makes honey so the honeybee you know is a very special species but really every living thing is very interesting too but before I became interested in bees I was interested in butterflies and moths and there is one pollinating insect which I love to see because I only see it very rarely a few each summer usually and it's the hummingbird hawk moth it's a moth which flies in the daytime and it doesn't land on the flowers it hovers and when most people see it they think they've seen a hummingbird in their garden even in England where honeybee honeybird hummingbirds don't live at all hummingbirds only live in America but it's just one of those things that if you see it it just makes your day was it the um per Robert Frost he said the way a crow shot down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree has given my heart a change of mood and changed some part of a day I had rude well I'm not sure if I got that right Robert Frost but he basically said um I'm amazed I can remember that it's a wonderful poem by Robert Frost who of course lived in New England and he's just saying that he just saw an animal a crow shaking a bit of snow off the tree and that was just a beautiful thing that changed his mood and you know whenever I see one of these slightly unusual insects that makes me feel good because the honeybee actually bless it and thank goodness is not a rare insect you can see them in vast numbers and let's hope it long remains that way but there are of course rare insects they'll never be common and you see it from time to time and it's just a beautiful sight

Speaker 1: thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today Francis it's a pleasure 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's several ways to 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 see you next week

Welcome to the first episode of PolliNation Podcast.

“A hairy vegetarian wasp.”

That’s how professor Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex describes the bee.

Professor Ratnieks has done a lot of research on bees, from honeybee biology to practical solutions for beekeepers and homeowners interested in encouraging pollinators.

This wide-ranging interview is full of tips for how to select pollinator plants, reasons for becoming a beekeeper, and common myths that people have about bees.

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“If you a beginning beekeeper, I would greatly advise getting some assistance from an experienced beekeeper.” – Francis Ratnieks

Show Notes:

  • Where Francis got his interest in honeybees
  • Why the advice on honeybees given to the public is not often that good
  • What the benefits are to keeping bees in cities
  • The unique challenges to keeping bees in urban areas
  • Tips for keeping bees in a way that doesn’t bother your neighbors
  • How many bee colonies a city block can support
  • Why planting floral resources may be the best way to save the bees
  • Why foreign species of plants may be just as good for honeybees as local varieties
  • How honeybees can fly up to 12km to find pollinators
  • Dispelling the myths that the public has about bees
  • How to recognize different species of bees
  • Avoiding bee stings and telling the difference between a bee sting and yellow jacket sting
  • What you can do to help bees in urban areas

“Bees only sting if you get close to the hive, not when they are foraging.” – Francis Ratnieks

Links Mentioned:

Was this page helpful?

Related Content from OSU Extension

Have a question? Ask Extension!

Ask Extension is a way for you to get answers from the Oregon State University Extension Service. We have experts in family and health, community development, food and agriculture, coastal issues, forestry, programs for young people, and gardening.