213 - Whitford and Feken - The complex life of the honey bee


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] I don't have to tell you that honeybee societies are remarkably complex and as such their response to environmental stressors is often not straight forward. And I run into this situation. All the time as a train pesticide applicators across the state of Oregon on how to use pesticides in such a way that won't have an impact on honeybee colonies.

So you can just imagine my delight. When I started to flip through the pages of a new publication from the pesticide program at Purdue university called the complex life of the honeybee. Now the. Primary author on the book is my guest today Dr. Fred Whitford, who is the director of the Purdue pesticide program, which he's been since 1991.

In that time he's published over 300 publications, including eight books and 140 extension bulletins. Dr. Woodford knows how to reach an [00:01:00] audience and how to get a complex message across to them. The other truly remarkable aspect of this book is the author list. Whitford has gone far and wide to find the top B toxicologists from the university system, from the environmental protection agency and also from industry.

And we're going to be joined by one of those authors max feckin, who's a environmental toxicologists. Who's worked for Syngenta. For eight years and he's primarily focused on risk to pollinators. And what's going to come across in this episode is not only the complex life of bees and not only the complex interaction between bees and pesticides, but the new environmental protection agency framework for assessing risks to bees.

And this is really the only publication I've ever seen that explains outside of EPA documents, how this framework actually works. So without further ado, let's launch into the complex life of the honeybee. Their interaction with pesticides and the new regulatory framework at environmental protection agency for assessing risks to [00:02:00] bees.

All right welcome to pollination. I have with us today, Fred winter.

Fred Whitford: Thanks for having me from a rainy Indiana

Andony Melathopoulos: and I've got max faking. Thank

Max Feken: you. Thanks for reminding me. I appreciate

Andony Melathopoulos: it. I'm so glad to have you guys here. I was, oftentimes something comes across my desk and I think.

Wow, that is remarkable. Where did this come from? And I, this is this publication that we'll be talking about today, the complex life of honeybees. And just to begin with what was the motivation for publishing this book and who is the audience that you thought

Fred Whitford: as we, as I develop publications to productive or see through the extension service, that's part of my job is to have outreach and I'm supposed to be talking to people and trying to explain whatever the issue is.

And on, on this particular one you have an issue that people are very passionate about. You have an issue. That's been [00:03:00] with us for a long time. And so when we look at honey and everybody loves honeybees, but what we're trying to do is to merge two complex issues, honeybees, a living organism and pesticides that we use in our crop production systems across the board.

How do you think. The two, they two issues that in themselves or extremely complex, and then you mesh them together. And so the idea is how do we give people information? Let's say that you're a master gardener as an example, and you love honey bees. And I do a lot of master gardener programs and they love their honeybees.

They love their pollinators. It's even broader. Now, how do you get information beyond? I love something. Or I hate pesticides. They're all bad for our pollinators. You don't have very much information. It's just from the [00:04:00] heart. They have the, let's say the best society people. You have those folks that understand the pesticides, but they may not understand specific ones understand the bees and how they move unallocated erection.

So my goal was, is always, how do I teach myself? Because I'm a generals. How do I bring both the B and then the comp complex part of the pesticides and there's life as somewhere, that max comes in because he understands the science of honeybees and pesticides. That's his job, right?

Max. That's what you do for. Yeah,

Max Feken: that's correct. And how I got involved with Fred Whitford and called me up, I've never met Fred before, but he's actually a really convincing salesperson in terms of getting folks involved in this effort, which, this takes quite a bit of work to put together a document like [00:05:00] this and what really sold me on it was that.

He entered his stood as a way to provide information to policymakers. As what's really got me excited. So it was really going beyond just the lay person, but including some additional information to really help in particular policy makers and understanding this process. In my job, we do a lot of explaining, trying to explain certain aspects of science in with pollinators and a honeybee in particular, there's really the understanding of the actual honeybee itself and all the complexities of bee health.

And then that's even before we get to the risk assessment process, that's really where I come in. And was helpful hopefully in help describing that process which takes up a big chunk of the world document, which I think is really what makes us this document

Andony Melathopoulos: unique. I love your answers because I, as an extension specialist, myself, I know that often when it comes to [00:06:00] pollinators, there is this reaction it's who would want to harm pollinators, but then you get into the complexities of the life cycle of the bee and then for a pesticide applicator, another group that I interact with and I'm sure know Fred does as well, they have all sorts of things going on that they have to manage.

And then bees are just one part of it. And so bringing the bees, the complexities of the bees into sort of their, their decision-making process. And then there's also policymakers and, pesticide regulation and the risk assessment is complex and it's hard, those EPA documents are very long.

And so trying to render it out into something. Comprehensible. I think that is extension's role and, I want to just maybe pivot to the, be part of it, because I think here it's been really you've done a wonderful job of taking a very complex life cycle and kind of taking out the key aspects.

And I imagine. In writing, you must have been tempted by sidetracks. This part is an explainer. This P [00:07:00] tell me a little bit about how you prioritize material to get this key message that you were trying to convey.

Fred Whitford: So the object is as we talked about, I'm a journalist. I have I'm, self-taught on everything that we work on.

I have a degree, but my degree is not in honey bees or pollinators. It's not even in pesticides. I have was a crops for some. So what I have to do is to teach myself the subject matter. So in this case, max, Was one oh, call from the person who understands the test. And we had Tom Seger booth from EPA.

We had our B person here. So what I do is I lay out in, in, on paper what I'm interested in, what I'm interested in, because see, max is doesn't realize it. He created a monster when he taught me of, so max was teaching me or B guy was teaching me, the EPA person was teaching me. And I have an outline where I liked to go.

And then, so what I would do is interview them and I would say tell me. Max [00:08:00] ha how do pesticides interact with these? And max would give me an answer and then I would go deeper. But the problem is max wants to go to a lot deeper than I want to go because to me it's not as important. I get lost in the details.

So I carried max to a certain point or he carried me there. And I think after. It was that's deep enough for people like me, my reader, agency, people, and even people in Max's company max, you have people who sell, you have people who do research on crops and pests and they need to know up to a certain.

And that's where we reached. So I, again I ride at all and, and try to get this information and then, and present it in a way that's understandable with as much as possible without the jargon. And then you get to the part at the end or risk assessment, which takes a little bit of jargon.

It requires you to understand how things are looked at. So [00:09:00] then we do a national review. We want to make sure that what I have on paper, and then we do a lot to do things like with photographs, illustrations are blind. So those kinds of things for those that don't like to read, maybe the picture and a detailed caption is all that they want.

So we're trying to capture stuff but you're right. It stays focused. And then the authors review it and they max mango said, Fred, you miss this. Or Fred, this is not right. Or this is a lot of detail. Maybe this doesn't quite fit here. So it's a lot of given. Between all of the parties.

And again, matched could carry me into the deep the vials of the biology and pesticides. And that's why it stood to have these experts that know their specific area, so that we come up with a publication that's nationally reviewed, and people don't have that much. They don't have a lot of arguments about what we say, but [00:10:00] if you have to be willing to read.

These issues are complex. They're not easy. I can't do it in an email. It's not a one page fact sheet. If you want to understand be biology and pesticides, you guys to read something and it's that again, the purpose of the publication. So again, max, would you add anything to what my long winded answer, but

Max Feken: Yeah.

Like freedom, I'm more of a generalist, I'm environmental toxicologists. So I look at impacts of pesticides across different tax, including pollinators. But Fred was able to recruit Reed Johnson from Ohio state university and Yeah, he's a real bee expert. And he also has very familiar with the concept of pesticide expenditure in effect.

So I think really the key was getting the message the background on the B life cycles and also really focus on actual bee health. Because really when you [00:11:00] talk about. Impacts of pesticides. It's really hard to tease away the other aspects of the bee health in general that are impacting colonies in the U S and throughout the world.

So it's really important to, to cover those aspects of it because it's so crucial in understanding. The overall impacts on pollinators in, in terms of how this may impact pollination services for agriculture, but also if we're buying to the burst, these, so these are very important considerations that you can't.

You can't really isolate. It really goes back to the colony collapse disorder. That was really big topic back in 2006 and 2007, it really went to X experts were able to tease out as it is. It's a real complex. Assortments of issues that the B concerning B health, including Varroa and other diseases that are vectored by the pro mites, [00:12:00] but those are important considerations that you need to take into account in that.

That's why I think there's real focus on that this documents on the B health.

Fred Whitford: Actually that's a great example of looking at health. So I write history books. And so I've been writing about, I think we're working on our eighth or ninth book now on the role of extension. And now we're working on the grill depression world war two.

But if you go back to the earlier days, We will lose losing 50, 60, 70% of our hires every winter. And this is before there's any chemicals and it had to do with bee health and so critical. So right now, I, and I think you were talking about there where you're at, that you had a lot of rain and be active.

Is being impacted well, this, these are under a lot of stress now. They're, they're not bringing in as much food. They're consuming food in the high. And so the stress of what we have [00:13:00] all during the year, Impacts are built, is going to win, are in Indiana. And if we're weak going into winter, max, we're going to have problems with those types surviving.

It takes a number of individuals to keep the colony warm. And there is an example of a simple fact. I got a group of bees that cluster around the queen and their job is to try to keep a more if I don't have enough of them, then they calling the dogs. That's an important fact to know. So max said Varroa mites back then it was all kinds of diseases.

The ability, what max to have a food source. Not to take as much honey away from him. I, I dunno. And the list goes on and on, right? All of those impact along with pesticides, if seizure pieces that all fit together and that when he said. Be health that is so important. And any of your beekeepers there, [00:14:00] whether they're hobbyists or major players understand how important that bee health is.

And specifically for role might as probably the best example that detracts from that health.

Andony Melathopoulos: I, those are all excellent points. I think people don't realize. Some of the biggest legislation around bees happened in the thirties around American foul brood because many states still have them on the books, the BS, and, it was, an amazing loss of colonies.

And it did require, it was a different, by that, at that time, it was like this completely different agricultural system. And yet, bees were dying. But one day what they did

Fred Whitford: not interrupt what they did, you would have a state inspector to inspect your hives. And if you had it, you burned your Heights.

That was the control measure was different. Everything that you had. And so it was serious, but that was part of that disease. Even back there, a part of that though, that plant health. Yeah, not playing out the the BL it was part [00:15:00] of maintaining a good, strong calling. And we talk about that strong colony to me.

Andony Melathopoulos: Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. That's yeah, I think that's a really an excellent point as well, in. I, oftentimes, Oregon, a pesticide investigator will be dispatched. Sometimes it's clear what happened. You have a classic case of an acute, something happened. Something was in bloom, exposure took place.

Oftentimes the investigator can't figure it out because there's so many, it becomes such a complex web of things that could have gone wrong. It's not very easy for them, they can take analysis. Things, and it's just not clear why that calling died and any apiary inspector knows that sometimes retrospectively because it is complex how a colony can decline.

And I guess, the one thing I, one thing I just wanted to, since we're talking about pesticides, I thought one thing that has happened, max was talking about the. The incident, the kind of [00:16:00] period of 2006, 2007, and that EPA really overhauled, how it assessed the effects of pesticides on bees and, put a risk assessment framework in place.

I think this publication that you have is the first extension publication that tries to explain the nuances of this risk assessment. I wanted to just having gone through the EPA guidance documents and seeing how some of those charts that they have, their flow charts that are just, they're very hard to follow.

How, what was your approach to being able to convey the meat of the risk assessment without getting lost in the kind of

Fred Whitford: so then, so the question is, and that's part of what Syngenta does and the rest of the companies. They have protocols they have to follow and APA wants to ensure that the products that we use are going to have no to minimal impact.

On [00:17:00] honeybees. So that's the bottom line. So EPA has a set of tests that they require all of the manufacturers of these products to go through. And depending on what you find, you have to do more and more. So this is where the biology comes in. And so it's not to say that all this herbicide or this insecticide or fungicide, and they're all bad, you have to go back to the biology.

Where do these animals come in contact with it? W where does these products state we use to grow the food that we're going to be. The food is fiber word, where they come in contact. So you go back to the biology. You got the adult, that's forging. You have the adults that's getting nectar, which is different than getting pollen and then your brain it to the high.

What happens when it comes to the hive, the nectar that is regurgitated back to a, another one, who's going to [00:18:00] move it. Another worker is going to move it through the system, Paula that's fed. And so then you can see this movement and now you understand why the tests are done, the way that they're done.

And then you say, does it kill them? Okay. Does it impact the. And max, and I've always used about 10% of the colonies dying. Anyhow, I think it's about 10% every day. These adults are dying. They're burning out. A honeybee can only fly for so long until they wear out. It's just like a car that's stolen beyond its smiles.

And so it has to replace them. So if the chemical is having an impact on the bruise, Then you could have an impact on numbers, which impact the foraging, which impacts and the winter survivability here. So that, and that's all, I've turned it over to max, but if you understand the biology, [00:19:00] then the tests that EPA requires, and I don't know, max shift, it's costing us now $500 million about almost 10 years worth of research to get these products to register.

It would be pretty stupid for you to send out a product that does arm. It would just be and taken off the market.

Max Feken: Yeah. It is expensive to register that has new active ingredients for sure. And that really, I think you're right. Antonia is it's. This document is the first one that I'm aware of extension document that describes the new risk assessment process for pollinators and the primary or author of that was Tom Steger.

And part of my job was to help streamline. Some of the texts, because the guidance documents, the EPA guidance document, or for pollinator risk assessments came out in 2014 and those documents [00:20:00] are available for people to read. But as you mentioned, it's not necessarily something that will keep you awake at night, if he wanted to read that.

It's a real struggle, trying to explain a science and the process like this, which is pretty complex in a way that she keep people's attention, but without sacrificing the necessary details. And I think we S we struck a nice balance to describe this process. So it's really, In the past 10 years, the way that the B risk assessment processes advances is really impressive.

And so prior to that there was really only a couple of acute toxicity studies that were required in really when the focus was your, you were trying to prevent a bee kill from happening and into now with this system where we're actually. Have multiple laboratory tests, including testing, honey bee larva and moving [00:21:00] to a higher tier process where you do actual build work to understanding the nuances of the rest to pollinators.

So not just focus on mortality, but actually. Looking at sub lethal facts and ultimately any impacts to the actual colony itself. So this is really a good place to help try to understand this process for, and again I think Fred's intention was to have a document that would help policy makers.

But also I think it could really help with environmental groups and other groups. That actually want to take the time to learn some of the new nuances to the risk assessment process, which is now required for all outdoor pesticide. So not just the new naked snowing. They were really the first drivers.

To advancing this process. But it's required for all pesticides, whether it's our [00:22:00] herbicide or insecticide or fungicide. So that's a really important thing that I think a lot of folks don't understand and hopefully this document will help provide that information to them.

Andony Melathopoulos: I like the way that Fred also set it up in terms of the.

The risk assessment is trying to capture a biological process and the publications written that way. Here's the biological flows of of how materials come into the hive and how they are distributed into the sort of super organism that is a colony. And then follow it up with an, a description of the risk assessment is trying to mirror that process.

So that when a new chemical is registered, it's thought of, is exposure going to take place? And if exposure takes place, is it, does it have these very direct, immediate effects? Does it have these more slow manifest effects and, moving through the process that there's a kind of, I like the way the publication tries to the way that Fred described it, bridge [00:23:00] those two pieces to get.

Max Feken: But it's it's a storytelling, right? As a scientist, we don't necessarily process information that way. But I think in some cases what Brad has brought out here as well, it really telling us the story and I think that's really a great approach to

Fred Whitford: your whole point was there's so exposure.

And again, that's what we try to get here just because there's exposure to an animal, to a human being. Doesn't make it better. And again, it could, how do you know that? So if you measure exposure in different parts, on a honey bee on the colony and individual in what does that, what do those numbers mean?

And you go back to what max was talking about. The studies that determine at what level do we do? Can we kill? We can feel, we keep increasing the dose. Find out what that number is. And then I can [00:24:00] make a comparison of what is my exposure to the beach. What is, do we know actually causes harm and where am I at in that range?

And so that's where we look at this exposure of information and why that's so important. It's not all they're exposed. That's bad. No, it's not bad. The same reason that I can expose, I can control the role in lights. What do we use now to control Varroa mites?

Andony Melathopoulos: Oh, a number of acid, formic acid.

Fred Whitford: Kill my bees.

But there, there is an example of, it's not always just exposure leads to harm. Now again, sometimes it might be, and if that's the case, then that's what max and them was going to have to go to the next stages that says we're going to have to do, we're going to study the hive. Let's look at the eyes in an enclosed area and let's see what actually takes [00:25:00] place.

And so you, they're really trying to quantify. In greater details as it goes forward. And then max would know that at some point I just, it's not worth generating more and more information that I, EPA is asking for more and more than may the, we need to find if plausible another product, but that generally doesn't have.

Because the EPA guidelines are set up that, that Syngenta in this case knows exactly what the game is, right? And the game is a science. How do we identify the things that EPA and their panels have said are important? And so when we all come out of this, we feel pretty comfortable that we can use products.

Now, what we haven't talked about as obviously there is the biology and there's the science. There's a missing component here. And that's called the applicator, the business that is called [00:26:00] the people who are expected to follow the directions on the label. Max? That's why you have product labels.

and when it When it comes down to it, you can see that some of these products will tell you do not spray. In fact, I'm working on a mosquito publication now and almost everyone, the label it says, do not spray will bees are foraging. Bees don't visit things that don't blow. Because they're neat nectar and pollen.

So there's a reason that we have those statements in it because we can in fact kill B five direct application, but our growers. Master gardeners are homeowners. All of those people are asked to follow the label, environmental statements to see if there's something on it, about killing bees or impacting bees.

And that's, that is in fact putting science now to work. And it's [00:27:00] that level that a lot of us will spend time. And, I could ask a lot of your listeners. When's the last time you used. Did you follow the label, even look at the label? No, you look at the rate is what you did and you made the application.

And that's where if we followed the labels, I'm under the opinion, max. And again, I don't work for a manufacturer, but we follow the label. I feel very confident that what we can do is make applications that are safe. Heck I've worked with the orchard people. They need honeybee. Because without honey bees, I don't have any fruit.

I don't have any fruit. I have nothing to sell. So it, it's following the directions, which own rates max, what would be some other things rates would be. Timing warnings. If we do that, we are not going to impact BS. Now that's a pretty black and white statement, but I feel pretty comfortable in [00:28:00] once the testing is trying to get us to do well.

Andony Melathopoulos: And I would say the thing that I'm really heartened with as a pesticide educator, myself, Is that the language on the label is much clearer than in the old hazard statements. There are statements there about pedal fall about beekeeper notification. And it's great to know that each of, I think this is a point that you were getting across for it, that each of those statements is backed by a risk assessment process, which is quite conservative.

I've heard somebody recently told me that. There's a perception out there. These tiers, the kind of laboratory tests that there that ma many products go right to the second tier because of the level of conservative, th the regulators are being very careful. The thresholds that have been set, I've been set very conservatively.

And so oftentimes are going to, more realistic scenarios. I just feel oh, I know that these statements are clear, then, you w how do I tell if a product's going to wear off overnight, the old labels? [00:29:00] Complicated here. It's this clear as day. Yes. Yeah.

Max Feken: And there's definitely more work we can do in that area as we need to make the labels clear.

And my push is to have pollinator specific language for each crop, it directions for use. So then you get rid of ambiguity in infant. Clearly should stay whether or not you can do application during balloon. And if not, what other steps you need to, to medic? To get exposure.

Andony Melathopoulos: I guess I, w what I had also Maybe want to just wrap up on were what kind of feedback are you getting on the publication? Are you hearing? It's relatively new. I heard about it. I was really excited. But from those from the public, from policy makers, from stakeholders, tell us a little bit about what the experience of this publication in the world has been.


Fred Whitford: for me it's been great aid to increase model knowledge, which is what my intent was. I thought that publication came out extremely nice with all the photographs, but what it's done [00:30:00] for me is opened up a lot of doors to give these presentations. And so when I go in front of industry groups or I speak to master gardener groups as the example, or I speak to somebody, let's just say this in general.

Technical staff and, or the marketing sales peoples, that's where, we're able to explain something in a much simpler way to frame the frame, what it is that we, we do and don't know. And so I, I can't it's been extremely well-received we've already been through a couple of printers.

We now give this to all of our B clubs that we have the state because they're asking for it in, from that in it's spawned five or six, more like what happens when the state is going to do a mosquito. They're going to trade for mosquitoes across a large area. So now we know that how has that, how does that impact the beekeepers?

So it, it has spawned a lot of things beyond this. But I've been [00:31:00] extremely pleased that we could contribute something like this. And and that max was part of it. And, EPA was part of it or, based scientists were part of it. I'm looking through our list.

Are integrated pest management person was part of it, three Johnson that the match talked about, that we could all come together versus this is good. And this is bad that we can all come together and say, okay, we agreed to these facts for the most part. This is pretty solid. You don't anymore.

I think max, that's pretty important that we have some consensus. Instead of, black and white, right wrong left or right. And consensus building is still extremely important in my mind, at least as an educator.

Max Feken: Yeah. What's nice about it. It really describes, the be health issues in the process and it's not tied to any particular insecticide like the knee and they could smell it.

So it doesn't necessarily have that baggage with the contrary. Around Nia next, whether they're bad or good, but it's really [00:32:00] describing the process that's been set up and we've had really good feedback. I try to promote as much as I can. That's why it's really nice to have this podcast to talk about it and we share it any time we speak to a state legislature.

We share that documents to help, to educate, really all the new this is to the rest of new risk assessment process. And it's, there's so many facts that folks just aren't aware of in terms of what's now required for determining risk to pollinators. So this is this doc to me, and I think it was step forward and help to explain it.


Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. I, we will have a link to the publication in the show notes, so you can download it. And and I have to say the graphical rendering of some of the key concepts is some of the best I've ever seen. It's really wonderful. Okay. Let's take a quick break and then we're going to come back.

We have a segment that we do with all our guests about book recommendations and other things. So we'll take a quick break. We'll be [00:33:00] right back. Back. So I just to start with Fred, or maybe we start with you, we'll start with max. Max, do you have a book recommendation?

Max Feken: Yeah, so I have a second of a pollinator related book that I'm recently read and actually I listened to it and my car didn't drive it into work.

Is Tom Seeley's tiny mean democracy. Oh yeah. And. It's really fascinating that the topic of how honey bees swarm and the process of deciding where they swarm and the location they're actually going to end up being is really fascinating. But what really was interesting to me was Dr. Seeley ha having described some of those early studies on.

Understanding the swarming process and just you his thinking on the study designs is what really trains me. So that's my recommendation.

Andony Melathopoulos: It's books are always so great because he [00:34:00] has like a sustained set of questions. Tackles over a decade. It's not like I do a lot of research just like on a grant cycle and they moved to the next thing, but he's done the same kind of thing from multiple directions for decades.

It's nobody does.

Max Feken: Yeah. I'm always impressed when I get to meet somebody that's like a true expert in one area where they just like intensely focus on it. And it's just, to me, it's just fascinating. Just asking folks like that questions and try to pick their brain on those topics.

It's really neat.

Andony Melathopoulos: So Fred, as a gentleman, as a generalist

Fred Whitford: what's interesting here is since most of us learn where we learned by listening to. At least the society we're in today, we learn by listening and by having a book, you can listen to. Like that and have the, and just listen, let me your podcasts.

There's no difference you could, if you could send out pieces of paper out to people, but since most people enjoy [00:35:00] listening and learning, that's why all the TV shows are so popular. Nature shows because we can see things and actions. That's what to me makes it makes it a venture for me to go find that particular book and for me to listen to it so I can see.

You know what he's saying? So I can add in to the missing gaps that I have. So that will be a book that I'll have to go and get a debate or listen to as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: Fred, do you have I I understand being a generalist, but is there a book that you or an extension publication that really, you want people to know about, even if it has nothing to do with.

Yeah, we got 150.

Fred Whitford: So you know, if you're going to show them about the complex life of the honeybee and I think that would be one that I would hope that they would enjoy because that comes from the minds of lots of different people. And it's much the same way max were saying, experts in their specific areas.

For me, I still like Rachel Carson's book, I still think that's a. I go back to, it's a very easy read. [00:36:00] It helps to set up what it is that I'm trying to do today. I, we need these particular products to have production, to protect our homes against termites mosquito diseases. I liked her approach that.

A storyteller herself there'll people could argue about specific points. You had asked about what might could have led me there to go to this story. They'll link. It probably goes back to your Rachel Parsons, how she took a lot of science and put it together to have her point of view, obviously, but it's storytelling.

This is what I tried to accomplish. And that's what I enjoy. Listen to people. Tell stories, not just all of the science, how does that sign so fine. So that's why I was interested in max. There's a book that he had on they get listened to. So

Andony Melathopoulos: that's fantastic. I, it's a great book. What's your book?

My book. Geez. Nobody's ever asked me that question

Fred Whitford: about time. Somebody [00:37:00] spot, I don't know. You have one

Andony Melathopoulos: go-to book. Oh man. You know what book? I really like, maybe along the lines of Mac's suggestion, I really earn Heinrich's bumblebee economics being put on the spot because it is one of those, studies that long-term studies of, a question that leads to another question that leads to another question as science often is.

And I just find, maybe I'm a little nostalgic, but it seemed like it's very hard to do that kind of a research program these days where you dedicate yourself to a question and you just pursue it with no expectations and you're dogging your doggedly holding onto it. I don't think that happens that often, this book is just And it also reflects what you talked about.

Fred Berg is a remarkable communicator and just, he can take the science and write it in a way that any person could follow the story and doesn't have to it doesn't have to understand the graphs or yeah. Yeah. But I think Rachel, Carson's such a great example, a great [00:38:00] book because it is that kind of like taking something complex and and laying it out.

But also it's, in many ways the birth place of environmental hazards in the regulation of those hazards comes in the wake of that. And

Fred Whitford: you and I have jobs because of her concerns. Max has got a job because that required USDA, they need. To create a system to evaluate these products. It wasn't all about will they control this pest on these crops or protect my health from mosquitoes or miles from termites.

And so it's actually allowed us to better quantify what we do so that people like you, and I can always say, read the label, because then we say that's where all the sciences that the scientists in the application. Footage put it to use. Yeah I just thought, and what I try to do then is build consensus.

It's not just me saying it, but I bring in a team of people with different viewpoints attitudes, and can we build consensus and, bring it all together. Where we can all [00:39:00] agree on certain parts are certain things that we can make. Some pretty strong statements.

Andony Melathopoulos: I have to say. That's one of the remarkable parts of this book is, oftentimes, I've written my share of extension publications go to my inner circle and I come up with something what's remarkable about this book.

As you went outward, you brought in everybody to write this thing. That's for mark. I'm going to, I'm going to my next, publication's going to be done differently.

Okay. The second question is, do you have a go-to tool for the kind of work that you do?

Do you want to leave this one off? Yeah.

Fred Whitford: So my to. There is science and there's labels, but the parts that go to just happened the other day, we've already started our miscut application. That's what I'm in right now, obviously. And a beekeeper had asked a mosquito person. Can you just let me know?

Can you notify? [00:40:00] He's not required to do that, but he says, sure. So he calls this person whenever he's gonna make an application. So I read the label, I've looked at it. There's no need to be concerned, but he said, you know what? You took the time to ask me. I'm glad to do it. So for us, we have something that's called.

where we have. Beekeepers put their hives into a database, and then I can actually check that database because beekeepers, as you well know a pretty secret dose they don't want to make phone calls to me, the applicator. And I say, ah, and so that you can in fact check it and what's nice is they updated it once a year.

And then it will be me when I have beehives in my area. And so to me, that's a go-to and trying to make sure that I'm a good steward of the product. I'm a good steward of what crops we're trying to protect. And then I'm also a good [00:41:00] steward to the beekeeper. 'cause I, I don't want to hurt anybody's bees and beehives because they have a life is looking at, they're trying to, it's for many it's beyond just a hobby, they're selling something or they use it for cooking or their own stuff.

So for me, we have something called beach, check that alone. These men and women who are making applications across the industry to check

Andony Melathopoulos: things well, we'll put a link to be checked in the show notes, and we actually have a podcast episode on beach X. So check it out if you're interested listeners out there know in the state of Oregon, the beekeepers decided, when they were and the department of agriculture with looking at it, There's so much mobility of colonies in the states they're really moved so often that it seemed like being able to track those locations would be.

And so in, in our situation, we went with meetings between industry and beekeepers frequent meetings.

Fred Whitford: So that is a major difference between where I'm at here. We probably have half a dozen men and women who [00:42:00] move hives around football and nations, which is most different than Michigan and Florida out there where you're at in Oregon.

So ours are more I guess you call them in place hives. But there's gotta be another system out there, that I can noodle worth. There's gotta be, at least that helps us do to know this something. Is there, what can I do to call somebody? They can cover their pipes or, do certain things.

Or I know when to spray all of the pollinating times, me back as spray, closer to the evening or whatever. So it's helped us a lot here.

Andony Melathopoulos: Yeah. That applicator a beekeeper communication and just, getting in the habit of. And just knowing, Aero applicator's coming in and, they're super, I, when I ever talked to aerial applicators, they're super cautious about these.

But it makes their job a lot easier when they can, plan their flight plan and they can see where, the bees are before they, and then they don't have to turn around because, no applicator wants to do that. If there

Fred Whitford: was one good thing of [00:43:00] max Colleen disorder, was it raised that level?

I've been through this 14 cycles of bee kills ever since I was young in this field, but that's standardized correct state. It made us a lot more aware of the seriousness of a lots of factors. And it seemed like now that everybody understands that pollinators are important. That's a major.

That's a major step forward for people to say, okay, this is part of the environment. We got to make sure for many reasons. And so your comments there that, it takes a lot to change people's attitudes and viewpoints. As we go forward, but it is part of our psyche. Now it's part of what we do as far as what we train on is what we apply and for this man to say, not a problem, I'd be glad to notify yet.

How important that between those two parties? So

Andony Melathopoulos: max, do you how about you? Do you have a go-to tool?

Max Feken: I think I took the question pretty literally. So [00:44:00] mine would be the the

Andony Melathopoulos: hive tool. Hi tool is very well. It's a very well worn on this show. So what, but you have to be more specific. Is it J

Max Feken: I like the ones that have the square.

Andony Melathopoulos: Okay me to pull your frames apart. So you keep ease then? I

Max Feken: used to, I'm not very good. I wasn't very good at it. And my ego can't take any more failure. So I stick with guardian, the gardening. But yeah, I do have an appreciation what beekeepers go through in terms of keeping. Hives alive. So I D I definitely have first seen knowledge

Andony Melathopoulos: of that.

Yeah. It's always wonderful to watch a commercial beekeeper work, a hive, there, the subtle hand movements, the hive tool, it never gets put down. It's always in the Palm of their hand and it's like they butterfly through the frames. It's quite, I guess they've been doing so many of them, but it's always great to see somebody who knows how to move a car, move through a colony and how [00:45:00] quickly they can move without upsetting the.

And it's

Max Feken: quickness, but it doesn't look quick. It's just so smooth. And and yeah, mine's more of a nervous kind of

Andony Melathopoulos: look

Max Feken: like I'm moving fast, but I'm not getting anywhere.

Andony Melathopoulos: Our last question is, do you have a pollinator species that you were, when you see it go by, you're like, huh, man, I love that little critter.

Max Feken: Yeah. I've lived in the Southeast for now most of my life. And I've often grow blueberries and it'd be think about here in north America, we have very few actually need a fruit species. So like blueberries and pawpaws and cranberries. And he knows there's not a whole lot. And instead there's one particular pollinator we have here.

And the Southeast called the Southeast Eastern bumblebee.

Andony Melathopoulos: It's the blueberry bee. I'm sorry. Yeah, the blueberry. [00:46:00]

Max Feken: Yeah. And it's genius is not, it's not bombed, but so it's different. I'm not a tax on them. I spent it, this guy's really cute. So I always enjoy seeing them when they're actually pollinating the blueberries.

I grew rabbit. It's one of our native blueberries here in the Southeast. And so it's really interesting to see this specialist be at work. And I definitely appreciate

Andony Melathopoulos: that, but they look, we have repoed up in Oregon. A bunch of them. There's one, in fact that lives in the dunes on the coast.

They're just, but they look like bumblebees. Like they're very fast flying furry critter. Yeah. It

Max Feken: looks just like a

Andony Melathopoulos: little bumblebee and the ones in blueberry in in the Southeast are they're black. They've got a little stereo.

Max Feken: Yeah, they have some stripes, but they're mainly

Andony Melathopoulos: black.

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Great. Great B thank you so much for that one. Fred, can you can you talk. Actually

Fred Whitford: I've got two and no one of them is I [00:47:00] used to like the big old bumblebees. I have a grandson that's seven and a half. You can see them, you can hear, you can follow them. And it makes it really neat when you're following this thing, how they're trying to cut through pedals.

You can, there's a lot of biology that's taken place right there. That's easily seen and heard. And so it's one of my favorites because of my grandson. We can do things. And in, for me, it may be the ones that you're talking about. It's all of the pollinator species that mimics honeybees. Yeah. The loss.

I'm just the it, so I can go at a set of flowers and I do, we got a couple acres of plants and stuff, and I can just sit there and watch just one big Bush that tracks them. You can watch all of this multitude of pollinators and I never. Shaded that. So I just started sitting still and looking.

And so when people talk about pollinators, [00:48:00] I appreciate more today because for me it was more on the beach. We raised sunny based like we do cattle. But when you're there, if there's just this multitude of life, but all of a mimicking these ones that have stingers, which is pretty

Andony Melathopoulos: cool.

It's really cool. It's remarkable. It does make me want to change my book suggestion now. There's a book from the early 20th century. No, I'm going to do it anyways. There are, do you know Anna Botsford Comstock's handbook of nature study it's you know, I love how it's this, it goes from re rocks to like universe.

And it has a great section on bees, but they're just the way described it with your grand child being able to, there are these nice little short exercises, but they're not the kind of exercises you might get in entomology that are just they're not specific. She went into great depths to come up with real [00:49:00] activities with each of the, I don't know how she did this, but there's just it's a thousand pages long.

It's a remarkable

Fred Whitford: those, I call them the old timey net. I think she was from where the forties. I don't know that I may be off couples, but a lot of those Comstock books. They're there. They were biologists who also enjoyed nature. I am a biologist who does what I do for a specific reason. I enjoy nature, but I have another job to do.

And so when you read the old Comstock books and all of these old maps, You get that flavor of this is how these animals are thinking and living, which makes it much different than today's. We write pretty harsh and straight

Andony Melathopoulos: forward.

Fred Whitford: You could almost do it through her book. You could almost hear the bees buzzing in the bird singing, right?

It's one of those ways of writing. That it's just impressive, almost old [00:50:00] nature. And they were scientists. She was her and her husband both were scientists, but the scientists that could bright and blending. I blend in the sounds, the smells and all that. And that's what makes that, those kinds of books that you talked about so enjoyable?

Andony Melathopoulos: I completely agree. It's a lost art, but I do have to say that the complex life of bees is a remarkable book. I really, when I first saw it I was and I kinda thought I was good at doing that. My job. And I saw, I was like, man, God got us up my game here a bit.

It's been, I need to hire you as a distributor to battle making

Fred Whitford: money off of this.

Andony Melathopoulos: We'll be distributing this in Oregon, for sure. I'll be using it for as much as I can, but thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Congratulations on the publication and I look forward to talking to you maybe in the future, Fred on mosquitoes.

We'll be

Fred Whitford: glad to match stood to see you again. That's good

Max Feken: seeing you and thanks. Thanks for them by I appreciate [00:51:00] it.

Honey bees have complex societies, which makes their response to environmental stressors difficult to understand. Consequently, the ways in which pesticide risk is assessed for bees can be complicated, nuanced and overwhelming. In this episode we cut through the tangle of all this complexity through a new extension publication.

Frederick “Fred” Whitford, Clinical Engagement Professor, Botany and Plant Pathology and Director of Purdue Pesticide Programs. Fred received his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Louisiana Tech. He has expertise in pesticide safety education, pesticide registration, regulations, insurance, and environmental and safety audits. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees in entomology from Iowa State University. He has served as the Director of the Purdue Pesticide Program since 1991. He has authored more than 300 publications including 8 books and 140 extension bulletins. He has delivered more than 6,000 presentations throughout Indiana and the United States. In recognition of his significant contributions to Extension outreach efforts, he has received numerous awards, including the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to Rural People of Indiana, the Outstanding Extension Faculty/Specialist Award from Purdue Extension, Excellence in Extension Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Honorary Master Farmer by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.

Max Feken is an environmental toxicologist and has worked for Syngenta for 8 years primarily focused on risk to pollinators. Prior to that, Max worked for the Florida Department of Agriculture and has over 20 years of experience in conducting ecological risk assessments for pesticides.

Links Mentioned:

The Complex Life of the Honey Bee

Book recommendations:


Dr. Morfin’s favorite bee breed:

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