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. Many episodes of this podcast are focused on the question of how we can get pollinator habitat into working landscapes, places like agricultural fields, or maybe managed woodlands. How can we do it in a way that's cost-effective and really builds on the skill set of the land managers working in those areas? Now, we've had previous episodes where we've talked about things like cover crops and hedgerows, but in this episode, we're going to take a different tact.
We're going to look at how you can take stock of the existing potential for the natural regeneration of pollinator habitats and landscapes and how you can help that process along by just simple management techniques. To get at this different kind of approach, I've brought on the episode Steve Javaric. Now, Steve is a longtime collaborator and friend of mine. He's at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, which is the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture here in the United States. He's a research biologist and he works at the Kentville Research and Development Center, which is a Nova Scotia Canada right on the Atlantic coast. And it's in the heart of Lowbush blueberry production. Lowbush blueberry is very different from the blueberries that we have here in the Pacific Northwest, the Highbush blueberry. In this episode, we're going to learn a little bit about that system, some of the unique bees, but also the remarkable way that blueberry growers are managing their landscape for bees. So without further ado, let's head way over to the other coast. This week on Pollination, we're going to be talking about creating pollinator habitats in agroforestry situations in Lowbush blueberry. Okay, I am so excited to have Steve Javaric with us from Agriculture and AgriFood Canada. Welcome to Pollination. Oh, it's great to be here. For full disclosure, we've never met before.
Speaker 2: No, we've never met. We've never rolled through a Tim Hortons in Eastern Canada on the way to a blueberry field.
Speaker 3: So that would never happen. So yeah, we've never met.
Speaker 1: This is the homecoming episode because I feel like everything I ever learned about native bees started with you.
Speaker 2: So I'm excited to visit all of this.
Speaker 1: And I guess the first thing is, when I was working with you, I had the opportunity to work with you, I worked in a very strange agricultural system. I think most people won't appreciate how strange it is. So tell us about Lowbush blueberries. It seems like such a crazy crop because it's a wild plant and it hasn't really been domesticated. So tell us about that cropping system and some of the bees that may have... I'm just reading Byrne Heinrich's book right now and I know there are a lot of bees that have evolved in that area of North America with vaccinium. So tell us a little bit about the crop and the bees.
Speaker 3: Yeah, for sure. So we're talking about Lowbush blueberries, so vaccinium and gastrofolium. And if people just pop a picture of a map of North America up in their face, the distribution of this plant really goes from Newfoundland and Canada in the east, going west to Manitoba, down through Minnesota, and Illinois, and its distribution ends down in West Virginia.
So that's kind of what we're dealing with. That's the native... is a common plant within its distribution on headlands as an understoring forest, parts of bogs, and barrens. So it's a native plant and what's really interesting about it is being a native plant, it is 100% pollinator-dependent. So when you think of that, it has now become a very valuable agricultural crop, but it does share that evolutionary quid pro quo with this diverse group of bees that visit it. Another thing I might mention about it is that the flower of Lowbush blueberry is a little white bell, maybe about the size of your fingernail.
Very depends on your fingernail size, but it's very small, a little bell. Within that flower, you have the anthers that the pollen's held in, but the pollen can only be removed through little pores at the end of those anthers. So a lot of the wild bees or native bees that have evolved with this are bees that do something called buzz pollination or sonication, where they'll vibrate their wing muscles and actually get the pollen to rain out of that little bell. In the process, they're getting pollen and they'll feed it nectar at the same time, some bees, become very efficient pollinators because they'll then carry those pollen tetrads, which are four grains that make up the tetrad, to another flower. So it's that sonication tool that they have in their toolbox that really makes them effective pollinators.
Speaker 1: Okay, so like a blueberry plant is unlike a, I don't know, let's say a dandelion where the pollen is right on the surface of the anther. Here it's in a tube. And the thing I was surprised about, I think most people know the story of buzz pollination when it comes to bumblebees, but I remember being in those fields and I was always surprised because there'd be all sorts of other bees that were doing it. It's like a behavior that a lot of bees have evolved to do, to shake the pollen out of those poricidal anthers. Absolutely.
Speaker 3: So when you look at the low bush blueberry system, and maybe we should say right now is that in that low bush blueberry, there are about 170 bees within the area that we worked at in Prince Edward Island in Canada. 170 bees, there's about just a little over 60 that are part of that blueberry pollinator gill. So the ones that are actually conducting the pollination, many of those species, such as bumble bees that we've just mentioned, but other groups, the digger bees known as Andrina, some of the lasioglossum bees in which the sweat bees are. Many of these bees that buzz pollination, bees like osmia, the mason bees that we find here, we'll use it. So when you kind of step back and look at the blueberry pollinator gill and the prevalence of this behavior and the morphology of the plant, you kind of say, oh, it makes sense. This is why these bees are extremely effective pollinators.
Speaker 1: That's fantastic. And I guess the other thing just to mention about the crop like it's not what people might expect. It's not planted. It's not these big, you know, people in the Pacific Northwest are used to these rows of, with a grass alley between them. What does a commercial low-bush blueberry field look like? Right.
Speaker 3: So we've talked a little bit about the plants. So the field itself is interesting. But like we said, you don't gloat in planting low bush blueberry. How you develop a blueberry field is by removing the woodland and letting that understory plant emerge. And then using some selective herbicides, these blueberry plants eventually will form a huge carpet.
And that carpet becomes the commercial blueberry field. So essentially what we're doing is we're farming in a forestry system. So it's very different in terms of what we think of as conventional farming, but very different too in terms of the landscape around the agricultural, or this case, the blueberry field. So it's quite a different system.
Speaker 1: I was always amazed because you are, you're kind of in an evergreen or, you know, some hardwood forest. And then suddenly you come into this clearing. It's not like, oh, there's some, you know, there's a row crop there. There's a, think about the Pacific Northwest. We'd have a grass seed field, a vineyard, and your blueberry field to be there. But here the blueberry field is really in a wild landscape. Absolutely.
Speaker 3: And the other interesting thing about blueberry is that blueberry is cut every second year. It used to be burned, but it's cut now. And what happens is that blueberry is an early succession plant. So when it's young, it produces a lot of flowers. You know, it's a young plant. It wants to have lots of kids. But as the plant gets older, it's kind of sitting back saying, you know, I've had a good life.
I'm just gonna, I'm going to deal with the vegetative aspects of life. So it doesn't produce a lot of flowers. And it doesn't produce a lot of berries. So what happens by cutting that blueberry every second year, you keep it in that reproductive stage. In other words, it's going to produce lots of flowers and lots of berries, which is why we grow the crop. So it's interesting in that way too. It's a very different crop. Fascinating.
Speaker 1: Well, the one thing that, you know, we have our listeners who are in maybe Maine will be familiar with this crop. They'll know that there are honeybees that are brought up from, you know, that are trucked around the United States and they're brought up into Maine to pollinate these bees. But as you were mentioning there, there, it's a wild plant and it has a lot of native bees associated with it. And so just tell us a little bit more about some of the predominant bees. You talked about the digger bees.
And I remember seeing them that you'd be in the field and there'd be a bear patch and then there'd be all these holes. Tell us a little bit about, a little bit more about the bees, of Lobush blueberry. You said there were about 160 species that you would find.
Speaker 3: Yeah, well, it's really interesting. And maybe we will with the digger bees or this, genus and dream of them because they're very important blueberry pollinators. So these are solitary bees. And these bees, when we say solitary, it means that the female will dig her own nest. She's a soil-nesting bee provision it with pollen and nectar, and lay her egg on it. So no, no cooperation from workers or anything like that.
She's solitary. So what's interesting about blueberries and again, some of the bees is we mentioned blueberries in early successional plants. So as it develops, it's low. There's a lot of access to the ground around it. So all these soil nesting bees like an adrenal are able not only to get food from the plant, they can utilize that nesting substrate straight in the field as a place to nest. So what happens is you have, like you mentioned, all these little holes that you look at from the size of ant holes to much larger holes that bees are nesting in right among the crop. So in terms of something that the crop has going for it, it's this access to the soil horizon that the bees utilize.
So that's a very important group. And the ones on blueberry are personal species. They come out maybe in May. And by the time Blueberry is done towards the end of June, they're finished for the year. And I think it's a good point to say right now, that blueberry only blooms for about two weeks and when it blooms, it provides a lot of flowers for our adrenal, as well, as bumblebees. Bumblebees, which are buzz-pollinating species, very diverse in blueberry fields, are incredibly important pollinators because they'll fly at cooler temperatures.
And because blueberry blooms early in the spring, let's say around June 1st, a little earlier to the south, a little later to the north, these bees can be active in that variable or cooler weather that we get at that time of year. Another very important and diverse group of bees is the Lazio gloss. And as I mentioned, the sweat bees are in here in this group for a common name. This group of bees goes from a midsize bee down to a very small bee that can actually crawl in that tiny little bellflower to pollinate. So again, these are soil-nesting bees that utilize the blueberry field and some of the surrounding habitats to nest. So those are the main groups, but we also get groups like the cellophane bees, and Kaledes, which is a bee. It's called a cellophane bee because when it makes its nest in the ground, it makes a cellophane-like wrapper around its brood cells.
We get mason weeds, osmium that nest in tunnels, pre-excavated tunnels from boring needles, and things like that in trees where they will provision for their young. Again, another solitary group. So I think when you put that all together, you see here's a native crop with this incredibly diverse, not only in terms of the number of species but the life history requirements that each of these species have. Very diverse.
Speaker 1: Well, I remember working, well, you would lay out transects and I would go through those transects for 30 minutes catching bees. And I have to say I've not run into a crop in the Pacific Northwest with that density of native bees. It rivals in some fields the honeybees. Oftentimes in crops out here, you'll see a few native bees, but there it was chocoblock. There was a lot of native bees in it.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. That's a really good point. And you tend to get that. The other thing I should mention that I think is very important about the health of the system or some of the blueberry systems associated with all these bees that are nesting in the system, whether they're bumblebees or Andrina or lasioglossum or mason bees, there are also kleptoparasitic bees associated with each of these. And a kleptoparasitic bee is a bee. Sometimes they're called cuckoo bees because they'll enter the nest that the poor female bee has worked so hard to provision and lay their egg on it. What we find in the blueberry system is an incredibly diverse group of kleptoparasites.
And this seems very stable. So there's been some excellent published work on this saying that this is a sign of a healthier stable bee community when you can develop those host kleptoparasite webs within there. So that's another really interesting point of the blueberry field.
Speaker 1: I can hear you that that very phrase ringing in my ear at a Timmy's at Montague, you were mentioning this to me that really you were pointing out we were in a field and we were catching these kleptoparasitic bees and I said, oh, you know, being very naive and new to this world, coming from a honeybee background, I was like, isn't this a problem? And you were like, no, this is actually a sign of how robust the bee community is in these blueberry fields.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. There's a lot of talk that the presence of these kleptoparasitic bees could actually be indicators of the health of the broader bee community. So it is a really important part. And I think when you talk about just the number of bees, the abundance and the diversity of bees that we find on blueberry, you start to see that perhaps because of where it's grown, the fact that it's a wild plant, and the fact that there's not a lot of inputs compared to a lot of conventional crops, you can see that maybe this is why we have a very diverse native bee community there. That's very important for pollination of the crop. And the thing is we should mention these bees because they do have this history with the crop. They're much more effective bees per bee than a honeybee. But what honeybees have is the ability to put lots of them in a field to compensate for that. Maybe lack of efficacy as an individual in terms of transferring pollen, whereas you may not get as many of the native bees or the wild bees as honeybees that are brought into the crop, but bee for bee, they can pollinate more flowers.
So it's kind of this balance. And what I always say in terms of a pollination strategy for blueberries, we need all these things. We need a diversified pollination strategy that includes honeybees. So all that incredible research that's going into honeybees now to keep honeybee colonies strong is so important. But we also need wild bees. And within wild bees, we need to make sure that we're looking after the diversity of the wild bees. One year may be good for bumblebees, another year may be better for adrenal. So it kind of balances out those natural cycles within bee communities. And again, when you build resilience into the bee community, you're building resilience right into the fabric of your agroecosystem. So I think that's a really good, good approach that we have the opportunity to follow in the Lord Bush blueberry system.
Speaker 1: Well, let's take a quick break. I want to transition after the break into the remarkable work that's been happening in both Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, associated with agriculture and agro-food Canada, but also some industry partners to actually create that resilience to really kind of boost up and preserve those native bee populations. So let's take a quick break. Well, I'll go roll up my rim and see if I got a prize. And then we'll be right back. Okay, we're back.
That was a great... So Tim Hortons in Canada, if those of you who are not Canadian, although I've run into a lot of people in the upper Midwest who know what Tim Hortons is. I remember there were two Tim Hortons in Prince Edward Island where we were doing our research. There was the one out on the far... What's that town again?
Speaker 3: Oh, well, it was Montague and Surrey.
Speaker 1: Surrey, that's right. That's a real right out on the tip there and there was the only rest, but there wasn't a lot. It was a pretty wild place. People go to Prince Edward Island. It's a beautiful place to holiday, but on that part of the island, it is a lot of roads and not a lot of coffee shops.
Speaker 3: Yeah, but it's an interesting point because it's that part of the island, that wild part of the island where the major blueberry production is. So there's a correlation. So I think if we plot
Speaker 2: Tim Hortons against where blueberry is grown, we can get some kind of a relationship there. But anyway, I think
Speaker 3: what you're saying is coffee is an essential part of fieldwork.
Speaker 1: Absolutely, absolutely. And I guess what I did want to talk about, pick up on this part of the episode is there's a lot of... Here's a system where there's just a lot of native bees and you talked about the importance of keeping those bees in a full pollination system. And there's been a lot of efforts to, even here in the Pacific Northwest of planting hedge rows or doing cover crops. What is the approach that you... In working in conjunction with growers, did you come up with a low-bush blueberry?
Speaker 3: It's a really good question because I think we've talked kind of generically about the bees in the low bush blueberry fields. But as you go from one field to another, you don't always get the same abundance or diversity. There's variability.
So we said, what causes that variability? So we researched this and what it boils down to, plant diversity is important, not only in terms of abundance, but in terms of when it is available throughout the year. It's as we mentioned, blueberry only blooms for about two weeks. Many of these bees, most of the bees, their life spans, whether it's colonial or individual, fire or live. So blueberry provides good food, but they're not going to make a living. They're not going to be able to survive in the system just on it. So when you look at our research, it's that continuity of flooring plants over entire bees' life spans.
That's so important. So if you take that and you get to your question about how you manage these systems, what you do to maintain or encourage or enhance wild bees, the big thing is to look at your fields and not just the field itself, but the surrounding the landscape, which I will tell you was a big switch over for many producers. I think in farming, we tend to look at our field, what are our inputs, and what we get from it. But in terms of managing a landscape for native bees, you'd have to look beyond your field border.
So in this blueberry system, we have woodlands, but we have bogs, meadows, clearings, forest edges, all these different habitats that at different times of the year provide different flowers that are utilized by that smaller group of bees that we need for our pollination. So what we did is we said, how do we encourage this? And like you said, an option is to plant. Planting is really good. It will be good for a lot of bees, but in the blueberry system, because we said it's in a forestry system, you don't have that great soil to plant.
So you're going to be doing a lot of work to do that. So what we decided to do, this is members of the blueberry industry, too, working along with them is say, why don't we partner with Mother Nature? And there are a few things that happen when you clear land to develop a blueberry field.
One always happens. You have weeds. They're weeds when they're on the field, but when they're off the field providing food for bees, we call them wildflowers. So how do you release that in areas that don't get in conflict with your blueberry field to provide food? And a lot of times by doing this, by increasing your edge of the field, by making wavy edges instead of straight edges, by cutting small meadows into the woodland, all of a sudden you start to get things like fireweed, golden rods, blackberries, made of honey sills, all these different plants released.
And the thing is there, the management for this is very small. Every few years, perhaps you have to remold these areas, just so succession doesn't overtake the plants you're looking for. So in terms of increasing not only the abundance and diversity of plants but really filling in that seasonal flowering period, that phenology of all the different plants, this approach seems to work well.
You're working with the system. You're trying to build that sustainable pollination right into the fabric of your agro-ecosystem. So it seems to be an approach that works well. It's very doable within this kind of forestry agricultural system that we're dealing with.
Speaker 1: I like that idea a lot. And I do recall, there's, I remember in one field, very close to the ferry, to the mainland, where you had instructed the grower to sort of do a clearing right in a little edge. And we were in that a couple years later, and it was full of, plants that were blooming on the tail end or at the beginning.
I remember the fireweed for sure. And so these bees, I guess these native bees that are nesting in and around the crop, have something to go to both at the beginning of the season. But I also imagine the other issue, as you mentioned, is some of these fields come offline every few years, every second year. So they mow them. And then so there's not a lot of flowers. And so these, imagine these little areas keep the population kind of from collapsing every second year.
Speaker 3: You know, Adonis, that is a really good point. But it's in the past, you used to have what we would call the crop year and the sprout year field. So the field that's not in production side by side. That's how growers would deal with it. But now through efficiencies of moving equipment around, you tend to have an area that's all crop.
And the next year it's going to be what we call this sprout field. So you don't have that blueberry that's available each year. So I think this management practice now really highlights the importance of the land off the blueberry production base itself as an important source of food and nesting habitat for the first bee. So all these things we've talked about have become a little bit more important with this kind of new trend in managing blueberry fields.
Speaker 1: And so I can also imagine there's a couple of differences. You know, when thinking about the flowers, the plants that you want to come in, that phrase that you have, and it's actually borough a slide of yours that I've had for years about making sure your plantings cover, you know, the whole lifespan of the bee. You do have these bees that, as you mentioned, the Adrina, the digger bees emerge just a little bit early before the crop. And I imagine they need a certain amount of, they need something a little bit before the blueberries to finish your reproduction. But I imagine with some of the social bees, both the lazy agate blossom and the bumblebees, they're going to need, before they make reproductives after the blueberries are done, they're going to need some plants later. So tell us in that system, what are some of the early plants that growers are really hoping will come up in these minimally managed areas?
Speaker 3: Yeah, that's a really good point. Because when you think about early in the season, you do have those early season bees like the Adrina, but you also have the bumblebee queens. They're kind of coming through looking to initiate nests and all these early bees coming out. So let's get back to our coffee shop analogy.
If we want a coffee, we're not going to stop at a place that doesn't have a coffee shop. So if we want to keep bees in the system, we need to have those early flowering plants so the bees find them, they'll initiate nests and be held in the system. So here we're talking about things, although it's not a pollinated dependent plant, things like willows, some of the early season bog plants that come up, beautiful for bees. And because these habitats tend to be proximal to the blueberry field, they're really good at kind of grabbing those bees and keeping them there. And then once blueberry goes, it seems early in the season, you get a lot of shrubby plants that are flower.
After the blueberry bloom, it's more the herbaceous plants where we start to get into those summer plants. And then all of a sudden, bumblebees, they'll only produce as many reproductives as they're able to kind of build the size of their nest up to accommodate. So they need food. So all those things in the summer, like some of the native honeysuckle, fireweeds, all these different plants that are very common in many of these are native plants too, that come later in the year, provide that food. So if we can manage the system and put value in the non-production base, it's something that's increasing the pollination services of our wild bees, but also holding that ecosystem together in terms of the other biodiversity and things.
To me, it's a really good strategy. So it's all these different plants at different times of the year, accommodating this incredible diversity of bees that I think is so important in a blueberry. It's kind of any system.
Speaker 1: It reminds me, two things come to mind. The first thing I remember is when you're in blueberries, there's a time sort of towards mid-late bloom when you start to see bumblebee workers. So you know, it starts off with bumblebee queens. You can see that transition. And really, there's not enough time to finish reproduction.
It needs those late plants. But I also remember another conversation I had with you. It's always stuck in my mind. I think you may have termed it, or I may have vulgarized it into the catcher's mitt hypothesis, that you kind of need some plants to bring dispersing bumblebees into your fields. And if you have that early bloom, you may have higher densities during... That early bloom is really pollinated by bumblebee queens. And if they don't... Absolutely.
Speaker 3: You're right on with that. So if we quickly look at the life cycle of a bumblebee. And so bumblebees mate in the fall. So those are the new reproductives that the queens and late summer into fall, the queens and the drones, the males.
The females, the new queens, overwinter. They're the only ones that overwinter and emerge early in the spring. When they emerge, they're looking for a nest. What they tend to do is they disperse. So they disperse across the landscape. So while we found systems that have good food all year long, and have many more workers later in the year, we tend to get a lot of queens dispersing into the blueberry fields. But for those that lacked floral resources later in the year, those colonies probably collapsed.
They do very well early in the year when blueberry is abundant. So it's really important. So yeah, we've got to create the catcher's net. But we've also got to kind of create that whole rest of the team within the system to provide for it. So it's a really neat way to look at it.
Because it's one thing to have bees there for just blueberry bloom. But that's not going to be sustainable. We need to manage the system for the entire year. And sometimes, this is the hardest thing sometimes about management. Put your hands up and do nothing. Sometimes, you know, when you think, oh, you know, we need to mow that, or we need to cut that, or we need to spray that. If it's not really impacting your production base, sometimes just leave things as they are, and get you where you need to be. So it's an interesting way to kind of partner with Mother Nature to provide that food in this really unique system.
Speaker 1: Now this partnership has been going on for a long time. In some ways, I think, you know, many people, I always think about Atlantic Canada as being a place that people don't, you know, pay a lot of attention to. It's not almonds. It's not these huge, glossy crops. But it's been going on like some of the things that I think other crops are adopting have been done in, you know, in your region for quite a long time. This has been a sustained engagement with the blueberry industry. Can you tell us a little bit about the tools that you developed and what's helped the adoption of these techniques? What kind of research have you guys done to try and give people, give those growers the tools to be able to make these decisions and do this efficiently? Yeah, well, it's one thing.
Speaker 3: We look at pollination and for a long time, pollination of blueberries was done by honeybees. We always knew there were a lot of wild bees in there, but it was honeybees. But as we see over the last decade-plus, some of the issues that have arisen in honeybees in terms of being able to get as many as you need when you want them to be able to secure how many you need for a crop like blueberry that was very early in the spring. Blueberry producers, do we have all our aids in one basket? So it was that realization and I think this is kind of the case for many crops that we need to look at what else we can do. So when you start to get an industry that says, look, these native bees are probably a valuable component of our pollination and our business strategy.
What do we do to encourage it? So that starts to take our research where we can come in and say, look, in terms of tools to help you know your land, take the time to grow out on your land. And for blueberries, it's very convenient to do it before blueberries bloom during blueberry bloom early summer. So let's say July, late summer, going into August, September, and look at where your plant communities are. Can you go out there with a little notebook or look on Google Earth and say, you know what, around my field and around the field for berries, you may be looking at maybe a kilometer in terms of their flight range, small bees, tiny ones, maybe only 50 meters. But do you have food around there? So as a management tool, it's that idea of getting off your production base and valuing that land around and understanding it. Where are the opportunities in terms of nesting and feeding that the surrounding landscape has?
Are there things you can do? So in terms of tools, this is the big thing really to get a look at that sort of thing. So in terms of the surrounding land, document where plants are flowering and when and how many. Look at the course of your entire season, find those gaps, and then take a look at what plants are available or native in that system that can fill in those phenology gaps that you have in your particular field or surrounding field. So these are working landscapes. So a lot of times these plant communities have been degraded.
So you're not getting them to produce for the entire year. So to me, this is the biggest tool. As far as creating edges and creating meadows, the blueberry industry has all that equipment. They're good at it. The rate at which they can increase the edge of a field by making it wavy is fast. And within a year or so, they start to get different plants coming in. So in terms of tools and guidance for the industry in those areas where native bees have become an important component of blueberry production, those are the tools that we promote.
There's a way to keep the system as natural as possible, which really provides that diversity of bees, but also provides an ecological service that the blueberry producers are relying on for the production of their crop.
Speaker 1: I remember you had these powerful images that you would go around, at least initially, and kind of get the quality. You'd kind of boil it down into a forging index and you would show these landscapes that just had these dead zones and then do restoration. I also remember my summer student who was working with me that year and then got hired on by one of the big blueberry companies to go out and GIS all of these areas. It was quite remarkable.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. And I think in terms of research, that initial research, where we're kind of searching, what drives the variation between these fields? Like I said, it was really what we call the forging resource index where you put together the amount of plants and when they bloom. And you look at the bees, not only in the entire system but the ones that blueberry gill, the ones on the crop.
And you have that scratch your head moment and say, oh, this seems a little bit too simple, but there is a relationship. So when you think about that, what's interesting about this whole story and when you mentioned the fact that now the blueberry industry is looking at geographic information systems, not only to manage their production base but to really look at how the rest of the system, the rest of their land base and the surrounding land base is impacting their native bee community because it has value. You know, we always talk about native bees, they have value just as being part of this planet's biodiversity, but that functional biodiversity, that value for pollination, is now entering into business plants. So it's a really encouraging thing. And I think if we flip the story around, we're talking about blueberry production, but if we flip the little bit of our language around, aren't we talking about a conservation story?
Speaker 1: Yeah, it's funny. That part of Prince Edward Island is a lot of, it's not very popular, and it's far from urban areas, but you run into people who know a lot about conservation who are growers. It's remarkable to me. They're way ahead of many people across the US and Canada. And it's just like, yeah, they're walking the walk for sure.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. I agree. And I think it's that kind of thinking where people in the farming community, and I think the more you interact with farmers and producers, you get this real sense from many that they do have this connection to the land, that they want to produce their crop and they want to do it in the best way. So to me, it's a refreshing kind of engagement. And we're talking about my research and what we found. If I talk about what I learned from the producers, we don't have long enough because they have knowledge. For sure. Real knowledge. And I've always appreciated being able to glean a little bit of that from them.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I have to say, all the growers I've worked with, had the best knowledge of native bees of any group I've worked with. They really know their native bees.
Absolutely. Okay, well, we are, thanks so much for filling us in. We're at the section of the show where we ask our guests these questions. I'm so curious what your answers are going to be. So let's take a quick break and we will come right back. Okay, we are back.
So I'm so curious. I, you know, I remember you've introduced me to so many wonderful books over the years. I remember I first saw Vichner's Bees of the World on your bookshelf.
You're the first person who showed it to me. So you might have a, I'm really curious how you answer this first question. Do you have a book that you like to recommend to our listeners?
Speaker 3: Yeah, well, since we're talking about bees, this may come from a little direction, but I'll explain it. I read a book recently called The Lost City of the Monkey God.
Speaker 1: The Lost City of the Monkey God. It's about archaeology in Honduras and looking for something that wasn't supposed to be there. That was more or less mythical. And I'm lucky. I got to do a bit of research, quite a bit of research in Berliz, originally going down, teaching a tropical ecology module with Acadia University from Wolfville, Nova Scotia. But I got to do more work down there. And I remember the first time I went to this place in the rainforest, very close to the Guatemalan border in Berliz, where we were walking to our field site in this beautiful rainforest. You're walking through unexcavated Mayan buildings. And then you're walking on landscapes that seem to have steps.
These are ancient agricultural terraces. So when I read this book and talked about what it's like doing tropical work, it all came back to me. And what we were looking for there is to inventory for the first time orchid bees in the Chickapur Forest of Berliz.
So we got to our sampling site with a few drops of scents that attract these bees, like vanilla, wintergreen, and eucalyptus. Within minutes, you would see these metallic flashes kind of getting caught by the light coming through the canopy. Metallic, blue, green, and red as the light hit them. These were the orchid bees. And I looked at that and I looked at the landscapes I was in.
This is why you do research. But the other thing about that is I kind of looked at these bees as the most remarkable things. But it got me thinking about the bees that I work with, you know, back home. They're just as remarkable. Their stories are just as remarkable. So when I read this book, it put me right in that place. You know, why we do research, why we do discovery and things like that. So to me, it was a great book. It's a good read. A lot of fun.
Speaker 1: I can imagine that there is with... I'm just reading... I'm going to give a class on bumblebee physiology. And I was like, oh, we know something about bumblebees and we know a lot about honeybees. But then you get into these other creatures that really are a horizon of discovery. There's a discovery that can be made virtually in any direction if you just let your curiosity wander.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. Absolutely. Whether it's providing the first-time species list for an area that kind of changes what we know about distributions or that kind of personal discovery where you see something new for the first time. You know, these are amazing things. You know, the natural world is fantastic.
Speaker 1: Well, that's a great book recommendation. I'm so curious about your next... Well, the thing is the next question I have is what is your go-to tool? And there are so many tools that I picked up in your lab that I still use. And I'm curious if what you will mention will be one of those things. My first introduction to rose entomological nets and the rose entomological specimen manipulator was in your lab.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. Absolutely. Great tools, but you know, I'm going to go a different way on this.
Speaker 3: I don't know if the word tool is good. I'm going to give a show to someone who works with me who does a lot of our GIS, and who's become an amazing collector. And that's Matt Grant. Yeah. It's amazing when you can go out in the field with someone like that. That is so curious and so good at what they do and raises such good questions and realizes biology doesn't work nine to five. It works long hours and you have to stick with it. So to me, it's that camaraderie that shares knowledge, you know, whether it's in the blueberry fields of Prince Edward Island, where whether we're in the Chikaboo Forest in western Belize.
So in terms of I'm using air quotes here a tool to me that's that's the greatest tool. It's that camaraderie. It's that common purpose of that ability to discover and learn together. That's what I, you know, this is a great part about science. You get that.
Speaker 1: There are so many good things to say about Matt. I mean, one thing is he is a literal Swiss Army knife. He can do the most sophisticated GIS analysis at this, you know, I've seen him quickly and also meticulously take a blueberry field and get all the detail, you know, put in. But also he's a really good native bee surveyor. He knows his native bees. He curates a huge collection down there in Kentville. He's a, you know, a remarkable, but he also has that sense of curiosity. And I also love that, you know, when you guys take holidays, you go on, you know, bee collection trips together in Belize.
Speaker 3: Well, you know, it's it's it's volunteer work. It's it's time off the clock, so to speak. But I think you know this from being in science. At least maybe to do with bees. It is something with you all the time. You never turn it off. It's part of you. There's such discovery and there's such need to maintain. So yeah, it's kind of neat. You know, you don't leave your day job at home. Let's put it that way.
Speaker 1: It also is a great shadow. There are some remarkable programs that have really great technicians. I know I've had the good fortune to work with you and Matt. But also when I was in in Lethbridge, I was working with Shelley Hoover and Linnea Oving and just really good technicians. Can really help congeal a program. It really is the glue, I think, in some cases to really having a program that can work.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's that. That knowledge that's brought in the dedication that really makes science happen, but it also makes discovery happen and discoveries exciting. So it's that camaraderie that the ability to do things. So again, I don't know if we should be using the word tool.
Speaker 2: I didn't think this was in the wrong direction. Not at all. If we did, like I apologize.
Speaker 1: We use it in the broadest sense of what makes everything possible. I think Matt is a great example of that. Absolutely. So yeah, yeah, Matt, if you ever want to come to Oregon, no, I'm just I'm joking. Okay, so the last question I have is going to be very hard. I've been in your lab. It's full of bees and. And maybe it's not a bee, but do you have a favorite pollinator species?
Speaker 3: Well, I think it's going to be a bee. And although there are so many remarkable bees where I live and where I work, I would have to say it would be orchid bees in the tropics. There's something charismatic about them. There's something amazing.
And if I had to pick one out of the group that I know, I would say you gloss a mixed up, which is this metallic blue bee with a red tip on its abdomen. To me, it's just fascinating. It's one of those things that you would see as a kid that you would never forget. And I think maybe that's another hallmark of being in science. You keep that little kid in you. So in terms of my favorite bee, I'll give a shout-out to you.
Speaker 1: Fantastic. And you mentioned earlier, I think you use these, you take these senses out, you put them out and then you attract the bees. What are they doing with these different oils?
Speaker 3: Well, what's amazing, because these oils kind of mimic the sense of orchids or other substances that these bees use. And when you look at a real story of co-evolution. Orchids and orchid bees really kind of take the marquee. In order for certain orchids to survive, they need to be pollinated by a certain bee. And the pollen is delivered in a way that you need that specific bee.
So it's this real relationship. So the sense of what the orchids produce to attract these bees. So what we do is kind of use the chemical equivalent to trick the bees to come in so we can survey them. But that's what's going on. It's, if you ever have a chance to see orchid bees, it's amazing.
It's just amazing. So if you're ever in the tropics, the neotropics and you have some wintergreen mouthwash, dab it on a piece of paper and hang it on a tree when you're having your nicest tropical beer. And you may get a really good show.
Speaker 1: What a tip. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. It is really nice catching up with you. And I really am excited for people to hear about these examples of creating really robust pollinator habitat in low bush blueberries. Hopefully, it's something that can be adapted to other systems.
Speaker 3: Thanks very much. And don't eat this is this is amazing. We did have some real fun times in the blueberry systems and things like that. And it's so great to catch up with you. Thanks so much.
Speaker 1: Thank you so much for listening. The show is produced by Quinn Sinaniel, who's a student here at OSU in the new media communications program. The show wouldn't even be possible without the support of the Oregon legislature, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, and Western Sarah show notes with links mentioned on each episode available on the website.
Which is at pollinationpodcast.oreganstate.edu. I also love hearing from you and there are several ways to connect with me. The first one is you can visit the website and leave an episode-specific comment. You can suggest a future guest or topic or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. But you can do the same things on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook by visiting the Oregon Bee Project. Thanks so much for listening and see you next week.
Lowbush blueberry growers in Atlantic Canada have been increasing bee habitat around their fields by encouraging existing plant communities. In this episode we learn how they do this and the incredible bees that pollinate this crop.
Steve Javorek is a Research Biologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada.