Dr. Andony Melathopoulos, an entomologist with the Oregon State University Agricultural Extension Service, returns to Beekeeping Today Podcast to talk to us about pesticides and how beekeepers can help mitigate the risk to their bees by understanding...
Dr. Andony Melathopoulos, an entomologist with the Oregon State University Agricultural Extension Service, returns to Beekeeping Today Podcast to talk to us about pesticides and how beekeepers can help mitigate the risk to their bees by understanding label on a pesticide container. The first challenge is to actually see and read the fine print. The second is to understand the fine nuances of the wording. Andony gives us a test in reading the label. Listen in and see how well you do!
After the discussion on pesticides and labels, Andony discusses the Oregon Bee Atlas and the Oregon Certified Master Melittologist program. The Bee Atlas has set the goal of identifying every bee in the State of Oregon. They’ve developed a largest database of its kind in the United States. Accordingly, they have developed a certification program in order to help educate those who have the interest and drive to take their understanding ‘to the next level’ through a structured learning program.
Blueberries pollination is big business in Oregon, but there is trouble hidden there. Besides the low rates for hives – especially given the record fuel prices – European Foulbrood lurks in the fields. Why do honey bees experience more EFB coming out of blueberries than any other crop? Is there an answer?
Finally, Androny talks about his podcast, PolliNation. In PolliNation, Andony talks with researchers, land managers and citizens who work to improve the health of all pollinators.
Also in this episode, Ed Colby stops by with a tale from his stay with the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushenko and his family, while at the 2013 Apimondia Congress. Check out Ed’s book, A Beekeeper’s Life. Tales from the Bottom Board.
All in all, a big episode, guest co-hosted by Honey Bee Obscura Podcast’s Jim Tew! Join us!
Let us know what you think by leaving comments for this episode above. Start a discussion!
Thank you for listening!
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
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This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
Thanks for Northern Bee Books for their sponsorship of Bee Books: Old & New with Kim Flottum. Northern Bee Books is the publisher of bee books available worldwide from their website or from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. They are also the publishers of The Beekeepers Quarterly and Natural Bee Husbandry. Check them out today!
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We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a regular podcast featuring interviews with leading bee and insect researchers in the world of pollination, hosted by Dr. Kirsten Traynor.
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Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
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Global Patties: Hey, Jeff and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufacturers protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff: Thanks for sharing, thank you, Global Patties. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather we get right to talk about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen. From the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the subscriptions, the recorders, they enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast because it has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today.
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Hey everybody, welcome back. Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast. We're really glad you're here. Sitting across the table here at Beekeeping Today Podcast headquarters is a good friend, Dr. James Tew. Jim, welcome back to Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Dr. James Tew: I'm always happy to be here across your virtual table.
Jeff: We're sharing duties here. I joined you on Honey Bee Obscura in Kim's absence and you're joining me here on Beekeeping Today during the same time, but Kim will be back here shortly. We're both looking forward to that.
Jim: Yes, I am. I've had a good time though. I don't want to talk behind Kim's back, but since he couldn't be here, I was happy to fill in.
Jeff: That's right. I'll ask you what I ask Kim all the time. How are your bees doing? It's the beginning of April. No joking.
Jim: I'll tell you what Kim probably tells you all the time, my bees look like they've been beaten up. They're coming out of winter. It's hard to tell that winter is ended. Northeast Ohio you have to have some reason for living here, I guess. There's snow and ice right now on a nice spring day. To you Jeff and to the listeners you just get antsy because maples in bloom and early spring sources are out there and the bees desperately need it, and they can't get to it because it's another typical late winter, early spring, Northeast Ohio day with some freezing rain and snow.
Jeff: I remember when I lived there in Hinckley, in Medina area that the Tri-County meeting that you and Kim talked about several episodes ago on Honey Bee Obscure and going to that in a snowstorm, it's been snowing and cold and wrapped up in the rain that's a very frustrating time in many parts of the country.
Jim: Bringing back painful memories there, or what do you do if you've invited 1,000 people to come to your meeting and it snows 8 inches that day? It was always antsy, is they going to do it or not? That's an old memory, Jeff. I don't do that work anymore.
Jeff: On today's show we have visiting with us, is it Andony Melathopoulos from the Oregon State University Extension Service. Do you know Andony?
Jim: I have, he's not my age but he's been there for quite a while. The last time I was there all those years ago, he was there. He's surrounded by a lot of good people that do good bee work in the Pacific Northwest.
Jeff: We've had him on the show in the past and he's always full of good stories and he has his own podcast, I'm sure we'll talk about that. It's called PolliNation. I highly encourage everybody to go out and find that podcast on Apple or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We look forward to talking to him real shortly. First, Ed Colby stopped by not too long ago and dropped off a new story from his Beekeeper's Life, Tales from the Bottom Board book. Have you heard him talk before?
Jim: I have. He's a writer also, he's powerful repute.
Jeff: He is in Bee Culture almost immediately after your column every month. I figured you were close if only on paper.
Jim: Yes, apparently, we jostle to be the very last.
Jim: I think that I'm back close to the end because I'm usually the last to get my monthly article submitted.
Jeff: I don't know if that's how they schedule there but--
Jim: I don't know if that's how they do it either but I'm afraid that's the case. Now, he has a position of honor. He has officially the last page. I think I have a position of just being tardy.
Jeff: On that note, let's listen now to Ed from his book at Beekeeper's Life, Tales from the Bottom Board.
Ed Colby: February 2014 the beekeeper handshake. Our hosts promised that a driver would meet us when we landed in Kyiv, Ukraine. With a formidable language barrier, I wondered how we would connect? Not to worry, a poker face gentleman, dressed all in black, stood waiting for us holding a sign that read simply 'End COVID'. When I shook his hand, he picked up my gal Marilyn's bag and quickly led us to a waiting car. My memory of the ride into town is a juxtaposition of golden domed, Orthodox churches, and severe Soviet-style apartment complexes.
Road signs in inscrutable Cyrillic dramatic communist-era statues impatient with the orderly flow of traffic. Our guide and driver murmuring in Russia in the front seat abroad Niper River, handsome, angular, big-boned Ukrainians hurrying in the streets, stunning women dressed to kill. I said, Marilyn, "We're not in Kansas anymore." At a four-story building practically right next to ancient St. Sophia Cathedral the manager handed us the key to our top-floor apartment. "Welcome to Ukraine. Welcome to April Mandya." Now let me make myself perfectly clear, Marilyn and I are not important. Drivers do not ordinarily pick us up at airports. We just got lucky.
In the summer as part of my job as a ranger in Aspen Mountain. I give weekly lectures on honeybees and beekeeping. At the first one, three July's ago, I met the most charming family, beekeeper and former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yuschenko, his wife Catarina, and daughters, Christina and Sophia. Nobody else showed up for my talk. Mr. President and I did the secret beekeeper handshake, then sat down in the ski patrol and talked about our little valance. An hour later, I had a personal invitation for April Mandya 2013. The International Bee Conference in Kyiv. When I muttered something about the cost of such a trip the First Lady said, "I'll find you a place to sleep." She was true to her word and then some. We found champagne and roses on the dining table and chocolates. A few days later at their dacha outside of Kyiv, Mr. President served his signature carp soup. We joined outside by the lake, all bundled up on a damp fall evening. Second-course, pork kebab. I sat next to President Yushchenko. I watched him cut his meat into tiny slices, and feed it to the cat under the table. We were questioned as average Americans about our views on the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, then very much in the news.
For a brief moment in time, we represented the whole United States of America. Marilyn and I were both glad we had an opinion to share. Passionate about honeybees, Mr. President keeps 300 hives. I got the biggest laugh when I explained that Michelle Obama's single White House hive was strapped down tight to protect it from presidential helicopter prop wash. Beekeeping is the Ukrainian national pastime. Viktor Andriyovych explained that his country has 4.5 million beekeepers in a population of 45 million.
He informed us that the monks at Ukraine's monasteries all make meal. I said, "Well, what do you expect in a country with so many monasteries and so much honey?" He said, "When you come back next year, you'll have to sample my honey beer." After supper, Mr. President led us on a tour of his private beekeeping museum, a vast collection that chronicles the evolution of Ukrainian beekeeping from hollow logs to Ukrainian-style removable frame hives. You never in your life saw so much bee stuff.
Long ago, Ukrainian beekeepers believe that hives had to be high up in the trees. We looked at a giant wheel used to winch hives into the treetops. Victor Andriyovych said, "I've taken many heads of state through my bee museum. Muammar Gadhafi, Vladimir Putin, Bill Clinton." He mentioned a world leader whose name you surely recognize. "How did he like his museum tour?" I wondered out loud. "Oh, him. He doesn't like anything." President Yushchenko laughed. You'd chuckle if I told you who we were talking about, but I'm dancing on thin ice here. Maybe I was on thin ice when I emailed former President Yushchenko some political advice. Was that presumptuous, because what do I know?
Well right now, in mid-December 2013, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians confront the police to protest a different Ukrainian president. One who threatens to pull his nation deep into the mall of the Russian bear. Politics are one thing the beekeeper bond quite another. Marilyn and I reflect in near disbelief. What extraordinary kindness and hospitality. Two years after an impulsive offer from strangers, I wrote in so many words, "We're coming. Did you really mean it?" They replied, "We can't wait to see you." In these troubled times, we pray for Ukraine and count our blessings.
Jeff: Hey, thanks a lot, Ed, for dropping off the story. That's pretty entertaining.
Jim: Yes. Thank you. Nicely done. Nicely done.
Jeff: It's fun to listen to. All right, well, let's get right to our interview with Andony Melathopoulos but first, a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
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Jeff: Thanks, Strong Microbials. Hey everybody, welcome back. Sitting across the virtual zoom table right now is Andony Melathopoulos, all the way, right down, high-five from me in Corvallis, Oregon.
Andony Melathopoulos: That's right. I am just down there, five down here, beautiful Oregon. Look at that. It's looking nice out here, finally.
Jeff: It's actually sunny this afternoon, and that's the bright stuff in the back of the screen here, it's not the light. Welcome to the show. I just want to let you know Andony, that Dr. Jim Tew is here in Kim's place while Kim's out for a couple of weeks. I think you know each other from past work.
Jim: We do know each other. You may not want to admit it, Andony, but we know each other for a long time.
Andony: I'm such a big admirer.
Jim: I know. I know. You've been a good man there for a long time. It's hard to find good extension people.
Andony: Well, we were talking about that at the break just in terms of who I am. I'm an extension person, so who, what I am and it's a dying breed, extension apiculture. There isn't a lot of new positions being created, but it is such a necessary part of beekeeping.
Jim: I completely agree. I'm sold.
Jeff: I'm sold too. I might have mentioned to you guys before that my first deep dive into beekeeping was through extension service with Jim there at Ohio State in Worcester, but it's a circle here of extension people, extensive experience. Andony, again, welcome back. You were with us, way back in 2020 in the pre-COVID times, I guess we say BC, Before COVID. We introduced our listeners then. If you would just give us just a recap of who you are and what you do there an extension for Oregon State and then we can start our discussion.
Andony: Well, like Jim, I'm an extension person. I guess the thing is OSU, Oregon State University, sorry, Jim.
Jim: It's okay.
Andony: There are other OSU.
Jim: The other OSU.
Andony: OSU. Fantastic apiculture extension program. Dr. Ramesh Sagili heads up a program. It's got a Master Beekeeping program. Oregon did not need an apiculture extension person. The best way to define my role, Ramesh deals with everything inside the colony and I deal with everything outside the colony. There's a bit of leakage there because, of course, Ramesh is one of the premier extension and research people working on honeybee nutrition. He's very concerned with what goes on out there.
I really focus in on working with land managers, making sure that they're putting pollinator habitats in place, making sure when they're applying pesticides, it doesn't affect bees. Then I'm a honeybee person, but I had to make the transition, as all extension people have to do, you have to do multiple things. I head up the largest native bee monitoring program in the US of any state, which I'm very proud of. It's run by volunteers. There's master beekeepers, they're master melittologists.
Jeff: Melittologist, that has nothing to do with metals.
Andony: No. It's funny, it's the study of bees. If you pick up the premier book of melittology Charles Michener's Bees of the World, on the front cover, there's a honeybee.
Jeff: The most widely known, and after that would be probably the bumblebee. It's a fantastic program and a fantastic lead into what you're doing. One of the big things that we wanted to talk about was your work with beekeepers and applicators with pesticides. We were talking in the pre-show here a little bit about all of the changes that have happened. Can you recap some of that and why-- As a beekeeper, I know pesticides are dangerous and a bad thing but yet, then many beekeepers turn around and spray their foliage around their houses. Let's talk about pesticides, pesticide use, and pollinators/honeybees.
Andony: Well, pesticides are essential. They're really important. Here in Oregon, we have specialty seed growers that grow everything from chicory seed all the way to cherries, cranberries. To grow those crops on a commercial scale competitively requires these pesticides. No doubt about it. My mentor here in Oregon, beekeeper Harry Vanderpool out of Salem, talks to a lot of pesticide applicators and what I'll talk about in a second in terms of pesticide training. The first thing he does when he walks in a room of pesticide applicators, he thanks them for what they do.
He says, he goes through a vector control meeting where they spray aerial Insecticides, and Harry will walk into the room right away and say, "Thank you so much for the important work that you're doing. It's critical and I'm here just to tell you about how you can get your job done and have minimal impacts on my bees." I think that's one thing to point out right from the outset, is any beekeeper that's involved with crop pollination knows that the pollination is one element input into that crop, but also keeping the pests down.
If you have good pollination and Petraeus blight, rots all the blossoms off, there's no crop. They know that it's a partnership, but Jim and I were talking about this, that EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, which came about in the 1970s, regulates environmental hazards. Jim, when did you start to see B related language on pesticide labels?
Jim: I've got to take a walk down memory lane, but that was in the late '80s, '90s, that bees begin to routinely appear on the label. Before that it was unusual, plenty of bees no problem. If some were died off, you can just get more, but that began to change as I recall in the early '90s.
Jeff: Early '90s and at that time-- Thanks, Jim, that's good. I know this happened before I started paying attention. There's a whole lot of researchers and extension people don't know that history, don't realize that beekeepers had to deal with pesticide poisonings in the '80s. There was, it came to the attention of EPA, which regulates environmental hazards. As a consequence, those pesticide labels, which are legal documents when you go to Home Depot and you pick up a pesticide, you don't know this, but that label is a legal document that you have to adhere to. If you don't, it's against Federal law, the Federal Insecticide and Rodenticide Act. You have to follow it according to that label and if you don't, you're breaking the law essentially.
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Andony: Those pesticide labels have been around for a long time before EPA and starting in the '80s, they started to have warnings on the label about protecting honeybees and you see it. If you pick up any label, anybody got something in your-- some weed killer or something. If you open up that label, which is going to be attached to it, and you look for a section called Environmental Hazards, you're going to parse that part of the label looking for the keywords, is it toxic or highly toxic to bees? I might say bees and other pollinating insects. Then there will be another statement on there called the residual toxicity statement that says, "Do not apply this product or allow it to drift onto blooming weeds when bees are actively foraging or forging."
Those two pieces of language on the label tell you if the product, if it landed on a bee would it kill it? How long after it landed on let's say a flower would it degrade to a point when it's relatively nontoxic to bees. All pesticide labels have that. Go to any pesticide label right now, open it up and if it doesn't make mention of it, then you know that it's not acutely toxic to bees and doesn't have any residual toxicity. A great example of this, there's no herbicide labels will have this warning. I think there's an old one, Paraquat used to have a warning, but no herbicide labels will say that. You look at any herbicide label they'll be no mention of bee toxicity.
Jeff: As a beekeeper I have a bunch are flooding my head with full of questions. I apologize as I stumble and stammer here. Are the label's the same between what I pick up at the local box store and what an applicator the farm store finds?
Andony: Unfortunately, in most cases, yes. The language is standardized, so that language in the Environmental Hazard Section is laid out when a pesticide company goes to register a product, EPA has standard language they're supposed to adhere to. Some of that language is complicated. I know some companies over the past two years have tried to simplify the messages on icons on the front panel of the pesticide label. A lot of home and garden products, if the pesticide company is paying attention and is invested is trying to simplify that message because that message is complicated.
I just walked you through one provision of the label and I'm sure many of your listeners-- I didn't quite get that. I got to re-listen to it. There are many provisions on that label, and it is not in a language that's easy for people to understand, and so yes, unfortunately most labels look identical if it's for home and garden use, or if it's for a commercial applicator.
Jeff: I will add that none of the labels have type that's big enough to read.
Jim: There's so much to read.
Jeff: There's so much to read and it's so damn small.
Jim: I'm scanning all that information looking for my words, bee pollinators, and I'm scanning through all the application rate, the bloom development time. I'm looking for my key words there, as fast as I can read that small print.
Jeff: It is a challenge. How is the best way to scan a label as a beekeeper? You mentioned they go to the Environmental Hazard Section first. Is there any place else I need to check, look for a quick synopsis so I don't have to read that entire label?
Andony: Yes, we do. We have produced a card that we distribute through the North American pollinator protection campaign that breaks the label down. There's also a group on-- Anna Heck who you no doubt had on a previous show from Michigan State University. She heads up a working group, the managed pollinator protection working group funded by the Northwest IPM Center and we produce stacks of those cards and give them to commercial applicators so that they can understand how that works. Basically there's two things. There's a couple things.
Let me just-- the labels from the time that Jim remembers in the '80s and '90s only had the Environmental Hazards Sections, and it has a very clear statement about, is it toxic or highly toxic to bees? Then it has this rather gnomic residual toxicity statement. Now I want you guys to try and-- I'm going to read two statements to you, and I want you to tell me which one do you think would break down overnight. This product is-- now, I'm going to tell you-- this is the test. I actually test all commercial pesticide applicators with this question. It's a poll question before I give training to them.
I ask them if the product says, "Do not apply this product when bees are forging on the treated area, can you apply this product at night?" Yes or no. One more time. "Do not apply this product when bees are forging on the treated area. Can you apply this product safely at night?"
Jeff: Yes. According to that label.
Andony: That is incorrect.
Jeff: I see.
Andony: If it said, do not apply when bees are actively forging on the treated area. You can see how complicated this is without training there's absolutely no way on earth you would know what that meant.
Jim: Make the statement again because it's very detailed. One more time.
Andony: The difference is, so you'll see this in the second line. The first line will say this product is toxic or highly toxic to bees. Then it will say, do not apply this product or allow it to drift onto blooming weeds if bees are foraging on the treated area. Versus do not apply when bees are-- it doesn't say treated area actually, sorry. Do not apply when bees are foraging as opposed to do not apply when bees are actively foraging.
Jim: Actively, so the key word is actively foraging.
Andony: Actively tells you the product will breakdown overnight.
Jim: Active would be the word that allows you to apply it at night.
Andony: That's right. Very tricky.
Jeff: Yes, and no wonder that people can get crosswires with beekeepers and others, because they've misread the label or the label was, I don't want to say misleading, but not clearly written.
Andony: I have trained commercial pesticide applicators, and I always start the training off by asking them a series of questions about the label. I would say by and large 75% of the people who are licensed pesticide applicators in the State of Oregon who've not had training from me in the past get that question wrong.
Jeff: Are all pesticide applicators-- they're licensed in every state? Is that an EPA?
Andony: Here's the trick. Their license are certified. It depends where you are. What happened is long story, but it's a good story. Back when EPA was formed, they found out there was a complicated clause from old pesticide legislation that essentially rendered a whole bunch of pesticides, the registrations would've been canceled with the formation of EPA. What EPA did, is they created a new class of pesticides. Everybody's heard of this, or many people have heard of this, the restricted-use pesticide. Restricted-use pesticide means you need additional training to buy them. You can't go to Home Depot and buy a restricted use pesticide. You need to be certified.
The Federal government has some broad criteria around certification. Depending on which state you are, some credits, some states you have continuing education credits. You have to take your test. You have to be certified by taking a test. To retain your license or certification over time in a state like Oregon, and in many states, imagine Ohio's this way, you have to take continuing education credits. That's where they come to find me because they go to a room and they've got six hours. They hear from the person who talks about personal protection equipment, and they hear about worker protection standards, and then I come on stage for 60 minutes.
I have their attention. They have to be there to get their credits and retain their license, they have to be there. This becomes the real excellent opportunity to educate pesticide applicators. I have done polls across the country, and many, many, many states don't take advantage of this. It's a captive audience folks. They have to be there. They got their coffee, their donuts, and they're paying attention to you. If you're entertaining, you can get their attention because there's some pretty boring talks on herbicide drifts.
Jeff: How can I find out if an applicator's licensed, a pesticide applicator is licensed or certified? Is that a requirement?
Andony: Well, no. In Oregon, if you are applying a pesticide professionally, it's your business, you're going to need a license. There are certain caveats. If you're a homeowner, you don't, but you can't buy a pesticide in Oregon from Home Depot and apply it for a fee to somebody else's property. A license has two things. The one is, be certified means that either you're going to be applying restricted-use pesticides, or you're going to be doing it as a commercial business. In which case, in both cases you're going to have to, or you're working on public property. People who work for schools, who maintain the grounds of schools, they all have to be certified.
Jim: Andony can I just walk two houses down with a can of raid wasp and hornet spray and try to take out a yellow jacket nest in the ground for a neighbor who thinks that my honeybees are doing that? Am I a good Samaritan or am I a lawbreaker?
Andony: Wow. [laughs] I don't know the answer, but I can tell you where you would find the answer. The state departments of agriculture will all have pesticide divisions. If you're a beekeeper and you're like, "I'm really worried about this neighbor, she, or he seems to be going around the neighborhood spraying things," you can call your state department of agriculture and ask them, and they will know the answer immediately.
Jim: I'm not saying that happened to me, just in case if the answer is you're a lawbreaker. I was saying maybe that would be a possible scenario.
Andony: It might be, and it gets tricky. There's ways in which, and this gets into what I would really like to talk about. This environmental hazard statement was there for a long time, but in some states, it wasn't enforceable if you talk to-- because environmental hazards are not-- even when it says I've talked to a bunch of pesticide state agencies about this. Even when it says, do not apply this product when bees are visiting the treated area or forging in the treated area. Even that, even this is do not apply in some states is not enforceable. In the last 10 years or so, EPA has been wise to-- It has been thinking about this for a long time.
They knew they had language that wasn't clear, that people couldn't understand around bees and pollinators. They knew they had language that in some states, it wouldn't stand up to scrutiny if you applied your-- You sprayed during full bloom and it said it was a highly toxic pesticide, in some states it wouldn't be enforceable as a violation. They knew that what they needed to do was beef up how they assessed the risk of pesticides to bees and this is the big transition. For all of those years, it was a hazard statement. Said it's toxic to bees, but it doesn't tell you in which context, at what rates.
If you applied it on turf with no flowering plants, the risk to bees is low even though the hazard is high, the potential, it's a toxic product. Bees don't go to turf unless there's Clover growing there. EPA instituted a risk assessment along with the EU member states in Canada. Now you see pesticide labels. The new ones are much different.
Jim: I didn't know all this. I've been out of the loop too long.
Andony: Jim, I know you're not the only one. Most of my colleagues don't know this because there's a lot of research that's been done on insecticides and pesticides but without an extension focus, without having to look into the whites of the eyes of the person putting the pesticide on and understanding where the conundrum is, where the information breaks, then you would never know this. I've only had to learn this because I've had to train on it, and I've had to have people come up to me and say, "Listen, what do I do? You told me that bees provide all this value to pollination and all this stuff that I already knew, but you didn't tell me anything about what I need to do because I just need to know what to do."
Dr. James That is always so painful because the guy doesn't want to kill bees. He's not an evil person. He's just trying to control pests and sex. Here he's got these irate beekeepers bombarded him because they're frustrated because they control Verulam. They had small, high Beatle traps there and whatever and then they have this outside force that would kill their bees. Everywhere you turn would be anxiety and format.
Andony: EPA wised on to this. When issues with bees started to bubble up, almost 20 years ago now, 2006, they took it really seriously and they worked on this problem. It's a little bit of a shame because not only do university extension, but particularly researchers don't know this. Beekeepers themselves are unaware of what these changes are. They are quite far-reaching. There's two things, the first thing is, and I get this question all the time. I see these bee diamonds. Many people have heard that after when Neonicotinoid insecticides became an issue, EPA in record time, they don't never move this fast, issued amendments to their labels so that they had this bee with a red diamond around it.
Everybody thought that that was the new label, but it was an interim measure actually. You only find it on Neonicotinoid labels. EPA's phasing them out. It was like an interim measure before they could get everything worked out. The new labels don't have any bee diamonds or anything. What they do have is you'll read for I'm working in a crucifer crop and it'll say at this rate and this rate. Then they'll say real clearly don't apply until the petals have fallen off the plant. Clear language, it's as clear as day. That's enforceable. If you apply that now while there's bloom on that plant, it is clearly, it's a federal offense very clearly.
What's happened is EPA has created the conditions for clear language, a much more robust assessment. In the old days they had the acute toxicity test, where you had honeybees and you applied the pesticide. You figured out the dose at which they die. Now, every new pesticide needs oral and contact acute tests but they also have to look at chronic tests. They have to test the toxicity against larva. All of that is new. It's when you get the labels now, there's just a lot more data behind them. Language is clear and it's enforceable.
Jeff: Do any of the labels take into account the synergistic effect between multiple pesticides?
Andony: No, they do not-- if they're done. From a risk assessor's perspective, they're looking at, this new product has come to us. A company wants to register this new product, and they want to know what provisions for mitigation need to be associated with it. What I mean by mitigation is they say well maybe it has to be applied only when there's no bloom on the plant, when it's the highest risk, but the way that the registration system works it doesn't take into account, well there's a caveat to this. It doesn't take into account the broader range of what it's going to be sprayed alongside with. There is a way in which in human health though there was this thing called a risk cup.
The organic phosphates pesticides that Jim and I were talking about that caused a lot of bee kills, they also had a lot of negative effects on people. What EPA did in the '90s under the-- sorry, you probably want to hear about making two queen colonies but let here-- legislation Food Quality Protection Act. What it did was it said that EPA won't allow another registr-- They looked at the aggregate exposure for human beings to Organophosphates, and they said we looked at the broad diet of what a human being eats. An apple, they eat an orange, and if we look at the broad consumption patterns, we can't allow another registration of an Organophosphate until that cup, the aggregate exposure went down.
Actually, that's what drove the innovation of the Neonicotinoids, because the message to registrars, the people who make pesticides was clear that you have to lower the toxicity to humans. Neonicotinoids are some of the least toxic to human insecticides, but they have these other unintended consequences, they're highly toxic to bees. There is a provision, there is a way in which EPA at one point when people really concerned about human health hazards, they looked at things in aggregate and they had a mechanism for doing that but not currently with bee health. No. If you look at each product individually.
Jeff: This is a fascinating topic and perhaps we should have you back to talk specifically and only about pesticides, but I do want to talk about a couple other projects that you're working on. Unless Jim you have something else you--
Jim: No, I'm like you there's questions everywhere but it's very good information, Andony.
Jeff: A follow up question. The springtime where people are starting to think about pollination and where they can take their bees this year. We touched on the last episode, a little bit on the pollination issues around blueberries. I know you are involved with the blueberry pollination in Oregon. Can you give us a quick synopsis of what the issue is and what beekeepers need to be aware of?
Andony: Well, the first issue is that rental rates for blueberry have been static for a long time. People still get $55 a colony and it's been irrespective of the colony quality too. I've seen great variation in terms of the strength of the colonies delivered. Issue number one, rates have been very low. The second thing is and this has been reported. I'm sure it came up in your previous podcast that bees are getting beat up for some reason in Blueberry. Talk to any beekeeper here in the Willamette Valley where the bulk of our blueberries are grown. They all come up with brood diseases.
In fact, I had a student work on this and just characterize the intensity of how much European foulbrood, the main thing because all the other things, sac brood, chalk brood, they didn't seem to track nearly the way European foulbrood did. They come in with very little European foulbrood, and they leave with a lot of European foulbrood and then the beekeepers got a month or two of trying to fix that problem. It just jams them up for the rest of the year, and of course this is not a new problem. Is it Jim?
Jim: No, it's not a new problem. It's been around for decades except it's gotten worse because you can't run buy Terramycin now the way you used to be able to buy Terramycin.
Andony: It's a tricky thing as well because the beekeepers cannot get antibiotics the same way that you could. You see I spent a little bit of time in the bee colony but not nearly enough. The other problem is when you're coming into blueberry you want a super. You're coming into blueberry and they're going to swarm if you don't super, and so you're supering and so you already-- the withdrawal times for Oyxtetra already expired so you're stuck. You're going in into a crop where it's notorious for European foulbrood flare ups and you can't really medicate and you've got this low pollination rate. There has been a lot of aggravation and I think the blueberry growers here in Oregon have heard it, and they are interested in coming up with solutions but it has been an irritant in Oregon. It's an important crop for the state at the same time.
Jeff: They don't have those issues with any of the other crops because you did mention there's a lot of seed crops. I know there's apples in Oregon, but it's primarily and predominantly in the blueberries?
Andony: Yes that's-- so Dr. Sagili is working on this problem. He's looking at because the other place you can go is tree fruits which happened about the same time and we never hear problems in tree fruits. Seems to be blueberry associated but what it is, is unclear. I know Dr. Sagili and others have hypothesized there's a nutritional deficiency, but I think many people have looked at that and have not resolved it through that giving colonies pollen patties. In fact, when I go through colonies that are in and I've been through them during blueberry pollination often will get a whole slab, a frame full of pollen.
I'm not convinced that that's the issue. Gordy Wordel had that when he was at Michigan State University had this whole idea about the acidity. No, no the alkalinity of blueberry nectar. That's I think why those patties were acidified this idea that if you acidify the pollen patties that'll deal with it. There's been all sorts of theories and nobody can nail it down. The one thing that we've been working with there's a project led by Rufus Isaac at Michigan State University that we're replicating in Florida, Oregon and Washington is we are looking at the placement of the colonies.
One thing that I hear from beekeepers that they're irritated with and a lot of pollination system is the grower has them drop a pallet, drive down, drop a pallet, drive down, drop a pallet, and often those pallets of bees are up against the crop. There's no way you can protect that last row of blueberries and not spray the colony. We've been looking at situations where the colonies are dispersed versus putting them all in the landing in a safe spot with a nice buffer away from the crop and seeing if there's any decrease in pollination.
The first year of work from Washington and Oregon suggests there's no decrease because the reason the grower is spacing them all around, is they think I'm going to have a spot that's not well pollinated, but it certainly seems at least in the first year of data they're getting just as good pollination by setting the colonies back aways and putting them in a nice safe spot. I don't know that's unlikely to be the smoking gun. There's been smarter people than me that have-- Shimanuki when at USDA did a whole lot of work on this, right Jim? There's a lot of people very smart that have been working on this.
Jim: It goes back a long time. EFBs always it's been sneaky. Some colonies have it, some colonies had it badly, high rot next to it. Never had any effects of it at all. It's just always a mystery where it came from, or why they've got it, why they didn't all get it, and how you got rid of it.
Andony: One thing that we are planning to do is sit down. We've done this with the Clover Commission and also the specialty seed growers here in Western Oregon. Is sit down with the Blueberry Commission this fall and try to sit down and think and have blueberry growers, crop consultants, and beekeepers in the room and extension and just hammer out like have it out. Where are these points of irritation because sometimes, I think these pollination systems keep going because beekeepers there's a lot of honeybee colonies left after almonds that are looking for a place to go.
It leads to I think undervaluing of the bee colonies and we've seen this here in Oregon. I did a study where we-- well a student did this study looking at strong colonies going into pollination at four colonies an acre versus weak ones, and there's a huge increase in yield. I don't know if that's getting compensated. There's actual benefits that I don't know that are not being paid for that should be. There's a big benefit to grading a colony getting a strong one in there and keeping it strong for the grower.
Jeff: I do want to ask you about the two other programs we mentioned early on and that was the Oregon bee master melittologist, the Oregon master melittologist-- you can say that.
Andony: It's complicated. As I was saying it's melittology which is my last thing name Melathopoulos, and I didn't do that on purpose.
Jim: No, I know. No, that's not on purpose.
Jeff: I wanted to call him the bee enthusiast but the volunteers associated with this program were hardcore. They really--
Jim: Melittologist, melittologist.
Andony: That's right.
Jeff: Melittologist, there's no L in there.
Andony: You know the Greek word for honey is méli, right?
Andony: It's all the root, we're all one big family here, the native bee and honeybee stuff. You have to remember that Apis is an important branch off the diversity of the bee taxa . The thing that I was inspired by was I was inspired by that beekeepers had bee clubs. How do you learn how to keep bees? You go to the bee club. You go to the bee school. You have a mentor. You work out problems in 15 minutes before the meeting starts. That's how you learn how to bee keep. It struck me that I was frustrated because it seemed like a lot of the native bee research was sequestered away amongst professionals.
It struck me that if a person can cut comb honey they should be able to work through the genius key for the bees. It seemed to me that this shouldn't be an obstacle. There's all this concern about bees, but you talk to any good melittologist, professional melittologist they'll tell you there's not enough data to tell you anything. I was like, well, for heaven's sakes, could we use a bee club model where people could learn skills and become independent and like a bee club, they follow their own pursuits? One person wants to make nukes. One person wants to do this. Could we come up with a model like that? That's what the master melittologist is.
It's the first one in the US and we train people on the basic like, how do you catch a bee? How do you database it? How do you put it on a pin? Where do you find the coolest bees in the state so you don't end up with just a whole bunch of small carpenter bees which if you catch your own blackberries that's all you'll get. How do you do all that? How do you make a community of people like a bee club that's independent of the university? The bee clubs run themselves and they do their own activities. How can you get that going? That was the inspiration. I love it because there's all this antagonism between honeybees and native bees. I love it that one of the predominant programs in the US is inspired by honeybee clubs.
Jim: That is unique. That's very unique.
Jeff: That was going to be one of my questions whether native beekeepers and honeybee beekeepers will ever get along together.
Andony: Linda Zalls, Mark Gorman. These are all master beekeepers. Mark is an exceptional master melittologist. He's got an eye. His collections are remarkable. I believe he found one of the fairy bees in Western Oregon, which is way out of range. Yes, of course, it's so strange to me that it's become this overwrought drama.
Jeff: I agree. I agree. I asked my question in jest. I was--
Andony: Yes, yes, it's crazy.
Jeff: -poking the bear because I know some people are very, very passionate about that. It's a fascinating program. I was reading up on it and it's already sold out for 2022. You say, well, sign up here for 2023. Is that available? Do you have to be an Oregon state resident for that?
Andony: This year we've let it open up because we've got an online training module and we think that it really begins with the collector. Think about just the beekeeper. How does the beekeeping club start? You have somebody whose keeping bee in the neighborhood. We thought, well, we just need to train some people on how to do collection and how to make sure that data is collected properly. If there's a critical mass in Washington, or in Idaho, or in Ohio then they'll be able to constitute themselves into something on their own. This has happened in Washington and British Columbia.
They've formed native bee societies which I think is the proper way to go. It's an independent organization. University supports them but they've become an entity just the same way as the bee associations. I really think the problem with melittology in general, is that the amateurs have no place to go and they have a lot to contribute a lot more. Because there's a lot of programs where you just take a picture of a bee and you submit it. People can do way more than that way, way more. They're willing. As you know from a bee club you train the basics of beekeeping and people will go down a million rabbit holes.
Jeff: We're coming up on end of our time and I hate cutting it. I do want to save just the last few moments of the podcast to let you talk about your podcast called PolliNation. Which I have to admit, not just because you're here in front me, but because it's my most favorite podcast after Beekeeping Today, and Honey Bee Obscura and 2 Million Blossoms comes PolliNation.
Andony: Your podcasts are great. I love them. We had an episode on your podcast because I think it's really tremendous. I wish as a beekeeper, I had-- beginner beekeeper I could tune in every-- To the conversation with some experts. This was developed because I often would go to a meeting and you'd have this interesting conversation at the coffee urn that would never get captured. The main motivation for me was just to stick a mic in front of somebody's mouth who was interesting, and I wanted to learn from and capture it. It's way less polished than Beekeeping Today. It was a way for me to-- I thought I started it with the intent that if I didn't have a single listener that'd be okay because at least I had to discipline myself to have a conversation with somebody once a week.
Jeff: I really enjoy it. You have great guests and great topics. I encourage our listeners to search out PolliNation, Andony Melathopoulos. I wish I had your logo. I like your logo. That's a really cool one.
Andony: I love your logo. I love everything you guys do. I love how you-- Yes, you guys have the best podcast. It's awesome.
Jeff: No, but it is. I really encourage our listeners to look it up. It's on Apple Podcast. I'm sure you're out in Google and every place else. You do a fine job. I appreciate it. Use it all the time.
Andony: Thank you.
Jeff: Jim. Anything else that you want to ask?
Jim: I need to say Andony, you really have a superb program and you're very competent in talking about it and describing it. It's very envious. It makes me a bit sad that you have to, age, age, age, and be taken out of the game, but you've got a lot going on. I'm very enviable.
Andony: That's high praise, Jim, because it's people like yourself who really are the communicators. I'm not even the younger generation but I had the good fortune as a young scientist and extension person to see people like you in action. That's how it's done.
Jim: No, you're very kind, but thank you for saying that. I will record this and play it back several times a day. Thank you. I love talking to you. Thank you.
Andony: Me too.
Jeff: Andony, is there anything that we haven't asked you that you'd really like to say otherwise we'll just have to have you back on a regular basis.
Andony: Beekeeping today rules.
Jeff: Oh yes. I love it. All right, Andony, I appreciate you taking your time this afternoon to be with us. Jim, thanks for filling in for Kim, and it's been a great pleasure having you on.
Andony: Thank you.
Jeff: We'll look forward to having you next time. That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast, wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews, along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast.
We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at globalpatties.com. Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of this podcast. Check out their probiotic line at strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank Better Bee for their longtime support, check out all their great beekeeping supplies at betterbee.com. Thanks to Northern Bee Books for their support of Bee Books old and new with Kim Flottum. Check out all of their books at northernbeebooks.co.uk.
Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on the show. Feel free to leave us comments and questions at leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.
[00:59:22] [END OF AUDIO]
Sideline beekeeper. Columnist, Bee Culture magazine "Bottom Board" column since 2002. Author, A Beekeeper's Life, Tales from the Bottom Board. (https://www.amazon.com/Beekeepers-Life-Tales-Bottom-Board/dp/1912271885)
Actuarial tables indicate I should be retired, but I continue to be obsessed with Apis Mellifera. I live in western Colorado with the gal Marilyn, the blue heeler Pepper, 15 chickens, three geese, four lambs and way too many bees.
Assistant Professor, Pollinator Health Extension Specialist
Andony Melathopoulos is an Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health Extension in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, which was the first such position in the US. He also sit on the Steering Committee of the Oregon Bee Project, which coordinates pollinator health work across state agencies, leads the Oregon Bee Atlas and hosts a weekly podcast called PolliNation.
You can find PolliNation on wherever you download and listen to your podcasts, or on the Pollination website: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/podcast/pollination-podcast