68 Project Apis m. – Enhancing the Health of Honey Bees Through Research and Education


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.

Speaker 2: Frequent listeners of pollination are probably really aware that there's a lot to be known about how to keep pollinators healthy in landscapes, and there's even a larger gap in terms of taking what we do know and translating it into practice. And that's why I'm really excited today to have Danielle Downey from Project APASM. Now Project APASM or PAM has been really active.

They've infused nearly $8 million into bee research since they started in 2006, but they also have provided growers and beekeepers with a lot of new tools on how to keep bees healthier and doing better in pollination so that we can increase crop yields.

Speaker 1: Joining us today is Danielle Downey, who's the executive director for PAM, and she's

Speaker 2: been working with honeybees in the parasites that plague him for a long time. 25 years, in fact, we started together in Simon Fraser University as graduate students, but since then, Danielle has worked across the globe, Minnesota, Canada, and France. She was the state apiarist in Utah and Hawaii.

She has a lot of experience. So this is a great episode where we reflect back on some of the changes that have taken place around funding of honeybee research, but also looking forward to how these models are changing and how there's some real exciting developments which PAM is leading in terms of developing new tools for beekeepers and growers on how to keep pollinators healthy. Hope you enjoy the episode.

So, Danielle, welcome to pollination. Thank you. I'm glad to be here. We were just talking and I realized when we were starting the show, you and I sat down and talked about show titles. When the whole idea of the show came up, you were one of the brainstormers I went to.

Speaker 3: Yes, it's always a welcome opportunity to brainstorm creative things when you work in science. That's a part of ourselves we need to see. So I'm sure I threw you a whole bunch of name ideas.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and a lot of good ideas too. And I think sometimes I think to myself, oh, this show has really been the composite of a lot of advice.

Speaker 3: Yeah. No, it's a great conversation. I think you got a great name by the way. Do you have shirts and hats? Yes.

Speaker 2: See? There you go. I'm on it. Now, you and I have known each other for a while, and you've been working with bees for about as long as I have, maybe a little bit longer. Can you tell us how you got into bees and some of your experiences before taking on Project ApesM?

Speaker 3: Sure. You and I have known each other a long time. And as you know, I love bugs, not just bees. I was an entomologist by the time I was five years old. I remember carrying around bugs in the sandbox, and I knew if I left my truck still in the sandbox and moved them quickly with a jar, I could scoop up crabby beetles. So I've been having an eye for insects longer than I can remember, and didn't really know what was a thing until I went to school and learned about entomology. And before bees, I studied stored grain pests and forest entomology and aquatic entomology. And you and I actually had time in the woods looking at bear carcasses with and without underwear. Oh, I forgot about that. I studied forensic entomology because I was also fascinated with forensics.

Speaker 2: So that was an image that I wanted to get out of my head for good.

Speaker 3: Well, I have pictures if you ever want to remember that. Yeah. So I guess with bees, honey bees, it was a lucky event. I grew up in South Dakota and I went to school in Minnesota. And I was starting my schooling at around the same time that Marla Spivak got a position at the University of Minnesota. So my first beekeeping course was there with her probably 25 years ago now. So I learned beekeeping from Marla and did undergraduate work with her. And after that, I went to graduate school with you and finally raised her university, Mark Winston's lab.

And that was a very, very active lab. But I think you and I met many influencers in the industry during our tour there. And it's really been phenomenal relationships to have with those people that are still in the research. And then after that, I went to France and worked with Edela Conn and his lab. Oh, right.

I forgot about that. And I'm very grateful to have had all of those great teachers in great bee labs. And after that, I was the state apirist in Utah. And then I moved to Hawaii when Hawaii got real nice to build an apiary program there. And it was from Hawaii that I came back to work for Project racism.

Speaker 2: Wow, from sandbox ground beetles to what a great story. What a great way to, what a full experience. The one thing I reflect on about being in bees for this long is seeing a lot of the transitions. When we started, Varroa might have just come and it was still a concern, but things have shifted over time and being able to see all of those shifts, I think gives a certain amount of perspective to the industry. Yep.

Speaker 3: It's one challenge after another. Our work is never done. That's for sure.

Speaker 2: Well, when you and I got started in bee research, there wasn't anything like Project APSM. Can you tell us where the idea for Project APSM came from and what was it designed to meet? What is it the need that sort of brought it about? Sure.

Speaker 3: Well, Project APSM is the name is based on apis malifera, which is the scientific name for the honeybee. And it is focused on honeybee health and crop pollination. It, like many other important things, was formed during colony collapse disorder when really there was that first big push that people were very worried about bees. And beekeepers and almond growers during that period were worried about their bottom line and protecting their livelihood.

And we know that scientific research is the best tool that we have to answer questions about how to do business and improve agriculture. And it's unfortunately very slow sometimes. And when you answer a question, it usually leads to more questions.

So it requires an investment and a commitment. And beekeepers and growers at the time of colony collapse disorder had really pressing questions that nobody's answering. There wasn't as many people doing research or resources. There wasn't a lot of awareness.

And the research that was happening was not really linked to the industry needs. And so Project APSAM was formed with money donated from beekeepers and growers. And at the time it was a buck of hive. If you needed a hive for pollination or if you provided one and you were, you put in $1 for each hive, and that money was spent to fund research questions right now, not with an RFP for next year, but they agreed this is the thing we need to know right now and find somebody to answer that question to help us do business. So really the mission of PAN is to do very pragmatic, practical research to help beekeepers and growers and support agricultural practices.

And of course, a lot of that focuses on honeybee health. But we can do things like colonies are moved to almonds every year on trucks to fill pollination contracts. And for a long time, those trucks get stopped at the border for inspections, and they can be there for quite a while. And in the heat, you can lose a lot of bees if they're stopped on the truck. And so PAN can do things like put a hose bib at border crossing so that the truckers can spray down the bee and keep them cool and not lose them. So not only research projects, but also just practical solutions by using industry support to do things that make good sense. So we've kind of become this vehicle that's a go-to organization. To act on behalf of beekeepers and growers with donated money.

Speaker 2: This is a lot different than what you and I experienced back in the 1990s, where when we would, research projects would be, there would be some federal initiative, you'd have to bend it to the initiative.

And also, I just remember when we would do that, oftentimes the beekeepers and the growers would be in the distance of all that. And here it sounds like they're at the forefront of sort of defining some of these issues, and they actually are putting their dollars forward. Yes.

Speaker 3: And now when we say it, that makes a lot of perfect good sense. But at the time when this happened, this was really guerrilla tactics. They say, we're going to help

Speaker 4: ourselves and get some money together and do some research projects. And, you know, that started with a lot less money. And since we have come up with all of that trust from industry and the relationships with

Speaker 3: the researchers that can do the work to bridge that gap between their work and what industry needs, we have attracted interest from other corporate sponsors. And so now we have more resources than just what beekeepers and growers provide. So in a way, it's been a really nice evolution that we have their trust and we were created to serve that need. But now the vehicle has a lot more gas. And we're still focused on practical solutions for beekeepers and growers.

Speaker 2: You know, I have to say the other thing that really appeals to me about this whole model is, you know, as an extension and researcher, it allows you to get direction. I remember in the old way that we sort of would do things, there was a kind of, you know, assumption of what the needs were. But here it's real clear you have industry really kind of defining these things. And that I could see how that builds the trust that then brings on other people who say, hey, we want to contribute to this because it really looks like it's solving problems.

Speaker 3: We have those close connections and the research projects and the proposals that we get go through a process with our board and with our science advisors to make sure it stays true and is on track with what industry needs. So, you know, we don't often have the same budget as a federal funding source might have. We also have much less administrative requirements, which makes it easier. We can fund projects that are a small budget. We can just buy a lab, a piece of equipment that's really going to help them serve this industry needs more efficiently. We fund students and oftentimes a researcher can come to us and get some funds seed money for an idea that they have and get some preliminary data, which then they can leverage to some of the larger, you know, mini-million-dollar grants that you can get only from federal sources, really. So, in that way, we're also their vehicle to enable that work to go forward.

Speaker 2: Well, it strikes me that in doing that and leveraging industry money and kind of focusing things, Project APSM has been a real foundation of a lot of the innovation that's happened in North American apiculture over the past 10 years. Can you provide us some examples? You gave us the one example of the project to cool down the colonies as they're coming into the truck stops. But what are some of the other examples that you're proud of that Project APSM has fostered?

Speaker 3: Well, there's the practical stuff like the host that is order crossing Project APSM claims to have produced the first best management practices for beekeepers, in particular, to help them put colonies into almond orchards and with the place where you could get a draft contract between a grower and a beekeeper to make sure that you were asking each other for all the right questions and get that relationship in place. We're looking at other things that are not necessarily research projects, but help the health like when queens are sent in the mail, is there damage that's done during temperature extremes that we can help mitigate maybe with better packaging or maybe with educating the shipping and handling companies. We work closely with partners like the Almond Board. So there's been events in almonds where beekeepers say, Hey, my bees are dying.

Something happened. And we think they may have been exposed to something that damaging the brood, for example. And so we worked with the Almond Board and this is a read Johnson at Ohio State to go in and look at some of the tank mixes that were happening in almonds. And that's what we suspected what beekeepers suspected was a problem.

And so we did some work to see were these things damaging these and showed that, that was actually what was happening. And so we were able to work through the Almond Board and that works to educate growers about how to present those unintended bee kills. They pay a lot for bees.

They don't want to kill bees. But what it takes to make that change on the ground is to show that, you know, prove, yeah, this is what's happening. And then outreach to educate them to the alternatives and change those practices. And working with research and Project A with them and the Almond Board, we were able to make that change on the ground, which is really great.

That's the whole goal is to make things better and make improvements to how everybody is doing things so that it's a win-win. We also fund PhD scholarships in terms of sustaining the industry, having good scientists to answer tomorrow's questions is also a looking long term and supporting growth and attracting bright new scientists and making sure that they stick with bees to be there for us in the future. Right now we have a big project to breed Varroa resistant bees that's happening in Hawaii. We have a, you know, that will get us off of the, hopefully get us off the chemical treadmill of treating Varroa. We've had Varroa now for 30 years or more. And I think it's, I still think it's the worst thing to happen to bees in our lifetime. And if I had a magic wand and could change one thing in bee world, it would be to get rid of Varroa. I think we are working right now on an alternative for nozema treatment.

Oh, great. So we're dealing this year that beekeepers lost the one tool to treat for nozema. And we happen to have a project in shoot that's looking at alternative treatment. So that's exciting.

Speaker 2: These are all really great examples of like where there's been a blockage. Like, you know, with the best management practices, there is a way in which there would be a kind of problem that was addressed quickly. When I, I remember talking with someone from the almond board about the best management practices, they came together very quickly and it was a very kind of efficient way for the research with Reed Johnson as being, you know, here's a problem. Let's get some research in place. The, the Varroa resistance seems like people have been breeding for Varroa resistance for a long time, but there's that last step of like making it happen. Like those, all of these seem to have like a theme. Yes. There's something we've lost Fumigillan. We need a alternative for nozema control project APASM. This is a role that you would play. Kind of making that immediate bridge.

Speaker 3: One of my, my favorite top titles, and you know, I'm, I'm a word nerd, but it's practical is tactical. Well, we want to do things that are love that. Going to be most likely and you can never know with research. There's a lot of serendipity and you don't know what's going to lead you to your biggest new innovations, but choosing things that have the potential to make positive change for those people in agriculture is where we focus our resources.

Speaker 2: You know, and before I jumped in there, I think I cut you off. Is there, was there something else that you wanted to highlight?

Speaker 3: Oh, well, the other study that I, that I am so excited about was the one from a student, Samuel Ramsey, and this is the project that was questioning how Verola feed and this was a pretty inexpensive project. And a good example of how we do business or it was not even $20,000. And this student in Dennis Menegalsdorf lab showed that Verola are not actually feeding on the blood.

They're feeding on the fat and in insects that fat body is an organ that is really linked to immune systems and survival much more than the blood. And so with this inexpensive study and supporting a student to do this project, we have essentially rewritten every textbook about what Verola does to be even of course, the consequence of that is how it has an impact on how you control it and how you mitigate the damage of the mic. So that's another great example of a project we're proud of and that has made an important change.

Speaker 2: These are all, this is all amazing stuff and just to think it's been a real short period of time that all this has come together. It's remarkable. Good job.

Speaker 4: Yeah, we do our best.

Speaker 2: Clearly. Let's take a break and we'll come back and I got, let's ask, I have a couple more questions I want to ask about how things operate and how proposals come through and things like that. Okay, so Project APSM does this fantastic job. We've talked in the earlier segment of prioritizing the needs of the beekeeping industry and the people who rent those colonies and translating it into this relevant research. And I wanted to know a little bit more about how these proposals are assessed, like who looks at them and what makes up a good proposal and how in this whole process are you able to get this where it's always reflecting the needs of the industry?

Speaker 3: Well, that's a great question. And one of the unique things about Project APSM is you can submit a proposal to us anytime. If you have a great idea, you can talk to us right away and we can get funding pretty quickly. We are agile that way and adaptable.

So there's not just a window of time where it's open and closed. And the way that we do that is with volunteers who believe in what we're doing and they're highly trained. So we have a cadre of scientific advisors that will review the proposals. And those science advisors include Randy Oliver and Jerry Hayes and Eric Mossen, Michelle Funnican and Frank Drummond. And probably, they're all familiar names. These are scientists and beekeepers who are very connected to industry.

Speaker 2: And also very regionally covering from the northeast to California. You've got like the whole areas covered. Yeah, cool. Yep.

Speaker 3: And so we have, you know, we let them review everything and make sure that it's relevant and that it's meeting an industry need or has the potential to provide something good that industry would approve of our resources being used for. So the scientific advisors review every proposal and then they return a recommendation to the board. And the PAM Board of Directors is composed of many commercial beekeepers.

And so it's also representing the industry. The chair right now is Pat Heikamp, who's a queen breeder in Northern California. Gordon Wardell is on the board and he's an expert on orchard mason bees. He also knows honey bees and almonds and honey bee nutrition. John Miller is a commercial beekeeper. Zach Browning is a commercial beekeeper. Dave Mendez is a retired commercial beekeeper. Brent Barthman is a honey producer and honey packer. Jerry Schilling is an economist and also a sideline or a beekeeper. He has a little different perspective. He's actually the longest standing writer for Forbes magazine. So he has really, yeah. He's probably one of our board members that doesn't make all of his money with bees. He makes economic forecasting is his expertise. Wow, cool. Tammy Horn-Potter, who is the state apirist and honey bee historian and author.

She just recently joined the board. And also Mike Andre, who was one of the first de-informed project technicians in Northern California. And now he's a commercial beekeeper and a bee broker out of Colorado. And George Hansen, who you know, from Oregon.

Speaker 4: He's a pan board member. So those are a lot of familiar faces. If you go to a bee meeting, these are people that are leaders and definitely would not let us

Speaker 3: waste resources on something that wouldn't make a difference to their to their businesses. We have a lot of great oversight from volunteers who are really passionate and involved in the industry, you know, board members and clients and buyers.

Speaker 2: These are, I'd love to have dinner with all of those people. It'd be great.

Speaker 3: You probably do once in a while. It's hard to get them in one place. It's very rare that we have everybody in one place. But it's a lot of fun.

What a great group of people. We have a lot of expertise on our board that makes a difference so that we wouldn't, we don't want to miss opportunities and we also want to use our resources to apply to the need and bridge that gap between what a beekeeper can use or a grower can use and what a science research project can provide.

Speaker 2: What makes a good proposal? When something comes in, what sort of, what are people looking for?

Speaker 3: Well, we're looking for a question that the industry would like to have answered. A lot of times there's, there's great questions about nutrition. Obviously, grower is a big deal and treatments and biology, pesticides are important to beekeepers and growers right now to make sure that we have systems where everybody's interests are protected without having unintended consequences. The science advisors are particularly attentive to the methods and deliverables to make sure that the project is, usually it's a one-year project and so we want to make sure that it's designed to deliver.

Speaker 2: It can answer the question that it sets up. It's very intended. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3: So most of our projects are not exploratory. They're, they're more practical and we get proposals from researchers that do basic research that wouldn't necessarily have an applied element for industry, but the pieces that they will propose for our funding are always focused on delivering something that industry needs. So they have a whole suite of projects that they do and only some of it is really the applied work and that's where we can provide funding.

Speaker 2: So one of the, I think, amazing initiatives with Project Apes Am Centers on Getting Growers to establish pollinator habitat, can you explain this aspect of your programming and some of the things you've learned? I know it's really tricky to get habitat established. What are some of the lessons you've learned through these initiatives?

Speaker 3: Well, again, when you're trying to get, when you're trying to change people's behaviors, it's a really complicated situation. Our habitat project, so we know a lot of things that are hurting honeybee health. We, you know, you see the four Ps and all of the talks all the time, pesticides, poor nutrition, pathogens and parasites. These are all big gorillas in the room that, that we know we have to solve those problems. And a lot of our research projects right now, we probably have about 45 research projects active.

They're focused on those four Ps. And one of them, that poor nutrition piece, we're trying to approach that from the other side of the equation. So what good nutrition means to a bee is flowers and plants on the landscape to provide a diverse natural diet. So by giving these good nutrition, we mitigate all of those other problems. We know that if these are exposed to pesticides, for example, the best thing you can do is get them through more brood cycles to replenish colony. And the way they do that is with good natural pollen sources, with parasites too and, and pathogens, getting them to the next step and through that, that bottle mac is a good way to mitigate that damage.

Speaker 2: So you're talking, you're talking earlier about those fat bodies and stuff with varroa and stuff, you know, you need help the healthier the bee that's ability to fight these things. Exactly.

Speaker 3: A really great way to support the health is just by giving them good nutrition. And we know this in our own lives, we're better able to deal with all the stressors we face if we take care of ourselves and eat right. And so giving these good nutrition, planting diverse flowers, crops, especially around agriculture. So this began for Project DataSend around almonds. We know that the majority of the nation's managed honeybees come to California to pollinate almonds every year. So when they come, they're staged and there's nothing blooming because in the Central Valley where those almonds grow, until the almonds bloom, there's just not much else for bees. So part of our program is just to ask growers to plant cover crops around the almonds so that there's something blooming while those bees are waiting. When almonds bloom, it's great nutrition for bees and the bees prefer the almonds. But until they bloom and after they're done, it really is helpful to have those cover crops blooming around the orchards.

Speaker 2: And just to set it up, I'm sure some people aren't aware. I mean, some of the there's nothing blooming. Like you're really moving bees into an area that is, you know, in some of these areas is just these trees and nothing else.

Speaker 3: It's their ground. It's their ground when you go through the Central Valley. It's a desert for bees, except when those flowers on the almond trees are blooming. That's it. That's all there is. And this is why bees have to be moved in and then moved back out because agriculture has become so efficient that there's nothing to support those bees except for when those trees bloom. So it's a great resource during that window, but we need buffers to soften the edge of that time so that before and after the almond, there's good nutrition for bees. So Seeds for Bees is basically a program to encourage growers to try cover crops. We will Seeds for Bees enroll people Seeds for Bees enrollment is open right now. And basically a grower can go to our website and apply to get free seed. And we will give you the technical advice about how to plant it and have the most success. And you can get free seeds for two years.

And then really hoping that's enough for people to see the benefits. And now we call it Seeds for Bees, but really a cover crop is typically designed to replenish soils and conserve soils and mitigate dust and have better water penetration and retention and add organic matter to the soil. So really it could be seen as a benefit for orchard management with or without bees. But we're hoping to give people the opportunity to try it without incurring a high expense. And if they like it, hopefully they'll keep planting.

And we're seeing a lot of success with that. So we know we can reach a lot of bees in California almonds because they all come there to pollinate. And the other place that we focus our forage programs is in the upper Midwest. Most of the nation's managed bees after they leave almonds and go to other pollination contracts, they do end up in the upper Midwest probably about 60 to 70% of the nation's managed hive go to the upper Midwest to produce honeycocs, hopefully, and replenish and get ready for winter to start the cycle over again. So by planting in the upper Midwest, good habitat, we're feeding those bees at the end of the season to get them ready for winter.

Speaker 2: I don't know if you remember John Grushka, we had an episode with John Grushka where he talked about how they've been shifted in agriculture, how the upper Midwest may have had a lot of legumes in the past, but how that has really shifted historically if it's no longer what it was in the 70s or 80s. Right.

Speaker 3: So at this time when we really need healthy pollinators, the demand for pollination services continues to increase. And unfortunately, the landscape, the ability of the landscape to sustain those pollinators is decreasing. So in the upper Midwest, the honey crop average is going down, down, down. The amount of row crops planted and I mean, soy and corn is going up. And just like those almond orchards that are bare ground from edge to edge, corn and soy is very efficient. And there's hardly any blooming plants around those crops for the bees. So just not much left.

They're kind of getting depleted from both sides there. So well, we work with agriculture and we look for pieces of land that are not as productive for agricultural crops because we believe there's room for conservation on every farm. And we just need to find those areas that are not as well suited for production and design the right seed mixes. And if we do it right and plant it right, we can have great habitats for several years for not just honey bees, but for native bees, for monarch butterflies, and for many pollinators and other wildlife like upland songbirds. So this is not just focused on honey bees. This is about putting habitat back around agriculture that can support many organisms.

Speaker 2: So really, you're looking for land that would, farmers not going to make that much money out of. You can get all these other benefits for bees, but also for birds and butterflies by putting these mixes in. You're really not taking the land that they're making most of their money off of. You're taking land where they may, I presumably even lose money on in some years.

Speaker 3: Yeah, they do lose money. So we can, with precision agriculture and the tools that they have on harvesters, I don't know if you've ever seen the data come back in from a harvester, but you can see in real time, during the actual harvest of the crop, where the farmer is making money and losing money on their field, literally shows up as areas that are in the green and areas that are in the red on the map. So it's no secret that there's some land where the farmers are losing money. And if we can provide them an alternative and make sure that it can be managed so that there's optimal weed competition, so that it's a new practice.

And any time you're trying to get somebody to try something new, there's a little bit of work that goes into that. But we feel like we have a really great program and we're having a lot of success with it in the upper Midwest. And the nice thing is that this is where the monarch butterfly is going to be considered for listing as a endangered species because of habitat loss. So our mixers have milkweed in them and that will support those monarch butterfly populations without taking anything away from honeybees. We're building a big tent model here to provide habitat that benefits many, many interests.

Speaker 2: And the one thing I've sort of got out of this is the model is reducing the price of the seed, but also providing this technical support so that people don't have to fuss too much. They know what to do and they don't have to worry it's going to become a problem or something like that, a weed problem.

Speaker 3: Yes, that's right. And of course, just like with other efforts at Project Davis M, our guts are about the science and the data. So we have some really good teams working on these seed mixes to bear that out that these are effective, that the pollinator value is really there. And hopefully this can not only help the butterfly population, but also start to bring some of our honey production back up in those areas. Ultimately, we would love to just make the landscape able to support more bees and butterflies in wildlife. So we have the USGS working on the seed mixes, the University of Minnesota is working on it. So we hope to have some great data published soon about the value of these seed mixes and the design of our programs. And enrollment for that is open right now too. So you can find that at the Bean Butterfly Habitat Fund. And there's links from the PAM website to that, to those sites too.

Speaker 2: And that's a great reminder for you. You've mentioned a number of things, Project Apes M website, the Seed for Bees, Bean Butterfly Fund. We put those links on the show note as well so that you can find them. Great. Okay, well, let's take one more break. And then we have these questions we have asked all our guests. As an old good friend, I'm really kind of curious what your answers are. I'm not even sure I could predict them. So let's take a break and we'll come right back. Okay, we're back. Danielle, one of the questions we asked all our guests is, do you have a favorite book about pollinators, a one that you want people to know about?

Speaker 3: Well, you're going to laugh when you hear my answer. I think the book that I go to and still draw from, and if I'm trying to teach people about the amazing things that bees can do, it's an oldie. It's the biology of the honeybee from Mark Winston.

Speaker 4: It was last printed in 1991. I like it because it's pretty short. It has really high quality, simple illustrations. It has good natural history and then links to

Speaker 3: the actual capacities and mechanisms of a bee to do what they do. So when you try to understand how a little honeybee can forage many miles and come back to the same hole in the wall, this book has a brief chapter that will share the natural history and draw on the science without being overwhelming. So I still think that book is a really great resource for people to learn about bee biology.

Speaker 2: I agree. It's not that long. It's dense, but it doesn't feel dense when you're reading it. You can just read page by page and it's like, oh, cool.

Speaker 3: Yeah. I think it's a great reference. It's a good, you're right. It's easy to read just turning pages and it has some pictures, which is good.

Speaker 2: The next question I have is, do you have a go-to or favorite tool for working with pollinators?

Speaker 3: Oh, favorite tool.

Speaker 4: I missed this one for thinking about, oh my goodness. Let me think about that one.

Speaker 2: Okay. I will come back to it. People answer it in funny ways. They say, somebody said my camera or my, I'm a legislator. So the legislature is my tool. It's broadly interpreted.

So I'll let you think about it. And we have the next, the last question that we have is, there are species of pollinator that when you see come by, it's just like, oh, and maybe it's apis malifera. But you've seen a lot of apis malifera in your time.

Speaker 3: Yeah. It goes without saying that I see a lot of honeybees and I truly love honeybees, but I really am tickled to see and point out the, the wool carder bee. I think they're so fun to be usually in a patch of land there. You just, if you sit still for a minute, you'll see one hovering around and guarding some territory and they collect the woolly, the wool off the leaves to build nest. And usually the nails will guard the little patch of that lambs here.

And so you can, you can see one. And I think it's always funny because I can be walking along and see some lambs here with somebody who doesn't know anything about bees. And we can stop for just a few seconds and find a wool carder bee and inevitably that bee will either descend the territory and ram into whatever else comes flying through, which is always a surprise and an amazing little vignette to see that happen. Or will Pound Fun, a female bee and mate and, you know, either saying tells a great natural history story about what that bee does. And I'm certain that most people, when they walk by, they look for those bees again. So I think those are pretty neat.

Speaker 2: I think they're great. You know, and I've been thinking about like doing a show, getting like people who are really familiar with each of the genera and doing like an anthidium show because you know, it is, you know, most of the male bees, they're just kind of hovering around flowers looking for love. But here's one that actually is, is there also looking for a fight?

Speaker 3: Yes, it is really like a 30 second drama that everybody can understand quickly what this bee does. If you can look closer, and I think my appreciation for insects is just to look closely, if they were larger, this would be really the stuff of great fantasy and horror. The carder bee has a sculpted abdomen with these giant spines on it, and you can actually watch them just take a big fast run at another insect that's in their territory and ram it. I've seen them actually break wings off of honeybees to defend their territory. So it's no joke.

Speaker 2: They're little nutcrackers on their, yeah. Good choice. You know what we'll do? There's a great, the Western anthidium. There's a new USDA publication. We'll link that so people can see.

We've got lots of them around the West here. Okay. So the last thing is, you don't have to answer this, but do you have a tool that you find indispensable? Yeah. If you're on a desert island.

Speaker 3: I'll tell you a tool that has, in my career, I've worked since the start on burrow. Starting in Marla's lab and breeding in the Minnesota Hygienic Bee, and all the way through to 25 years later, now breeding bees for burrow resistant in Hawaii.

And I would say a tool that we rely on very heavily is powdered sugar. For those of us studying burrow, it's a really hard trick to raise up enough burrow for your study without killing off the bees that you're raising burrow on. And we need to make sure that the bees are exposed to burrow in order to verify that yes, they are resistant to burrow. So we do that often by collecting varroa mites off of bees using powdered sugar. So I don't know what we would do without that tool, to be honest.

Speaker 2: Sorry, it stirs up a memory because I do remember. I remember you as a master's student doing all nighters putting varroa in cells and you were like peeling back, you're waiting, and you were I remember there was like, all of us came out to do this and there would be, I remember watching Empire Strikes Back on an all nighter doing this.

Speaker 3: Yes, we did that in a hot room.

Speaker 2: But you would get the fruit, it was brutal.

Speaker 3: Yeah, I mean bees, so the study that you're referring to, what we needed to know if it was fed on by varroa or not, and if that varroa reproduced or not. And the only way to really produce bees that we had that history on was to watch them emerge. And a lot of times we would put a varroa in the cell and make a map of the frame and then watch for the bees to emerge. And you had to do that around the clock to catch that bee because once she pops out of her cell, you have no idea who she is anymore. So I remember.

Speaker 2: Marker and then we'd know if she got parasitized or not. You could see her and say, oh, she was parasitized. Oh yeah, right, right, right. Yeah.

Speaker 3: And then we would see if she got tracheal mice or not. And that was how we ended up having bees that had one mite, the other mite, none or both.

Speaker 2: Oh, that was a great study.

Speaker 3: That's cool. Yeah, it was a fun study. But I sure needed help on those overnight. So I think powdered sugar, by some miracle, it causes varroa to fall off of the bees and it doesn't hurt the varroa so we can use them in our studies. And all of these years, there's no substitute for powdered sugar.

Speaker 2: I think it's a very good Project APIS-M ending. It's like, what tool do you need? It's like right in your cupboard.

Speaker 3: Well, thanks so much for taking time to talk with us today. This has been a really great time catching up.

Speaker 3: Yeah, it's been great to talk with you. Donnie, thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 1: Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu.

Speaker 2: 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 can be featured in a future episode.

Speaker 2: You can also email us at [email protected].

Speaker 1: 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.

Our guest today is Danielle Downey, the Executive Director for Project Apis m., whose mission is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Danielle has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for 25 years. Her background includes training and research from bee labs in Minnesota, Canada and France; beekeeper education, work with commercial beekeepers and queen breeders, regulatory work as a State Apiarist in Utah and Hawaii, and wrangling bees for TV and film. She has worked closely with the Apiary Inspectors of America, Bee Informed Project and a bee breeding project with collaborators in Hawaii, Louisiana and Europe selecting and refining Varroa resistant bees. She holds a BSc from University of Minnesota and an MSc from Simon Fraser University.

Listen in to learn how Project Apis m. has accomplished valuable and sustained research for both pollinators and the agriculture and beekeeping industries.

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And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“We know that scientific research is the best way to answer questions about how to do business and improve agriculture…and beekeepers and growers, at the time of Colony Collapse Disorder, had really pressing questions that nobody was answering.” – Danielle Downey

Show Notes:

  • What got Danielle into studying bees
  • When and why Danielle started the Project Apis m.
  • Why a project like Apis m. is so valuable for everybody in the agriculture and beekeeping industry
  • How Danielle has centralized support for their project’s goal
  • How Project Apis m. maintains their scope and goal over their long timeline
  • What Project Apis m. has accomplished since it’s inception
  • Why Danielle is looking to change our chemical treatment of varroa
  • Why Project Apis m. believes that “practical is tactical”
  • What makes a promising proposal for Project Apis m.
  • What Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” program has done to help growers establish pollinator habitats
  • How Danielle’s project has helped them learn more ways to fight common pollinator problems
  • The importance of cover crops in efficiently grown agricultural areas
  • How farmers can use unused or unprofitable portions of their farm to create pollinator habitats
  • How Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” intersects with monarch butterfly conservation

“What it takes to make the change on the ground is to show and prove what is happening, and then outreach to educate on the alternatives, and change those practices.” – Danielle Downey

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