21 Dr. Jim Rivers – Seeing The Forest For The Bees


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.

On pollination so far, we've avoided talking about pollinators in forest landscapes, and this is a real omission because when you think about the landmass that pollinators in North America evolved in, especially in a place like Western Oregon, forests are a big part of that landscape. And part of this oversight was by virtue of the fact we didn't have the right person to talk to. Well, today that's solved. We have Dr. Jim Rivers, who is an assistant professor here at Oregon State University in forest ecosystems and society. And Dr. Rivers has been working extensively over the last couple of years on pollinators in forest systems. He's going to tell us a little bit about how our understanding of pollinators really has to be kind of meshed together with thinking about forests as dynamic systems, successional systems that occasionally open up and create these habitat opportunities for pollinators. He's also going to impress on us how little we know about pollinators and forests and some of the research he's doing to address this gap in knowledge and doing work into things like forest disturbances such as fires, which have plagued the state this summer, but also looking at forest management and its impact on pollinators.

And finally, talking about how pollinators, people, and forests can really work together to keep pollinators healthy and forests working. This episode is long overdue and I'm excited to be bringing it to you. Hope you enjoy the show. All right, I'm here. I'm really excited in my office to have Dr. Jim Rivers. Hi, Jim.

Speaker 2: Hello. Nice to be here. Okay.

Speaker 1: Well, we're going to be talking about forests and bees. And in many ways, forests are the kind of place that you might not expect bees to like. When I think of forests, I think of these cool dark places that lack solid patches of flowers, the kind of things, not the flower patches that we see in meadows, but in a highly forested area like western Oregon, we have this really great bee biodiversity. So help me demystify my picture, how I think of the role of forests in the lives of bees and why are forests important.

Speaker 2: Well, I think a starting point for this is that if you look at North America, we have more than one-third of our land base in forests. And one of the things that I've been surprised to learn is that we don't know much about bees in those contexts and perhaps because people are thinking about them in the same way that you were describing that cool places, dark locations that don't have flowers. But the reality is that forests are really dynamic and within any forest, particularly forests that are being managed, you have a variety of different age classes.

And those age classes really mean that there are different types of forests within a forest if you will. And so bees like sunny areas, they like warm microhabitats, they like areas with flowers, they like areas that have nesting resources for them like their patches of bare ground or plants that may have hollow stems that they can nest in. And so bees are really a disturbance-dependent group. So if you think about disturbance within the context of forests, when we have disturbance, we have the potential to have bee populations in those areas. So if you have a natural disturbance like a fire that may promote bee populations if you have a human-based disturbance like timber harvest, that could essentially do the same thing. Okay.

Speaker 1: So I guess part of my mindset is I think about forests as this homogenous mass of forests. But as you're pointing out, it's a dynamic landscape and there are all these openings coming up and bees come into them.

Speaker 2: That's right. And we don't know much about how bees get there. We're just beginning to understand what sort of bees are using those areas. But yeah, thinking about forests as dynamic and not static is really probably the best way to think about them because it's not just bees that require those young regenerating forests. We often refer to them as early successional forest habitats. Some people don't even refer to them as forests, they call them pre-forest habitats.

Oh, right. But these are areas that are important for lots of different species. So I'm an ornithologist by training. And so the work that I've been doing over the last decade or so here in Oregon started in those habitats looking at birds. And then over time, my interests have expanded to bees.

Speaker 1: Okay. And I guess with birds, the kind of interrelationship between succession and bird biodiversity is well known, but with bees, it's probably, as you mentioned earlier, we're just on the cusp of it. So tell me a little bit about the bee communities that we might find in one of these forest patches. Are they really different from what we find in an agricultural area down in the valley bottoms? Or is there something about bees and forests that are kind of unique?

Speaker 2: Well, I think the starting point is that we're just beginning to kind of look at these sorts of questions. And I've been surprised we've had bees research at OSU for four or five decades.

Yeah, right. But we haven't had a lot of people looking in the forest, particularly in managed forests. That's where a lot of my research has been taking place. And so what we're finding so far is that a lot of the bees that we find in forests are generalist species. And they're not all that different from the species that you'd expect in lower elevations.

For example, here in the Willamette Valley near Corvallis. So for example, we have the yellow-faced bumblebee, bombas, and Vostosenskyi which are important for pollinating crops like cranberries and red clover for seed. That's one of the most abundant species that we find in these areas. So we're not finding species that are specialists or that are all that different from what we might see in some areas. But it's important to note that we're working in managed forests. We're not looking at, as you said, high-elevation meadows that might be within a forested setting. So you might be expecting something a little bit different there.

Speaker 1: And we should, I am hoping in the future, we'll get Dr. Andy Moldenke to come on the show to tell us about some of those systems because they are fascinating. But what about the interconnection maybe as a way to sort of random this part of the conversation? We think forests in the valley bottoms aren't connected when it comes to pollinators. Maybe we think of them as sort of separate. But the way that you described them, the community seemed to be, at least at first glance, somewhat similar. Do you think that they may be connected, that there's a way in which those early successional forests may lead to some kind of contribution?

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I think that is one of the key questions that remains unanswered right now. And it's the contribution of surrounding areas to our agricultural production lands here in Western Oregon. And I think that a case can be made that a lot of these crops are flowering for a very short time period. But we have species like these yellow-faced bumble bees that are here before the crops flower and they're here afterward. And they have to be going into other habitats to get their resource needs met. And so maybe it's the case that early successional forests are providing both nesting resources and food resources early in the season. And then these bees are just moving into crop areas and then moving back. Of course, you'd have to have forests that are within the dispersal distance or at least the movement distance of bees. But it certainly seems possible that in some areas we could be contributing to bees and the services they provide to crops from early successional forests.

Speaker 1: Wow, that's really remarkable and fascinating. Let's take a break and we'll come back to ask a little bit more about the forest management side of things. Welcome back. So, you know, most forests in Oregon is a lot of people are aware or managed, just like, you know, we manage agricultural areas. And I imagine that this type of management shapes the bee community. What do we know about the impacts of different forest management practices on bee communities and where are the knowledge gaps? Like what do we really need to address to understand that interconnection?

Speaker 2: Well, I think the first response to that question is that there's a lot more that we don't know about bees and managed forests than what we do know. And so my research group has been looking at a couple of different topics. One is trying to understand biofuel removal and how when you harvest a stand and you have leftovers, essentially from harvesting trees, if you take those off of the area that you harvested, is that consequential to be populations?

Speaker 1: And so the idea is that you've got all this stuff there and if you have lots of stuff versus not a lot of stuff, that somehow doesn't make any sense to me. Why would it impact bee communities?

Speaker 2: So yeah, that's a good question. So the genesis of this particular project was to try and understand whether or not you could use leftovers from tree harvest to fuel jets, believe it or not. Oh, be darned. Wow. There's been a multi-university project to try and do that. As part of that project, the question that's been raised is what are the ecological impacts on different organisms? And so we wanted to understand how the impacts of removing that material might be impactful on bees. Okay, got you.

All right. And so we had an experiment that we were able to work on where there were some stands of trees, so areas that were about an acre in size that were harvested like you typically harvest. And in some of them, everything that you wouldn't take to market was left there to a lumber mill. And then the rest just remained on site. There were other sites in that area where those pieces of material like the tops of the trees were pulled off. And then yet again, there were other areas where everything was taken off.

So not just the small branches, but literally the ground was pulled up, the duff and all of the materials there. And to our surprise, we actually found more bees and more species of bees in the areas that were most intensively impacted by that practice. So where you pull up the ground and you remove everything, we actually saw more bees there. And what we think is going on is that that favors bees that nest in the soil, because if you have a layer of duff, bees typically don't burrow through that if they're soil nesting species. And so we essentially have reset the habitat for those ground-nesting bees.

In fact, what we found was that the great majority of the bees that we captured were ground-nesting species. So that may seem a little disconnected in terms of what sort of relevance this has in a broader standpoint. We're not going out and making a lot of biofuel for jets from the tops of trees right now. But what it does give us is an indication that if we want to create habitat, it may be as simple as just scarifying the soil, removing that top layer of duff. So I think a good follow-up study would be to understand whether or not if we scrape off that duff material in other areas, would we start seeing the same sort of pattern happening?

Speaker 1: You know, we've had other episodes where we've talked about the garden landscape and mulching. And I imagine this is the same, you know, where it's been, it suggests that when you heavily mulch a garden you take away a lot of the ground-nesting habitat. This is the same principle, I imagine.

Speaker 2: Yep. Yep. Without a doubt, it's, it's the bee's need to have access to that mineral soil. What we don't know is the particular preferences for a lot of different species. We know that most bee species nest in the ground, but we don't know a lot of the fine details as to why one species might nest in one area, not another. So I think that's, that's a big question mark. But at least what this research is starting to tell us is that it may be simpler than expected, to, to favor, at least promote some of those ground-nesting bees that in a forested setting might not be there in great numbers.

Speaker 1: I think when I asked you that last question, I threw you off, you started explaining some of the knowledge gaps. I don't know if you want to pick it up again.

Speaker 2: Well, that was just one of the, one of the projects that we've been looking at. Another one that we've been making quite a bit of progress on lately is understanding fire severity in bee communities. And so we've been working in the Douglas fire complex down in southern Oregon. And what we're finding there is that again, because bees are a disturbance-dependent group, when you have more intense disturbance, you have more bees there and more species. So areas that burn more intensively and you have more removal of that, the timber that's there and the duff and the leaf litter, the more bees that we find in our traps.

Speaker 1: So let me get this straight. In southern Oregon, you have plots that have various levels of burn severity. So it's a real light forest fire. Imagine there's, you know, actual trees still standing right to something that's been just, what's, what does a really severe, I mean, and I'm sure it's top of mind for people in Oregon right now when we have a real severe forest fire go through, what does the landscape look like?

Speaker 2: Some people describe it as a toothpick landscape where you just have, if the trees are still standing, they're just, they're limbless and they're just very thin. In some areas where we've been working, there's been salvage logging where people have gone in and removed that timber because there's value to it. And so it's, it is really variable if you have a, as you indicated if you have a low-intensity fire, sometimes you can't even really tell that there was a fire there a few years later. Whereas these high-intensity sites really are quite different. And in some cases, you can still go out and see the mineral soil where it's just gone all the way down really because it burns so intensively.

Speaker 1: So you've been sampling in these landscapes for bees. Tell me, how do you sample and what are you seeing?

Speaker 2: So the, we, we are really interested in a couple of things. One is what sort of bee species are there. We want to know what time of year they're there and we want to know in what abundance. So to do that, we've been using blue vein traps, which are a common method that a lot of people use.

And so that gives us kind of a comparative estimate across that gradient of fire severity from low to moderate to high. And we're, we're coupling that work with experiments where we are taking plants and we're preventing pollinators, from visiting the flowers. So we want to know what the contributions of bees in those areas are.

And so that provides us with a measure of the ecosystem services that they provide across that same gradient of fire. And then another component of our work is to use common, we call them nest traps, but they're really houses for bees. And these are solitary bees that are, a lot of people use mason bees. And we put them out in the spring on these stands and we let the bees tell us how productive the stands are. And so what we can do is release a certain number of individuals on every stand and we have a nesting block from which we release them. And so that gives us an indication of how many young they can produce with the idea being that if it's a really successful stand, there's lots of food for them, they'll produce lots of young in those, those nests that we put out. So we put them out in the spring, we bring them back in late summer, and then we essentially hatch out the young.

Speaker 1: Oh, great. And so you can tell a fire severity is leading to an abundance of resources for bees by just looking and counting those cocoons is like, oh, we had 12 here and we only had four there or something.

Speaker 2: That's right. So we count the number of cocoons, we can take measurements of the size of the individuals. So that tells us something about their physiological health. And we can even take the leftovers from the pollen that are in the cocoons and figure out what they've been eating. We're going to be working on that later this fall and into the spring to try and recreate the diets. It's much like if your listeners are familiar with stable isotopes, a lot of the things that we eat get incorporated into our hair and our nails and things like that. The same is true for animals. We can basically do the same general approach, but with bees in the pollen, and leftover pollen that are in those cocoons.

Speaker 1: All right. I have a question for you. So this is ongoing research and we're, you know, I think our list, we'll have to get you back when it's concluded so we can find out the answers. But I imagine one of the things that can happen is, I haven't talked about this on the show, but mass flowering crops where you have a lot of flowers that enter the landscape and really mismatch with the pollinator community, have more flowers for pollinators. And I suppose when you bag those plants up and there's not a lot of seed set, it can be a consequence of just not, you know, the pollinators haven't moved in. I talk a little bit about this When you go into those burned areas, people are walking around in a couple years of these burned areas, we'll see an abundance of flowers start to come in. Is there a reason to suspect that the pollinators don't come in at the same rate as the flowers? I guess that's the question.

Speaker 2: I don't think so. It's not something that we've looked at closely. We'll be able to look at it closely, I should say, because we have data on how the flowers change over time and the phenology of flowering plants. We also have changes in the bee community. One of the things that we noticed, in the beginning, was this looked to be a community that was dominated by spring flowers.

Much of the flowers that we get early on, it's early in the season relative to late in the season. Because this is a natural area, it's managed, but it is a natural area, I think the bees and the plants have probably evolved to be in concert with one another over time.

Speaker 1: You know, another aspect of management in forestry is, and I imagine people in forestry want to get those trees up and growing, and there must be some concern about some of that plant community out competing the seedlings that are coming up. Do we know anything about that aspect of forest management?

Speaker 2: So that is another project that we have on. Wow. You guys are busy. We have a large-scale study looking at herbicides and regenerating forests in the coast range. What we want to understand with that project is similar to what we've been talking about with some of the other ones what elements of biodiversity change over time and change in response to these herbicide treatments, and then what are the ecosystem services consequences of those changes? Are there changes in the flowering of plants and the fruit production of those plants that require pollinators?

And so we've been thinking about that a lot, and as you noted, we are in a... The coast range of Oregon is a rainforest, and it gets an incredible amount of rain each year, what that means is that the vegetation is really vigorous in that area. So after harvesting in this part of the state, there's a lot of herbicide that's put on to these areas because if you don't, the seedlings that you plant will basically die, and if you are harvesting in the state, there are Oregon forest practices that you have to follow. They're legal mandates that you have to plan after you harvest, and you have to have your trees in a free-to-grow condition, which means that you can't just cut something and leave.

You have to have a forest replacing the forest that you remove. And so that means that there are herbicides used in some of these areas after harvest. Now, it's very expensive to put out herbicides, and there are concerns about human health and safety. So what we're trying to do is understand if we can shift the needle on how much herbicide application is used right now. We don't have any answers yet, but what we're finding is that we do have lots of bees in these early successional forests in general, and so the question is, across that range of herbicide treatments, how does that influence the number of bees and the diversity of bees that we have?

Speaker 1: Well, I imagine we do need to do an episode on just weed management, but that some herbicides don't kill everything, but they can shift the plant community. So you don't necessarily have fewer flowers, but you may have one kind of flower.

Speaker 2: And that's a really good point. I think there are two good points related to that. One is that herbicides don't impact everything. They usually target a certain group of plants. The other is that sometimes if you have herbicides that are impacting one group, the other group comes back even stronger. And so we do have exotic plants in some of our areas that have been sprayed. So you'd be surprised at how many flowers that you have. The question becomes, are those flowers good for pollinators, and their response? But I think the broader point to make here is that there are consequences for the actions that we take when we manage for ourselves. Some might be good for pollinators, some may not be so good for pollinators. And at this point, we're so early in our understanding of those two sides of the coin that we really need to do more research to say, if you do A or B, you're going to have a positive response. If you do C and D, it probably is going to have some sort of negative consequences. We're not at that point yet.

Speaker 1: That's great. I imagine there are a lot of stakeholders around the state who are interested in pollinators, and land managers, and kind of getting the, not just making assumptions but getting hard data on some of those relationships are really important to them. Maybe as a way to round out the interview, tell us a little bit about stakeholder engagement around issues of pollinators and forests. I know there was this really, I had the great pleasure of attending this pollinators and managed forest landscape conference last year, which was, the room was packed.

There was a lot of energy in the room. I was surprised to see people from forest companies, from conservation groups, all talking about this issue. It was a really exciting conversation. Tell me where those conversations are going and how more broadly stakeholders are incorporating this work.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So, as I said earlier, I started in Oregon working on birds in early successional forests and thinking about how bird populations are impacted by forest management practices. And over time, the relationships I've had with those stakeholders have developed and have gone to the point where I can go to those folks and talk with them and say, what do you think about pollinators? Or is this on your radar?

Or is this something that your group is interested in? And until recently, it hasn't been on most people's radar, which isn't necessarily surprising. I think one of the things that made it jump forward was the pollinator initiative that President Obama signed a few years ago. I think a lot of people at that point said, this is a national issue that we really need to start thinking about. And so my connections to those stakeholders were, I think established already. And so I started asking them about pollinators. And initially, people didn't see the connection to forest management. They didn't see that this was, with all the other things they had to worry about, they didn't see that this was one that was an issue that they really needed, to rope their sleeves and get involved in. But over time, I think they've grown to realize and appreciate that pollinators are important and that this idea of forests being important areas for pollinators is starting to, to kind of resonate with some folks. And so in the course of those conversations, what I came to realize was that there wasn't a lot of good information that our stakeholders had about pollinators and forests, in part because there wasn't a lot of, a lot of research being done on this area. And so the more I talked with them, the more I realized that there was real value in bringing people together to talk about pollinators and managed forests. And so we brought the workshop together really for two things. One was to talk about the value of pollinators and why they were important and to share with them cutting-edge research that's going on in forested areas. So, we structured the day to have morning, a morning session where people heard about research that was ongoing and that was, that was important for pollinators.

Speaker 1: It differs. There was butterfly research. There was great research from Southwest, the Southeast of the US. It was a really, some really remarkable work going on with forests.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it was, it was great that we were able to get people from across the country to come. And what, what I really wanted to do was to, to have people say, wow, there's a lot of, a lot of work going on that's relevant to forest management. So, and I think we accomplished that by, the slate of speakers that we had in the morning. In the afternoon, what we, we did was, we sat down and facilitated discussions.

The goal of that afternoon was to understand more about what forest managers needed with respect to information. And what was really, what was really surprising was that across the board, we had, as you mentioned, we had a diverse group of people. I think we had over 90 people, that participated in the workshop across the board. There were two themes that resonated. One was that participants indicated that the basic ecology of pollinators and forests was lacking and that it was needed. And they, they often said, we need some sort of baseline from which we can start. The second thing was that they wanted to understand the way in which the management actions they took influenced pollinator communities.

So those are really the two take-home things. We need to know more about pollinators and forests, know about their habitat preferences, know about their resource uses, just to know what bees are there is, is an important starting point, for example, but we don't have good information. And then if I manage my land in this way, what is that going to mean for pollinators? And so that was an eye-opener. But I think what was so surprising was that it really was across the group that these are the themes, that we think are important that need to be followed up on. And so the folks who gave presentations were in the process of writing that up into a formalized research agenda for pollinators and managed forest landscapes. And because we want to share that more broadly with, with people who are thinking about this topic and are just starting to, get their heads around bees and forests.

Speaker 1: I, it's really remarkable when you have people who are, you know, busy with the day-to-day business of managing forests indicate that they want baseline data on pollinators. I think it's really remarkable. That's counterintuitive to me. I would not have expected that.

Speaker 2: And yeah, and it's, it's, it's come to the point where next week I'm giving a presentation to some stakeholders. And what they asked me to do is update them on one of our bird projects, but spend an equal amount of time on the work that I'm doing on bees. And so to my mind, that is really indicative of the shift that's taken place in just the last couple of years about this topic and the importance that, that our stakeholders are viewing it with.

Speaker 1: That's remarkable. Well, we have a set of questions we ask each of our guests. I'll tell you about them on the break. I'm really curious what a forest pollinator's answer to these questions will be. So we'll be back in just a minute. All right.

Well, we're back here. These three questions I ask all our visitors. I'm really curious what your answer is. The first one is, is there a bee book that's either important to you or you really want listeners to think about or read?

Speaker 2: Well, I think a lot of people who study bees, the first book that comes to mind is Missioner's book. And that's, basically a tome of everything that you would want to know about bees in the world.

And I thought about that as one of my answers. But I think, the bee book that I liked the most, it's most important to me is the bees in your backyard.

Speaker 1: And I think I'm coming from it from a perspective as a, as someone who's still learning their bees, I assume that's probably most people are learning their bees throughout the course of their life because there's so many of them and they're so different.

But as someone who learned about bees later in life, I find that that book has, it's a really easy entry into the world of bees. The photographs are fantastic. I'm a visual learner. So being able to see a species and see some variation between members of the same genus is really helpful to me. And the identification guides are, are really helpful as well. So I, that's a book that I recommend to people who are, who are interested in bees beyond, I just want to have bees in my garden, but I want to learn about them. And I have a copy in my office and I have a copy in my lab.

So if we, if we ever need two at once, we were, we're well suited for it. Well, this is a two-week-in-a-row recommendation because Erin Oodle also recommended it. And the one thing that she mentioned in her interview was the same as somebody who's coming to Bees for the first time. It's the pictures, it makes it less intimidating having structures that you can't pronounce kind of phonetically spelled out. It really does break a barrier down. It's a great book that way.

Speaker 2: And what I like too is that, is the distribution maps give a sense. It's, what you might see in your area. Oh, yeah. Those are really helpful. I learned about my birds as a kid by, looking at field guides and, and kind of studying the features of birds, Roger Torrey Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds was the first book that I had. And so that, I think he's, he's been credited with pioneering the idea of, of, of identification tips or field marks, I guess is what he called them in the book. And essentially that's what is done in the bees in your backyard is, you know, keep an eye out for this feature because that would distinguish this bee from another one.

It looks very similar. So those sorts of things, I, I can go through a key, but it's much more intuitive to me to just memorize those details. And in fact, I think that's what most bee specialists end up doing. I don't think, they work through keys. I think they know those things that are in their head are dichotomous keys. And then, so, so that's, that's one reason why I think that that book is so helpful, at least to me and the way in which that I learn.

Speaker 1: Super. The next question is a tool. Is there a tool that you use, if you were stranded on a desert island and needed to do some bee work, like what could you not do without?

Speaker 2: Would I have a generator with me on that island? So, I ask that question because what I find most helpful to studying bees is a good digital microscope and kind of following what we just talked about with the bees in your backyard as a great resource. A good microscope is, I think so important to seeing features up close and really understanding what they are. I can think back to my high school or maybe freshman year in college looking into a microscope and trying to see some sort of structure that the TA had seen a thousand times and said, oh, it's right there.

And I looked in and I just could not see that structure. Having a really good digital microscope allows you, to get in and get a great image of that structure and really understand what's going on. So that would be the tool on the science side, but it's also a tool, I think, for outreach and engagement because a lot of people don't appreciate how beautiful bees are, how distinct they are. And if you show a closeup of a bee that fills the screen when you're giving a presentation to a group that's, that has an interest in, in wildlife ecology or, or maybe their group that's really interested in plants, it just really helps you sell that this is a really cool group and it's, it's worth your time looking into. Otherwise, it just looks like a tiny thing that, you know, your people are looking over their glasses trying to figure out what color it is, but you can really get a great idea of what it looks like from that digital microscope.

Speaker 1: You know, we haven't had this, it's strange. We haven't had the recommendation of a microscope yet. Maybe we have, but just tell us, you know, for people who are starting, who don't have a lot of money and, you know, what, what, what makes a, you know, a decent microscope for looking at bees?

Speaker 2: I don't know if I know a good answer to that question, but I know a dealer at Leica who could, who could, could put you into a microscope that's in your price range.

Speaker 1: Well, you know, the one thing I would, and we haven't talked about this, but the handy bee manual has this, uh, Sam Drogey and Gretchen LeBuns, right? Well, lots of authors, I guess, have a little description of cheap microscopes. And I know we've been, I'll show you next door after this, we've been like compiling Bauschalum zoom microscopes.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I don't think it needs to be anything fancy. I think it just needs to help you see it better. And, and I know some people who work on bees who do a lot of identification have, they're, they're not jewelers.

Speaker 1: Um, those little head things, their headsets that they have magnifiers in them. And you can buy those for 30 bucks. And I have a, when I'm pinning bees, that I use those because it really helps me see, especially the small bees. Okay.

I've tried, as I get older, my eyes are going more and more and I've tried magnifying glasses and they don't work as well as those. Well, and that would work on the desert island. That would work on the desert island. Exactly. No generator, no, no, uh, fossil fuel required. Okay. Our last question is a favorite bee. Is there a bee when it comes by, you're just like, huh?

Speaker 2: So I'll, I'll start my answer to that question by saying that the group of bees that I admire the most are the mega-kylids. And the reason for that, I think is because they have such a diversity of nesting structures that they use. And as, as a trained ornithologist, so much of the work that we do is focused around nesting.

So it's like second, it's like, oh, I understand this second nature in a lot of ways. But the diversity is amazing because you have resin bees, you have leafcutter bees, and you have mason bees all using different types of materials. And, um, and so that as a group, I think that's the one that's most intriguing. And then within that group, my PhD work was on brown-headed cowbirds, which a brown-headed cowbird is, is brood parasite. So in bees, we talk about them as klepto parasites, but the commonality is, that the female who is laying her egg doesn't provide any care to it.

She finds a nest of another species and she lays her egg into that and she leaves the care to that other host species. And so those klepto parasitic bees are really interesting. But I've got to say that my favorite bee is actually an exotic species. And it's the European wool Carter bee.

Pretty funky. And it's a bee that, that I, I first noticed it in my garden and I, and it looks like a wasp. It looks very much like a wasp because the males are territorial and they guard their patch of resources, these flowers. And what they do, if you're not familiar with them, is that they will attack any bee that comes within their territory. And if it's a female of theirs, of the same species, they'll try and mate with her. If it's another male, wool Carter bee, or if it's another species, they'll tackle them to the ground and they have these, these structures on the bottom of their abdomen, they thrust as they attack. And it's very difficult to see in real-time.

It's difficult to see even in regular videos, but there have been some really phenomenal slow-motion videos of this behavior. And it's, it's so unique. I've never seen it in any other species of bee. And it's made me describe them as the linebacker of the bee world because they just come in and they tackle, it looks like they're taking a quarterback for a sack. And, and what's great about it is that it's, it's a behavior that you can observe.

So I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son. And so he and I sit out by this patch of flowers where the wool Carter bees come and we watch the males patrolling those areas and, and tackling other bees and chasing after females. And it's, it's a really nice entryway for people to see bees and to understand what's what they're doing. Because oftentimes you see a bee at a flower, it's there and then it's gone.

And it's hard to track that bee over time. But, with this species, you can sit in one spot and you can see that male doing all of his behaviors. He might stop and perch for a little while.

He might get some nectar, but you can see all of that. And it's, it's very, it's as behavioral colleges, that's the thing that I think resonates with me most is seeing the behavior of an animal in its environment.

Speaker 1: Great answer. European wool Carter bee. Well, thanks so much for spending some time with us. It was great. All right. Thanks. Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu. We'd also love to hear from you and there are several ways to connect. For one, you can visit our website to post an episode-specific comment, suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. You can also email us at pollinationpodcast at organstate.edu. Finally, you can tweet questions or comments or join our Facebook or Instagram communities. Just look us up at OSU pollinator health. If you like the show, consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating.

It makes us more visible, which helps others discover pollination. See you next week.

Dr. Jim Rivers is a vertebrate ecologist and leader of the Forest Animal Ecology Lab at Oregon State University. With broad research interests that are focused in the fields of animal behavior and physiological ecology, his research program combines observational, experimental, and comparative approaches to test predictions from theory in empirical settings. He recently lead the Pollinators in Managed Forests workshop, which brought together speakers from Oregon State, Washington State, Montana State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address a variety of topics, including the influence of wildfire severity, salvage logging, herbicides and practical ways to augment blooms for native bees.

We’re talking today about how pollinator habitats and forests coexist and work with each other, the ways that bees thrive in forested areas, and how he and others in the field have begun researching the behavior of pollinators in forested areas.

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“I’ve been surprised we’ve had bee research at OSU for four or five decades now, but we haven’t had a lot of people looking in forests, and particularly in managed forests, and that’s where a lot of my research has been taking place.“ – Dr. Jim Rivers

Show Notes:

  • Why forests are an important place for pollinators
  • How surrounding landscapes could contribute to pollinator habitats
  • How Jim is possibly creating jet fuel in his forest research
  • What Jim samples to learn about forest bee populations
  • What the effect of herbicides on pollinators could be
  • Why Jim brought together stakeholders to talk about pollinators and managed forests
  • The social shift that has occurred in the importance of pollinators
  • Why Jim recommends getting a digital microscope

“There’s a lot more that we don’t know about bees in managed forests than what we do know.“ – Dr. Jim Rivers

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