154 - Josh Vlach - Invasive pests and pollinators


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] Although not widely recognized, a key source of pressure on pollinator populations, both managed and wild across the globe are invasive arthropods. Arthropods or things like mites or other insects that either compete, prey, or parasites on pollinator species. Anybody who has been paying attention to the news, knows one example of this is the Asian Giant Hornet, which has currently been detected in British Columbia and North Western Washington, but another stunning example of an invasive arthropod would be the Varroa mite, which is a terrible pest of honeybees. 

In this episode, we're going to get a snapshot of some of the emerging arthropod invasive pest problems are pollinators here in Oregon from Josh Vlach. Josh is with the Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program at the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He's an entomologist, and he's going to tell us about things like the Asian Giant Hornet. 

Some of the initiatives that Oregon Department of Agriculture has going to try and detect this pest should it ever appear in Oregon. We're going to hear about a new fly past of Mason bees, the Houdini fly and also we're going to learn about some of the regulations that exist here in Oregon to prevent a new emerging pest problems for pollinators from coming into the state.

So without further ado, let's hear about some of the invasive pests of pollinators in Oregon, or coming to Oregon, here today on PolliNation. Okay, welcome to PolliNation Josh. 

Josh Vlach: [00:01:29] Well, good to see you. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:01:31] Now you're over at Oregon Department of Agriculture, an entomologist there, tell us just to start off, tell us like what you do and what your unit works on.

Josh Vlach: [00:01:39] Well, so we go by IPPM, which is Insect Pest Prevention and Management, so a big part of what we do is trying to anticipate new invasive species that might come to the state that would be damaging to our forest or to agriculture. And trying to figure out how to detect them before they get established and mitigate them, whether that's eradication, which is our first choice, or, you know, like use bio-control or something to mitigate the damage they might cause.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:04] And I know, whenever you're driving around, you might see a little insect trap on a tree or something like that.  It's often, that's your group. You're out, constantly monitoring the state, looking for some of these new potential pests that might come in. 

Josh Vlach: [00:02:18] Yeah. There's, you know, 25 to 35,000 traps out there in a year for a multitude of different insect species. So yeah, those traps are usually ours. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:28] Well, people might be wondering, what does this have to do with pollinator health? But there's a number of insect pests that have been coming into the state or threatening to come into the state, that are of concern to pollinators. And one that everybody's keyed into these days is the Asian Giant Hornet, which is this a big predator of honeybees. There's been a few detections of this Hornet in Northwest Washington this summer. What's the situation in Oregon?

Josh Vlach: [00:02:56] Well first, thanks for not saying murder Hornet. So, first I say it's more than just a few in Northern Washington. So they're up to nine; nine wasps they found in Whatcom County,  Northwest Washington, and six of those have been this year.

And so clearly there was reproduction that occurred. Yeah, there's still the potential for establishment. I know they haven't removed any nests in Washington; they haven't found any nests yet. Also in British Columbia where they found a nest and destroyed it back early last year. They found one last fall and they found another this May.

So, so unfortunately there's signs that there's potentially getting a little toehold there and hopefully they can move to destroy them. As far as Oregon goes, unfortunately last year we weren't able to acquire funding to do an actual trap based survey survey here in Oregon. And so I did develop that a pest alert, hopefully folks have seen I'm sure.

And I get people that are around bees to report that kind of damage, you know, where they get dismembered, and stuff like that. Or sightings of the actual wasp. We have submitted additional funding proposals for 2021, which hopefully are written better, that meet the USDA's needs, what they want because they don't quite consider these kinds of things is agricultural pests.

And so it makes it more complicated. So we've combined them with some other surveys that are in similar areas. We've acquired some hornet suits in case we do have to tackle, removing a nest. Hopefully not. And,  as the murder Hornet thing came out, we've got such a deluge of calls that we developed a database, a Hornet database. If you typed in Oregon hornet database, you could go there and that's where you could submit sightings. And as a map feature in there that we can go in and then we can check and we'll know. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:40] And so far none here, right? 

Josh Vlach: [00:04:42] None here. So yeah, the basic message to answer your question is none here.

We haven't seen any signs. We, maybe one report in Eastern Oregon where someone said their beehives died, but there's no evidence to go with it. So something we'll follow up on, but we don't have anything that points to the wasps being present here. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:05:00] And then we will put in the show notes. So as you mentioned, ODA has a nice fact sheet that you produced very early in the spring when people started to get concerned about this Hornet, but it also has a nice URL. If you have a sighting, it'll allow this information to be funneled to the entomologist at ODA so that you can take a look at them and provide some, you know, see what these are. 

Josh Vlach: [00:05:23] Yeah. Cause look with any invasive species, you know, It's key to be able to react as soon as possible, you want this to be as small locale as possible.

And just kind of in the same vein, since we're on the Hornet, I wouldn't mention: one of the things we're also keeping an eye out is, there are there in Asia, there are a whole bunch of members of this genus vespa that attack beehives. This is just one of them. It's the biggest one.

But it was interesting in early in May in 2019 in British Columbia, the black tail Hornet was found in British Columbia too in May. And, as vespa ducalis. So we don't usually, we haven't seen these Hornets moving around in commerce that much previously. So it's not clear what has changed, you know, are the population's really large in Asia?

Is there a different commodity being shipped over here? Are people buying the pupae for food, the larvae andpupae for food? Why are they suddenly coming over? Cause that species was found in British Columbia and then in Texas, they had some intercepted in a shipment from Korea. Those were dead though.

Another one is the yellow legged Hornet, vespa velutina, is established in Europe now. It got there in 2004 in France, and it's been spreading. And these are both species that attack bees to different different degrees. And there's lots of other hornets; we're not just paying attention to just this one necessarily.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:38] I want to pick up on two things that you mentioned, the first one are these suits.

I'm really curious what these suits are, how these suits differ from regular bee suits. And the second one is this damage to bee colonies. For beekeepers that are listening to the episode, what should they be looking for? What's peculiar about colonies that have had an invasion of these Hornets.

Josh Vlach: [00:06:58] The bee suits are, really weird. They look like a little space suits. These things have extremely long ovopositors or stingers, you know, nearing about a quarter inch long. So they can sting through a regular bee suit. So don't think that if someone runs across them, they have a bee suit, don't think that you're going to go up against their nest in it.

In Asia, they actually sell these like kind of foam filled suits that are thick enough to  prevent the stinger from penetrating. And they have the gloves sealed to the suit. They have a little mask and a little fan in the top to blow air in because you can't be touching your body in any place. Anyway, you have a place for pictures, I could send you a picture of one of our staff in it, cause it's pretty funny. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:07:37] Yes, absolutely. 

Josh Vlach: [00:07:40] As far as the damage, the wasps are pretty distinctive. They're going to be really big. This particular species is very, it's typically very orange when it's alive.

And they have a really big area behind their eyes, very thick head. That isn't really like anything else we have here. But the damage that beekeepers would observe is... so during this... like yellow jackets and the bald face Hornet, they'll  pick off bees during the early summer, but as their colony gets more mature, they'll actually coordinate and attack a beehive and they can actually kill all the adults and to leave them in a pile out front and also within the hive. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:08:13] And I understand this is gonna happen in a very short period of time. Like within a day. 

Josh Vlach: [00:08:17] Yes. Within hours they have like a pheromone; it's not pheromone, but a marker they place on the hive. And then, you know, just a handful of these Hornets are big enough and strong enough that they can take down a whole beehive and a European honeybee isn't adapted to battle these as the Asian honeybee is. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:08:32] Okay. And so people will have a healthy hive and they come back the next day and they just see a whole... the other thing I understand is they don't necessarily eat them; they just kind of like execute them at the entrance. 

Josh Vlach: [00:08:46] Yeah. The size is difference, I mean, if you use some of the people should look online, there's videos of these attacks. And basically just, it looks like they've been snipped apart by little snips, like scissors, and they're just chopped into pieces, the adult honeybees and is laying in big piles. They don't eat those. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:09:01] Okay, well, that's good. So beekeepers will watch out for a very sudden depopulations and just a whole lot of snipped up bees at the front entrance. And that's, a good, you know, you see that you immediately call ODA, and send some images along. Fantastic.

Okay. So ODA. So everybody's talking about Asian giant Hornet, but ODA has had its eye on a number of other pests that might impact pollinator species. One that goes after Mason bees is, and I know you and I had some correspondence early in the spring, is the Houdini fly. Where did this fly come from? What kind of damage does it cause? And, and what can people, what are people to look out for with this? How can you spot these things? 

Josh Vlach: [00:09:41] Yeah. This is an unfortunate pest, kind of showing that the movement of bees can be a risky thing if you're not inspecting the bees and you're not careful about it.

So this species, the houdini fly was established in New York. I know the first two records I'm aware of are 2011, and I'm not sure how long they were there before that.  They had presumably come there from Europe, probably someone moving an unclean bee box or block or whatever you want to call those Mason bee structures that people use. 

And then once things get established on the continent here, it's not that hard for things to get moved around. So it's not hard for me to imagine someone in New York having a friend, or moving out to Seattle or something and bringing their bee blocks with them, not realizing that there's different species, there's different parasites, there's different diseases, and getting established in Washington. 

So they don't actually attack the bees; they're kleptoparasites. So basically the fly, which is in the same group of drysophila; it's related to those little flies; the vinegar flies that fly around your bananas. 

Same size.  It's just a very dull brown. So if you have those little Mason bee blocks and you look at them, if you saw a little what looked like one of those flies, a vinegar fly, but dull brown just sitting by the entrance, it's very likely one of those and you should squish it. But then what they do is they wait there, where the Mason bee is stocking its chambers there and putting into the pollen balls and stuff like that in there, they're going in there laying an egg. 

And so that once, bee closess it up, the larvae of the fly will go in there, eat all the larval bees food. As far as I know, they don't eat the larvae itself, but basically it starts then. And then they have the ability to... the reason they have that name, Houdini flies is they're actually able to break those inner, there's all those little sections. There's the walls between each egg and, and food source for the bee, and break through those.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:28] You know, we have a survey of cavity, nesting bees in the state and we picked some of these flies up. And I noticed, we emerged them in Ziploc bags and you could see their heads trying to kind of get through the Ziploc seal. Like they, their heads are weird because they kind of like, it's like the, plastic man or something. Like, they kind of like... 

Josh Vlach: [00:11:51] They swell.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:52] Yeah, it's very bizarre. 

Josh Vlach: [00:11:54] Yeah. So that's good to know because I haven't verified that they're in the state, although from the reports I've seen, they probably are in the Portland area. No one's actually submitted anything to have it verified.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:06] Well, we meant to... COVID hit us. We had to stop all... when we were doing our emergence, it happened about the time of COVID. So we had to shut everything down, but we have some on pins and we'll be sending them up your way as soon as we're able to reopen.

Josh Vlach: [00:12:21] So, yeah, it would be good just for us to document for us to have something to compare it to as for we have a museum here and things like that. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:27] This is a good tip for people when they do spot something that's new and exotic, being able to get a specimen or a sample, to ODA, starting, I imagine with a picture.

And then if it's of interest that you may actually want a specimen there, cause those are really important in being able to document some of these incursions. 

Josh Vlach: [00:12:45] Yeah. And, digital imaging is super nice. I mean, we can sometimes respond the same day, and say: save that. We'll want to get that.

The other thing is, it seems like really that the folks that are using bee blocks, it really is preferable to have the kind where either you can remove them or open them to inspect your bee blocks. Cause for this species, this pest, you can go in there and you can actually see the larvae and kill them , and still preserve the pupae that are in there. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:11] Huh. Okay. Great. Well, we've got a fly; we've got  a Hornet. Also I remember, in correspondence with you earlier this year, that you've also been noticing ODA sort of picked up... there's a bee moth in the state. Where did this critter come from, and what kind of damage does it do, and where do we know where it's located in Oregon?

Josh Vlach: [00:13:32] Yeah. So that's aphomia sociella. It was first found by one of our technicians who, as like a hobby studies moths and he set up light traps in Portland has happened to notice this odd moth. So we found it in 2018 in Forest Park, and then he found it at his house in 2019. So basically West side of Portland to Beaverton is where we know it is, but it only has come to light so far; it hasn't come to any of our other traps. So, it could be other places. If you're not looking for it, you probably wouldn't recognize it as an interesting moth. 

 So it's in the Eastern United States, a European species in the Eastern United States; the things I've seen suggested it came with honeybees at one point, you know, when people were bringing stuff over. It was found in Washington in 2016; maybe the same pathway as these other things, I don't know. 

And then in British Columbia in 2018, same year as we found it. So what it does is, it's a lot of these moths are actually kind of like detritus feeders within the nest. And then are those that get large enough, or if there's enough of them, then they start to attack the brood.

So they prefer open nests. So like, bald face Hornets and some of the bumblebees that nest above ground,  yellow jackets that use it above ground. But apparently they rarely attack honeybees, but apparently they are documented to do that.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:14:49] Okay. And so what do they do? If the population's big enough, what can they can damage a yellow jacket, net nest or a bumblebee nest? 

Josh Vlach: [00:15:02] So they don't seem like they're horrible. They're mostly damaging the nest pretty badly. But you know, when they get a large enough numbers and they're actually eating the brood, obviously they're reducing the numbers.

I guess. I can imagine these are things that have been closely studied because, you know, if they're studying paper wasp nests, mostly, no one's going care.  So I don't get the impression that they're severe pests; it's just another pest. It's damaging nests, damaging bumblebees, people are concerned about things like that.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:28] I guess, with a lot of these things, that's the kind of the issue. There's pests that we know about. We know that they're going to be problematic. We have some heads up from another jurisdiction. There's probably a whole lot of critters that make their way into the state that were we may not  know that they're problems to pollinators until later.

Josh Vlach: [00:15:46] Yeah. We get that a lot. And then it becomes difficult to, so USDA is often a source of a lot of funding for these surveys or for eradication projects and convincing them that these are meaningful pests can be difficult if there's nothing in the literature that says that they cause this much damage or it costs this much money or something like that.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:16:05] So are there any other... you've told us about some of the Hornets that are on your radar, are there any other pollinator pests that ODA is concerned about and keeping an eye on? 

Josh Vlach: [00:16:14] So, kind of a frame of reference... cause I find that people don't tend to know those, but you know, we have somewhere around 25,000 invertebrates in Oregon, species of invertebrates.

So you know, there's a lot; nobody's seen them all. So then we're trying to filter out when things come in if they belong or not, out of, I think that like the estimates are generally, like there's probably 8 million insects in the world, a million species of insects.

And so one thing like you kind of do... it's really hard to predict what's going to be a pest here. Obviously if something's a pest somewhere else, there's a better chance it's going to be a pest here. But sometimes things come here and said to be a pest in a different way.

We do tend to approach these things with a broader... like trying to keep an eye out for new things. If we can do something about it if we can. But we have the a hundred worst list, which I could probably put a link...

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:02] Absolutely. 

Josh Vlach: [00:17:03] To go in there. Cause that just, that doesn't just cover insects, but it would give people an idea of all the sorts of things that we're looking for.

Now, in terms of bees, the tropilaelaps mites, I think are on people's radar now to a degree. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:17] Tell us a little bit for listeners who don't know what tropilaelaps is, tell us what it is and what kind of damage it does. 

Josh Vlach: [00:17:22] So there's a lot of them, you know, Asian apis right. There's some Asian apis right.

The genus is the same genus as the honeybee and they have their own parasites and diseases, and that's what a lot of the diseases we have deal with now come from. Well, this is a mite that is similar to the Varroa mite in a lot of ways; it does kind of the same basic thing. It's smaller, much smaller, that reproduces faster.

And, you know, in all accounts, it's far worse than the Varroa mite, far more destructive. You know, one of the things people say is, it probably won't be able to establish here, but I've heard, for so many pests, it probably won't be able to establish here, and then oh!

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:56] It does. 

Josh Vlach: [00:17:56] Nobody told them. So I wouldn't count on that. So a beehive is a pretty sheltered environment just because it gets cooler here. I don't feel confident that we should just discount this pest because it's generally been in more tropical or subtropical climates. 

The other one we're not really looking for, because we don't do diseases so much, is the slow bee paralysis virus is another significant... those are two really serious pests that are still out there that we haven't gotten in North America yet.

And one of the things that actually is here to detect this is the University of Maryland, with the cooperation of USDA, has that bee survey across the country that we, that you guys do. Yeah, Oregon. We've participated in that at least for the last decade. And so you guys, or Remesh, or ourselves, have gone and done that sampling every year and that would be capable of detecting those pests.

Fortunately, otherwise they'd be very difficult for the general beekeeper to notice until it was probably too late. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:54] All right. Fantastic. Okay. Well, let's take a quick break. I want to come back and just talk about some of the things that ODA is doing to protect the invasion of some of these bee pests. So, we'll be back in just a minute. 

Josh Vlach: [00:19:05] Alright. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:07] Okay. We're back. So, I'm always excited to be in Oregon because, I think ODA does a really fantastic job of protecting pollinators. And, one thing I think people rarely think about is that introduced bee species can cause a lot of damage and really disrupt native pollinators.

But Oregon's one of the few States that has restrictions on bee species being imported into the state. Can you explain these restrictions? 

Josh Vlach: [00:19:35] Sure. Yeah. Oregon's always been kind of a weird state for regulatory things. A lot of times we do things that other States don't. So kind of in that vein, I'll start with a story, I guess. So back in  the 1990s, late 1990s, commercial Bombus impatients became available.

And was it kind of being marketed as a greenhouse pollinator .  And so Oregon, we decided... I wasn't here at that time, but the entomologist here decided that we were going to prohibit it's importation to Oregon. California and Washington permitted it to be imported. It would appear that at that time, nosema bombi, you know, the fungal parasite was moved around with those also, and got established and all across the entire country at the time. And possibly to the detriment of some of the rarer bumblebee species we have now. But, we didn't really have good regulations back then. We were kind of, depending on, they were very vague.

They still managed to get approval it anyway. And as a side note, that bombus impatients, the Eastern bumblebee never got established in Oregon. As far as I know, there's no established populations here, although there are in California and there are in Washington. So in 2009 to kind of give ourselves some teeth,  so we could actually regulate these things,  we developed the Oregon approved invertebrate list. 

And so if you look at other state's regulations, generally they have a black list, right? They are the things that are prohibited. And in the same vein as what we were talking about previously, like how do you anticipate all these different pests? And we decided  that it would be impossible and the list would be incredibly long potentially.

So we just decided, here's the thing that we get asked about the most, we feel comfortable. So if they're on this list, then they're allowed to be imported to Oregon. And people can petition to put others on the list as well. This gave us an enforcement component, which includes fines and also like confiscation of the material.

And so basically if it's not on the list, then it's prohibited to come into the state. And that includes bees as well. So basically any invertebrate, terrestrial invertebrate, is covered by this list. And so from my opinion, it's been a very useful tool to protect Oregon from various pests. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:21:41] Yeah. So for example, in many states currently you can import bumblebees from another region in Oregon. That would be prohibited because it's not a species that is actually here; you can't import it into the state unless you went through a petition process to make a case for why it should. .

Josh Vlach: [00:22:00] Exactly. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:01] Oh, that's fantastic. 

Josh Vlach: [00:22:02] I don't know any other state that has that system set up actually. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:04] No, I've been on a national level calls, and bring this up and everybody... people who are interested in pollinator conservation always envy Oregon for having this legislation on the books.

It's really, a great line of protection. And I guess it begs the question: is there an issue apart from bumblebees, is there an issue around introduced bee species? Do we have any introduced bee species in Oregon? 

Josh Vlach: [00:22:32] Yeah. So, you know... 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:34] Well, honeybees and leaf cutting bees, of course, things have been here for awhile.

Josh Vlach: [00:22:38] Honey bees are a pretty high profile one. but, You know, I'm not exactly sure what the count is these days but it was something like 500, 800 bee species in Oregon, somewhere in there. So luckily the fraction is still a very tiny;  we have the wool carder bee, which has moved up from California and that's an anthidium manicatum.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:56] Which everybody would have seen about a month and a half ago, if you had a Lamb's ear in most of Western, Oregon. I've seen it everywhere. 

Josh Vlach: [00:23:04] Yeah, it seems like it's gotten pretty good spread in at least Western Oregon in the Valley. And then there's a horn face bee osmia cornifrons, which has been arguably intentionally introduced and then accidentally spread, which I think is pretty much everywhere now probably.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:20] And that flies at the same time as the blue orchard bee that people are used to, but there's two differences. It's not blue, and if you look at it closely, I guess it has this little unicorn horn on its on its head. 

Josh Vlach: [00:23:35] Yeah. It's kind of a wimpy horn, but yeah. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:38] Okay. 

Josh Vlach: [00:23:40] And then, I think at best, in a publication last year had that pseudoanthidium nanum, the small wool carder that he found. As far as I know, those are the only ones I know of.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:49] Okay. So we do have some species that have been transported around and, all three of those are from the megachilidae. These bees, that are probably easy to move around because you know, they've been nesting in... 

Josh Vlach: [00:24:06] cavities, little cavities. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:08] Imagine when ballasts for ships or crates or things like that, get moved around and they must, must be a few of them on the... 

Josh Vlach: [00:24:14] Yeah, it's easy to imagine you know, somebody brings firewood even, with wood borer holes in it or something like that, you could transport them.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:21] Okay. So, I guess that raises the question we talked about at the beginning of when we're talking about Asian giant Hornet. And then we also talked about with Houdini fly, people can be a first line of defense in being able to detect these invasive bees or invasive pests that affect pollinator species.

Maybe just to round things out, tell us what a diligent citizen who wants to really do their best, what are some of the things, what are the steps they do? If they notice something weird.

Josh Vlach: [00:24:50] Okay. Well, first I think I'd want to make the point that in the big scheme of things, I would argue that a lot of these invasive pests are actually things that we bring, that are pests of these bees are more significant and more damaging than say, even pesticides. Because pesticides are very acute.

Typically, they're going to cause a kill in a short span of time. They're self  propagating. And, once we brought this Houdini flyer or whatever it is, it's here forever. It's unlikely we're ever going to remove it. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:19] It's a great  point because there's a lot of attention on pesticides, but apart from the Asian giant hornet, I think most of our listeners probably didn't know about any of these other invaders. So I'm paying a little bit paying a little bit more attention to this, I guess is one of the things that people should 

Josh Vlach: [00:25:35] do. 


Yeah. I think as far as, if you think about all the diseases of honeybees and yes, the honey bee itself is exotic, but, we didn't have to have all those pests. I mean, the Varroa mite, which I would say is it's one of its worst pests, and it only arrived in the 1980s.

It didn't have  to happen. You know, and after that, after that had already gotten in that's when finally the USDA closed it's door, closed our doors and prohibited the movement of bees internationally. In terms of what an individual can do, be careful. So when you're acquiring either the materials to make nests or acquiring the bees themselves, just don't get them willy nilly off Craigslist or off some, some random source that you don't know anything about, you know get it from a source that has a reputation to protect perhaps.

And when you get this stuff, try to get it locally. You know, try to get bee boxes from somebody that's within the same city as you. And that way, the chances of something new being brought in are much lower. When you get it, especially if you did order from farther away, inspect it yoursel. If you're getting, say Mason bees or something like that inspected pupae. Are the pupae alone, there's not any other thing is contaminating them.

Do they look healthy? They look like the same thing. And if you see something odd, then take pictures of it and then put those things, whatever it is, in a safe place where it's sealed up in whatever it is, couldn't escape, and contact the ODA, the Department of Agriculture, or maybe OSU and say, Hey, what is this?

Is this something I should be seeing or see something unusual? Cause pictures are really fast; doing a picture by text or email is really, really quick. And then maybe, you know, we could be able to decide whether we should destroy something or whether we want to look at it more closely.  I mentioned,  as far as that risk is still there.

As you mentioned, commercial pollination before, you know, because of our prohibited lists, some of the companies in the East started carrying bombus vosnisenskii ,  as a commercial pollinator, but they're raising them... 

That's a native bumblebee, Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:28] to Oregon. 

Josh Vlach: [00:27:28] Yes. Native here, to try to meet our list requirements, I guess.

But those are being raised in the same facilities that are doing the Eastern bumblebee. So as far as they could possibly pick up those same pathogens or pests. And so even though we're getting the species that is native to here, it has a higher risk of being contaminated. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:45] I suppose, that is the lesson of bombus oxidentalis, a native species that was used for commercial pollination and then having subsequent problems.

Yeah. I mean,  you're increasing the exposureJosh Vlach: [00:28:00] of these things. And then we also have the Mason bee issue; the Mason bees, they're being shipped from as far as Utah, possibly farther, but I know Washington, Utah, and Idaho are getting Mason bees  shipped in. And there's varying degrees of inspection there, of those of those products. We still have migratory honey bees. Right. Everybody's taking their bees down to California and then coming back. So you still have plenty of opportunity to spread any new pests, that might make them there. And I'll also mention this, cause we really all need to pay more attention to regulatory things, even though they're kind of boring, on the surface, but my understanding of this moment is that the United States doesn't allow the importation of honeybees anymore. Not even Queens, I don't think. But Canada does; Canada allows bees from New Zealand to come in. And we allow bees to come from Canada. So. Although New Zealand is probably one of the countries that has the best track record on invasive species, there's still a little door there that something could sneak through, even though we've got this other regulation that appears to be protecting us from pests coming in the country. 

So I guess I would  encourage you.. one of the things is this kind of stuff.... most of the money for regulating invasive species comes from the federal government and it is not sexy.

Most politicians, I don't know how aware most of them are. It's not something that's high on their radar. Probably especially not this year. So I encourage folks, you know, if you're concerned about these things, Asian giant Hornet even, you know, even as high profile as that is, but you know, some of these other invasive species... call your representatives and say, Hey, I'm concerned about invasive species.

I'd like to see better border protections, better international agreements around how materials are treated or how they are inspected before they come in the country, things like that. And just them hearing that it would, I would think would make a big difference because I don't think that's something they hear often.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:47] Yeah. Well, I certainly, you know, hearing the story of not having the funding for Asian giant Hornet, I think, I would really encourage listeners to  reach out and make sure that Oregon does have that funding, going forward. Obviously it's a competitive process, but I think, like you say, there's a whole lot of things going on right now, but these problems are here to stay. Once they establish they become a cost that we all have to bear for your decades going forward. 

Josh Vlach: [00:30:15] Yeah. And so, any other things you like looking at the Mason bees and things like that... a lot of those groups are trying to formulate best practices and that's excellent. A lot of the stuff that they put in there really should reduce the risk.

And so I encourage folks to promote those and get those as widespread as possible. But also I would also note that, we haven't been very effective with honeybees within formal regulation. With kind of self regulation that every, practically every honeybee pest known to man has been spread, because there was a resistance to being regulated.

So I don't know how serious we're going to be about that. The other one would be, we do have a firewood rule that we have in the Pacific Northwest, where Idaho, Washington, and Oregon allow firewood to be moved within those three States. We don't allow firewood from the outside.

So you could have, and we've talked about things like this, like, would we want to have a regional area for moving bees or something like that? Cause California kind of represents a different kind of risk, just because of the amount of commerce and the amount of things that move in and out of there.

Yeah, I guess those are the things that you can do. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:15] Those all make sense to, just a really kind of thinking about ways to...  I was thinking that  specifically, if you're a person who has a Mason bees on a small scale, being able to ask these kinds of questions to your suppliers, just knowing where things come from knowing to inspect things and really being vigilant when something odd appears, don't just shrug it off. It may be, something of real concern. 

And so, take a picture, submit it to ODA, and, you know, put it aside so that, you know, a couple of days later, if it is something of concern, a follow up can be done. These are great. This is awesome. 

Josh Vlach: [00:31:50] Yeah. And I guess, I mean backtracking a little bit as far as the guideline thing, maybe we could have some kind of certification process, where it says it's certified to meet the standard or something.You have a lot of options. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:03] Well, fantastic. Well, let's take a break. I'm not sure we've had an ODA entomologist answer these three questions that we ask all our guests. So I'm excited to hear what your answers are going to be here in a minute. Okay. Let's take a break.

Okay. We are back. During the break you told me this remarkable statistic of the rate of introduction of new insect pests, not necessarily to pollinators, but you said there's like, this year,  how many have been sort of detected and established? 

Josh Vlach: [00:32:38] So just this year, we're at 11. Or 11 established new invasive species. It doesn't count things that we don't think are established or that we've managed to mitigate somehow. So we've been keeping more strict tracks since 2007. So since 2007, we've had 132 species found, which is where you get that math from, which averages out to a little over nine per year.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:00] I mean, that's remarkable. Every year it goes by  somebody new is passing through, and is establishing here. That's that's kind of disturbing. 

Josh Vlach: [00:33:10] Yeah. I mean, you think about it, a state like California, which doesn't keep as close to track. I mean, I have to imagine that their numbers are triple or better than whatever we did.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:19] Absolutely. The more ports of entry and a lot more commerce through the state. Yeah. Okay. Well, let's, let's come off that depressing note and move on. So we ask all our guests these same three questions. I'm curious about what your answer is going to be. The first one is, do you have a book recommendation for our listeners?

Josh Vlach: [00:33:38] Well, I don't read a lot about pollinators, I'm afraid. But, I would push the Oregon Department of Agriculture developed a bee guide, at the genus level several years ago, that's available at our ODA guide site. That link should be associated with, the material I submitted to you.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:56] I think people all know this because there's also an adjoining poster as well, at which the Oregon bee project distributes as a card.

People have seen these images. There are these beautiful, crisp, images with really good, depth of field of these bees. They're really remarkable, but I'm not sure people read the fine print on those cards and recognize that they come from Oregon Department of Agriculture.  

Josh Vlach: [00:34:21] Oh, yeah.. W e've had an imaging specialist here for, I guess, getting close to 15 years and we do a lot of imaging for wood boring insects, and more recently for bees.

Yeah. We generated those posters. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:33] You've got a whole series. We'll put that link; there's a whole series of posters you can get. There's the slugs there's. There's the bugs; the stinkbugs; they're great. They look really wonderful. You guys do a great job of laying them out and you can actually get the set and put it in your house.

Okay, so I guess the other thing about those... oh, I did want to mention one other thing is, we are doing a survey for the PolliNation podcast, and we have been giving out some of those guides to people who fill out the survey. So if you didn't know, go to the homepage. Right at the top there's a link to the survey. Please fill it out. And you could get one of these really great guides. They're just magnificent. The pictures are great. The natural history is great. And then the one other thing I love about those guides is it shows... they shade out the bee and then they have like a little red coloring where the pollen is carried. You know, really that's like one of the key characteristics for somebody who's starting to recognize their bees is looking where the pollen is carried. And I love how on each page. It's like really clearly shown. 

Josh Vlach: [00:35:40] Yeah. I do like that, those books. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:35:43] Okay. So great book recommendation.

Absolutely. Awesome. let's see how you do on the next one. The next question is, do you have a go to tool for the kind of work that you do? 

Josh Vlach: [00:35:56] That's a tough question. I struggled with this question thinking about it, cause there really isn't anything that addresses invasive species very well out there, honestly.

It makes me realize that we really need to, at least within the state, I've always wanted to develop some kind of communication system or some sort of thing, better than what we have. And so anyway, that's still the future, but, one of the things can I throw out there is bud guide.net.

That's a really good identification resource. And I don't mean anything against iNaturalist. I definitely preferr it to that. And in particular, mostly it's because of the way that the identifications are vetted. It is usually professional level, bug guide verification. Whereas iNnaturalist is stringent.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:38] Yeah. For the people who are interested, we did have that episode with, John Asher, maybe four or five episodes ago where he talks about bug guide and how it really does have a level of curation that some of the... iNatural is really a, kind of like a portal for putting things in, but bug guide has real strict standards in terms of how things are assembled in there. 

Josh Vlach: [00:37:00] Yeah, I actually used that maybe not on a daily basis, but some groups, that's actually the best place to go, like for say leaf hoppers and things. I guess I'd decided I'd fall back on the National Invasives Species Information Center.

It's a thing that the USDA puts together that's kind of a good, big umbrella. That's pretty general about it, invasive species, but then as far as if you're interested in invasive species issues, that's kind of a good place to start.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:25] a Okay, fantastic. We'll put that link in the show notes, and I guess the last question is being an entomologist and having, I'm sure, an appreciation of the whole spectrum of pollinators, is there any species or group of species that you have a particular fondness for?

Josh Vlach: [00:37:43] Well, I used to do mosquito research when I lived in Florida. And, you know, it's one of those things where you become intimately familiar with the group, especially if they're considered a pest, you learn to loathe them even more, or you kind of get this grudging respect for them where you're like, wow, they're really amazing creatures.

And that's kind of where I went with mosquitoes. In spite of all the things that humans try to do. Yeah. You know, they're an unstoppable force practically, but they also get a lot of negative press. Maybe deservedly somewhat, but you know, there are a lot of pollinators in there.

And you know, the males only drink nectar, so they're definitely visiting flowers. Are they effective pollinators? I don't know. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:27] You know, it is worth mentioning when I was in Nova Scotia, my supervisor at the time, my PhD supervisor had a study called "Berry Interesting," or something like that was the title of the paper and it was nocturnal pollination.

And I have to say in Nova Scotia, in those blueberry bogs, the mosquitoes were fierce, but he had these... this was low Bush blueberry... and he had plots that he covered during the day, and  plots he covered during the night, and plots that were uncovered. And lo and behold, there was a lot of pollination taking place in the middle of the night and who knows: black flies, mosquitoes... but there's all sorts of things that we don't understand about pollination systems. So I will take it. You're the first listener in 154 episodes to ever nominate the mosquitoes. 

Josh Vlach: [00:39:14] Well, I'll mention that there's actually an interesting one, here in our region.

So I'm not really familiar with the flower; it's the blunt leaved orchid. So that one apparently creates chemicals that attract mosquitoes to pollinate. There's a study I could forward you about that. So one of the species they're associated with is aedes increpitis, which maybe has a common name of the Woodland mosquito.

It's a native mosquito native to the great basin, including Oregon, and so these orchids secrete chemicals that are particularly attractive to mosquitoes. And apparently one of the chemicals is kind of surprisingly similar to DEET, but these are cocktails, obviously of different chemicals. I think that's a really interesting one, that there's an orchid that's utilizing this pollination resource potentially. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:40:05] You've really made the case for mosquitoes. I'll look up the author of that paper. We'll get them on the next show.

Thank you so much for opening our eyes in so many directions , and good luck with all the work that you guys are doing over there at ODA. 

Josh Vlach: [00:40:21] Thank you very much.


We have all heard about Asian Giant Hornet, but what are some of the other invasive pests that threaten pollinators? We hear about species of concern in Oregon as well as measures taken to prevent their introduction.

Josh is an entomologist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. His primary work is to anticipate, detect, and prevent the establishment of invasive invertebrate pests. A good deal of this consists of visual identification of organisms at the ODA lab. The groups he tends to focus on are wood boring insects, sucking pests (aphids, leafhoppers, mealybugs, plant hoppers, scales, etc.), thrips, and slugs and snails.

Links Mentioned:

Favorite Pollinator: Mosquitos and orchids

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