Season 4 Kickoff
What better way to start Pollinator Week than to get the latest info on everything Pollinator from Kelly Rourke, Executive Director of Pollinator Partnership, and Miles Dakin, the Coordinator of Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program.
This week’s program also marks the beginning or Beekeeping Today Podcast’s FOURTH year! Our first program way back then was with members of the Pollinator Partnership organization and we’re at it again with them. It’s been a good relationship each year.
Kelly shares a lot of what this group is doing during the 15th year of Pollinator Week. She discusses the new poster, this year’s t-shirt, how to get your Governor to produce a Proclamation Supporting Pollinator Week in your state, and this year’s virtual congressional briefings from the group on the state of protecting pollinators, plus the announcements sent to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Administrator of EPA. They are also sponsoring a cookbook, an announcement page on their web page that viewers can post their local events on and several FB Live Events this week.
Miles discusses his role with the Bee Friendly Farming program, including what it takes to get certified as a BFF, how many BFF farms there are, and being a BFF Supporter that beekeepers can take advantage of. All of this for supporting native and honey bees, but all are also very good marketing tools for growers and sellers. The Poster this year is focused on BFF, with native plants, bees, flies, beetles and the habitat they need, including continuous blooms, pesticide responsibility and clean water.
Solar arrays are becoming pollinator friendly too, and supporting pollinator friendly planting under them is good for everybody, and a lot better to look at.
Learn more and better ways to help support pollinators with the Pollinator Partnership Group
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer service, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com
Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com
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!
We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine destined for your coffee table. Each page of the magazine is dedicated to the stories and photos of all pollinators and written by leading researchers, photographers and our very own, Kim Flottum.
We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments: email@example.com
Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at www.beeculture.com
Thank you for listening!
Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". 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.
Kim Flottum: I’m Kim Flottum.
Introduction: Hey, Jeff and Kim, today’s sponsor is Global Patties. They’re a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It’s a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hive’s 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: Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. You now, each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, they help make all of this happen and provide us the ability to bring you each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American Beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today.
We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms that sponsor this episode. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators. Learn more on our season two, episode nine podcast with editor Kirsten Traynor, and from visiting www.2millionblossoms.com and that is with the number two. Also, check out the new 2 Million Blossoms the podcast, also available from her website and from wherever you download and stream your podcast. Enough of business, Kim, happy anniversary buddy.
Kim: Hey, three years down. How many more to go? [laughs]
Jeff: Yes, starting our fourth, maybe we’ll see how we go. I’ve been having a blast.
Kim: Yes, it’s been fun, certainly a different way to look at beekeeping education. Coming from a magazine background and a research background, it’s nice to have another thing, be able to add another aspect to what I’m doing here.
Jeff: Yes, really, it’s been a blast just being able to provide a little bit more information, different venue, different way of reaching out to people than writing articles all the time.
Kim: Look who we’ve been able to talk to?
Jeff: Oh, my gosh.
Kim: [laughs] The who’s who of American and British and other countries beekeeping.
Jeff: That’s right. The podcast goes around the world. Last time we checked there was over 120 countries that are our shows heard in, and of course, most predominantly here in North America but small countries in Africa to the Far East to Middle East, it’s pretty amazing.
Kim: Yes, it is. I am amazed. [laughs]
Jeff: Yes, it is. Hello to everybody and thank you for joining us. We really appreciate you’ve made these four years or three full years, go our starting our fourth really special.
Kim: Yes, thanks, folks.
Jeff: Not only is it the beginning of our fourth year, Kim, it’s also Pollinator Week.
Kim: [mimics drum sound] Bam, bara, ram, drum, roll please?
Jeff: [laughs] Pollinator Week special for us. I mean it’s special for all of us, it’s special for the industry, but it’s really exciting to be a part of it in our way.
Kim: Yes, it is and we’ve done-- Didn’t we start on-- we started on Pollinator Week.
Jeff: Our very first episode with Amber Barnes from the Pollinator Partnership.
Kim: Yes, Amber was one of the people working when I was at the root company in our backyard there. She had some experimental plots and she’d stopped by every once in a while, it was good to see her. I miss her visits.
Jeff: Yes. The Pollinator Partnership is our show today, Kelly Rourke and Miles Dakin will be on the show here in just a little bit. Pollinator Week folks is your opportunity to help educate the general public about the importance of not only the honeybee but all pollinators. In fact, Kim, the other day I was at the store wearing my 2021 pollinator shirt, the one with all the pictures of all the different pollinators on it, and someone stopped me in the store and says, “Oh, I like pollinators.”
I’m standing there with stuff in my hands and they’re standing there pointing at all the different insects and beetles and the bats and the hummingbirds on the shirt and saying, “Oh, do you have that? Yes, you do. Oh, I love pollinators.” I’m standing, I was starting to feel a little self-conscious, it was embarrassing, actually.
Kim: [laughs] It’s amazing the conversations will start when you wear something with bees on it. I’ve had more conversations on airplanes because I had a shirt on that had something to do with bees or the bee club I belong to. Then you can imagine and people will start the conversation with you, they’ll come up and say, “Are you a beekeeper? You are pushing Pollinator Week this good.” A lesson to be learned here, you want to do some advertising, shout out loud, wear a shirt with your club name on it or a picture of a bee or a pollinator.
Jeff: The shirt I like that I’ve seen you wear is just a white T-shirt and it says, “This is my bee suit.”
Jeff: That was a good one. Welcome to Pollinator Week folks, and go out to the-- We’ll be talking to Pollinator Partnership folks here in a few moments, and I encourage you to go out to pollinator.org to find out more about how you can participate in the Pollinator Week activities. Kim, last August we had on the show the folks from the Good Food Awards, and they have their honey-- there’s an open honey submission now, right?
Kim: Yes, and you still got a little bit of time. Go to their web page and take a look at the rules and regs and how to prepare your honey and how to get it out to them and don’t waste any time. As soon as the show’s over go out and get started on this because you don’t have a whole lot of time. I’m going to try and get mine in this year, Jeff.
Jeff: Oh, good. Well, good luck to you. I think it’s open till the end of this month end of June 2021, and we had an audio postcard from the Good Food Award people on last week’s episode, so you can go back and listen to that. Also, in this week’s episode, we have the URL and additional information for the Good Food Awards and honey submissions, so check out our show notes, check out the Good Food Awards website and submit your honey and let us know, if you submit and if you win.
Kim: Yes, if you win, share.
Jeff: Also, Kim, we started this month, actually earlier in June and May we started adding transcripts to our show and really hope that some folks find them useful and can use them as soon as they can.
Kim: Yes, they make listening easier if you want to read along, certainly, for people who are hearing impaired or people who miss part of it or need to go back and try and figure out exactly what the people were talking about. They’re just useful in a lot of different ways.
Jeff: Yes. Let us know what you think. It’s through the support of our sponsors and your support of the sponsors, in return that helps give us the ability to provide those transcripts, so check them out today. Finally, before we get to our interview with the pollinator plus people, we did send out some mugs several weeks ago to nine people who heard the message at the end of one of the episodes. They should have them by now. Shouldn’t they?
Kim: From what I’ve heard some of them didn’t make it. Rough handling along the way, but most of them made it and I’m hoping they’re showing them off.
Jeff: Yes, please show them off on social media, take a picture with you out in your apiary, enjoying your favorite beverage in our coffee mug, and tag the Beekeeping Today Podcast in your post and let us know you’re enjoying them.
Jeff: [laughs] Yes. That’s great. All right, Kim, let’s get on with our interview and our celebration of our fourth year and the celebration of Pollinator Partnership with our interview, with Kelly and Miles but first a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
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Now you can help improve your honey colony health with a quick easy and safe to use the product. Strong Microbials SuperDFM-HoneyBee uses naturally occurring bacteria to restore the healthy gut biome of your honeybees. Check them out today at www.strongmicrobials.com. [music] While you’re on the Strong Microbials site, be sure to subscribe to their newsletter, The Hive, and receive regular updates and information. Hey, everybody, welcome back. Sitting with us now across the virtual Zoom table are Kelly Rourke and Miles Dakin from the Pollinator Partnership. Welcome, Kelly, and welcome Miles to Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Kelly Rourke: Thank you, Jeff. Thanks, Kim for having us.
Kim: Nice to see you again, Kelly. Nice to meet you, Miles.
Miles Dakin: Nice to meet both.
Jeff: Miles, did I pronounce your name right as soon as I said it, I said-- [crosstalk]
Miles: That is correct.
Jeff: Okay, good. I don’t have to edit that out. That’s great. [laughs] This is a fantastic and exciting show for us at Beekeeping Today. Kelly, you know this, and Miles, you’re going to learn this. This episode marks the beginning of the Beekeeping Today Podcast fourth year. This is, I think about a show 125. It’s great to recognize it with the Pollinator Partnership, and part of that, I don’t know, tradition we started here.
Kim: They were on the first show, weren’t they, Jeff?
Jeff: Oh, yes. Amber Barnes was on, I think. Is Amber still with Pollinator Partnership?
Kelly: Yes, she is. Amber is our Wildlife Conservation Ecologist. Yes, she, I believe talked about Pollinator Week as well as some of our monarch programs back three years ago. Happy anniversary to the Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Jeff: Thank you. [chuckles]
Kim: Thank you.
Jeff: We’ve gotten marginally better since our first episode, so we’re excited. We’re excited, we’re here this today.
Kim: We’re still here today, Jeff.
Jeff: Yes, we’re still here, still here, and really happy to be here, actually. Pollinator Partnership, Kelly, while you’ve been at Pollinator Partnership, and I’ll go back and forth from the same Pollinator Partnership to the acronym of P2. For our listeners, I use that interchangeably. You’ve changed roles at Pollinator Partnership. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Kelly: Yes, absolutely. I have been at Pollinator Partnership for over eight years. I actually started as an intern in our San Francisco headquarters office. Now, as of May 1st have been promoted to executive director. I’ve held many roles, many positions here, just obviously cherish this relationship and this position very, very strongly. We have such a great team at Pollinator Partnership.
Miles Dakin is our Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator. You’ll hear from him in a bit. We do still have Laurie Davies Adams, who was our former president and CEO who really has championed, not just Pollinator Partnership, but pollinators in general. Really brought them to the forefront of conservation issues for over two decades. She’s still with us heading up some of our key initiatives, which is wonderful. Yes, I’m really happy to take on this new leadership position. It’s been very exciting and very busy.
Jeff: My bet, well, congratulations for sure.
Kim: Congratulations, Kelly. I guess, the third time we’ve talked the Pollinator Partnership, it’s Pollinator Week. You guys got your fingers in everything pollinator during Pollinator Week I know, but there’s some highlights that we’d like to bring up. Can you give me an overview of what your group is doing during Pollinator Week? I know you’ve got special projects going on.
Kelly: Yes, absolutely, Kim. Just quickly, Pollinator Partnership, for those who don’t know, our website is pollinator.org. We work to protect all pollinator species, so the honeybee, and then a lot of our native pollinators as well, as well as their habitat, so the native plants and different working lands that can support pollinators. Pollinator Week is one of our most favorite programs, it’s one of our key initiatives.
Actually, this year marks 15 years of Pollinator Week, that’s very exciting. You’re right, we do a lot of different things during this week and leading up to this week. We launch each year an annual poster that we highlight during Pollinator Week, which Miles is going to talk about a bit. The theme this year is Pollinators in Agriculture.
We also do a T-shirt campaign, which Jeff has wearing one today, and it’s fantastic. It shows the world of pollinators and all the diversity that are pollinators around the globe. We also do some more standard annual events. We typically do a congressional briefing each year, which is a bit more policy-focused for the Hill staff. That’s supported by the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus which is co-chaired by Representative Andy Davis and Jimmy Panetta.
We’re really excited to do another Hill briefing this year, it’s going to be virtual for the first time, which will be interesting, but I think it’ll be fun and hopefully, it will reach a lot more people that way. In terms of policy and legislation, we also reached out to the governors of each state to request proclamations for Pollinator Week. I think we definitely have more than last year. It was a little bit of a challenge during COVID-19 to get to the governors, obviously, they have a lot to deal with currently.
In the past, we’ve been successful in getting all 50 state governors to proclaim Pollinator Week. We also get proclamations from the secretary of agriculture, and the secretary of the interior, and the administrator of the EPA. It’s a lot of people coming together to show their support for pollinators, voice the importance of pollinators and just to celebrate them.
Actually, this year, we redid our website which was really fun for us. On there, we prevent a lot of educational resource materials for people to get involved. We actually created that cookbook this year, which was a new fun thing for us. We have an events map where people can pin their own events on a map and others can find and participate. This year, we’re also doing some Facebook live events of our own that we’re going to encourage people to come and join, so those will be fun as well.
Kim: Good. For those proclamations, do you guys provide a standard form that people can use and then maybe make some changes to reflect local needs and issues, and then send it to their governor? You’ve got that, is that on your webpage?
Kelly: Yes, exactly. On our website, pollinator.org/pollinator-week, we have a section for proclamations, and we actually provide a script if you want it to call your governor or write your governor and ask for a proclamation. Then we provide the actual proclamation language that can then be easily edited by the governor’s office itself to just to make it easy for everyone to get that done.
Kim: Easy is always good.
Jeff: Does the site list in most states which recognized Pollinator Week?
Kelly: Yes, they do. Sometimes they send us physical copies of the proclamations, they’re actually quite beautiful with official seals and ribbons and all of that. We scan those and get those all up on our website for everyone to share and enjoy.
Jeff: That’s fantastic. I was going to ask on the congressional briefing, is that open to the public since it’s virtual? How’s that work?
Kelly: It is primarily focused towards federal agency staff and Hill staff. It really is trying to target those policymakers that can inform different legislation and things like the Farm Bill or the Endangered Species Act, things like that. It is really an event that anyone can join within the capacity of the virtual meeting.
Jeff: Yes, that sounds great.
Kim: You mentioned the poster, and when you mentioned the poster, you mentioned Miles who’s working with the Bee Friendly Farming people. What’s your role in Bee Friendly Farming, Miles?
Miles: Yes, so it’s great to be here. I am the Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator. I joined P2 almost exactly a year ago today, so Pollinator Week seems to be the time where great people get working on awesome projects.
Jeff: It sounds great.
Miles: I’m really the main hands-on person with the program. I’m based in Davis, California, and my role is-- it’s many different things, but a part of it is working directly with growers on habitat installation, helping them get certified in the program. Then also, having big conversations with buyers of these products and companies that are looking at sustainability initiatives and ways that they can encourage their network of producers to get Bee Friendly certified.
Our program centers on pollinator habitat, so growers are required to have 3% of their land as pollinator forage, and that can be both temporary or permanent forage. It can be cover crops or hedgerows or other natural areas or combination of it all. They have to provide clean water sources for pollinators. Then also practice integrated pest management and have to be following these best management practices to support pollinators in their operations.
Kim: It sounds you’re on the road a lot.
Miles: Sometimes, yes, obviously, with COVID we were restricted in a lot of capacity. Since things have gotten a little bit more open, this year has been a lot of work with almond producers. My background is in almond pest management. We spent a lot of this year working really closely with the almond industry, I’m in the Central Valley. Last year we certified about 55,000 acres of almonds. We’re definitely going to blow past that easily this year.
Kim: That’s a lot of almonds. You said you helped people get certified. When somebody comes to you and says, “What do I have to do?” You lay down the rules and guidelines for them and then they get back to you and say, “I’ve done this,” do you go out and take a look?
Miles: Yes. Our application is remote. If a grower fills out our application they upload pictures of their habitat, answer maybe 40 or so questions and can upload farm maps, and then we assess them remotely. If a grower doesn’t meet the criteria, we don’t just straight out reject them. What we’ll do is we’ll open a conversation with them, learn more. It might be a situation where I’ll take a field visit and talk with them about ways that they can meet the criteria.
For the most part when I’m out in the field it is with those growers who aren’t yet ready to be certified and it’s really providing technical assistance in terms of finding areas to plant habitat, what are good plants for their area. Then also connecting them with other partners of ours, for plant material resources if it’s cost share programs or just even just plant availability and plant material.
Kim: Then I think there’s a recertification process also saying, it sounds like you’re going to be doing the same thing it’s going to be as you put it remote. At the end of, I think it’s three years they essentially re up.
Miles: Every three years there’s a compliance component and a compliance requirement. Essentially the growers have to upload pictures from the past three years, farm maps again, any changes that have happened to their habitat over the last three years. Then those compliance forms are actually audited by our Bee Friendly Farming task force, which is out of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign or NAPPC.
We have a task force of about a dozen or so experts in both agriculture and pollinator conservation and members of USDA and other government agencies. This task force will then audit those compliance forms. Then a subset of those will get either in-person or digital remote interviews essentially.
Kim: I’m going to say, keeping people honest, but keeping the program going which is good. One of the things you just mentioned that really made a lot of sense is working with people who are buying from farmers to convince them to become Bee Friendly Farmers or maybe go someplace else. It’s an excellent idea.
Miles: We are seeing that more and more with pretty large buyers, especially of almonds but other groups as well. We’re seeing a lot of these either direct incentive programs that are happening or public statements about where they’re going to buy their produce or almonds or other crops from. [music]
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Kim: I just saw it on some new show, some nut and candy company just switched to almond growers who were Bee Friendly Farmers and they were making a lot of noise about it because it was a good thing for them, good thing for their customers, good thing for the grower. I could see where that would be a really good example of you using that to go to some of your other suppliers, not the growers, the suppliers to say, “Look at the attention you can get by getting your growers to conform to these set of guidelines.” Good idea.
Miles: Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head with that. It’s a great way to get a lot of growers excited about it.
Jeff: How many Bee Friendly farmers are there?
Miles: Within the Beef Friendly Farming program we have Bee Friendly Farming certified. That is our flagstone. That’s really what we’ve talked about this entire time. We do have Bee Friendly Farming garden, which is a new category that we launched last year, and that’s a way for homeowners and community gardens to get involved, non-commercial operations essentially.
Including all of them, we’re right around 200 or so members, like I said earlier last year we certified about 70,000 acres of farmland total, and about 55,000 of those were almonds. Then this year we’ve already blown past 35,000 acres, just in the first four months.
Kim: You also have something called a bee partner.
Miles: Yes. Be Friendly Farming Partner, its two different subcategories. It’s a way for companies that want to sponsor the program to get involved. Maybe companies they don’t own any land, they’re not managing any habitat but they still want to support the program, so that would Bee Friendly Farming Partner. Then within that we actually have an 'apiarist category' as well. Any beekeepers that aren’t managing their own habitat, if they’re storing their bees on someone else’s land they can still be part of the program as well.
Kim: To be a bee partner then would that company that I just mentioned, who’s now buying almonds only exclusively from Bee Friendly almond growers, would that be that organization be a bee partner and would you recognize them as such?
Miles: That’s a good question. I think I know which company you’re talking about and we are currently in conversations with them about for more formal partnership. What we’re seeing is we’re seeing a lot of these companies that are coming up with these programs actually on their own, it’s something that they want to do for their own sustainability initiatives.
We’re at the point now where we’re trying to open the lines of communication with them and get a little bit more involved hands-on, so that is definitely something that’s in the works. We do have some Bee Friendly Farming Partners. As one example, we have an almond butter company in California that actually sources their almond butter, all their almonds from a Bee Friendly farm. They did join us a formal partner so they can use that logo on their product.
Kim: Another way to tell their customers that they’re doing the right thing all the way down, just in United States?
Miles: No. We’re in the US and Canada, just because of Pollinator Partnership. Then recently just in last month we launched Bee Friendly Farming Australia in partnership with The Wheen Bee Foundation there. The Wheen Bee Foundation will be overseeing all on the groundwork. They’ll have their own Bee Friendly Farming Australia taskforce and then we’ll work in collaboration to keep the programs sync with each other. It’s a great partnership. We’re really excited. There’s already been a lot of conversation and a lot of excitement for it. It’s just another way to grow the program.
Jeff: Nice. You have a real nice green logo and placard and stickers and everything that’s a Bee Friendly Farmer, and I assume the partner also have access too, correct?
Miles: Exactly. Any Bee Friendly Farming certified grower can use the logo on their own packaging material. If it’s even just at the farmer’s market they can put a little sign up, or we do also have our Bee Friendly Farming certified signs, so they can put them in their orchards or in their fields and get some recognition that way as well.
Kim: I think, if I was living in Australia, Jeff, I’d be growing manuka and raising bee friendly manuka honey and selling it for a fortune.
What have we missed on Bee Friendly Farming, Miles?
Miles: I think that covers a lot of it. It’s a really awesome program. We’re seeing just so much excitement and conversation around it. We’re seeing thousands of acres of pollinator forage going into places that really didn’t have it much. It’s just been a great year, and looking forward to this next year of progress.
Kim: Excellent. Just one thing the last time we talked to you guys Ron Bitner was the person talking about Bee Friendly Farming, and I’ve known Ron for quite a while. I’m just going to tip my hat and say, “Hi, Ron,” while I’m here. [laughs] Kelly, you’ve got something about Monarch Wings and from what I’m hearing the Monarchs in California took it on the nose this year.
Kelly: Yes, that’s true. We’ve been working on monarch conservation for a number of years now. We’ve, worked actually with, Kim, where it all started really in, in Ohio. We had Monarch Wings Across Ohio, which was a network of habitat and research plots, to focus on, supporting and doing some research on the central flyway, so the Eastern and central migration of the monarch butterfly.
Now, more recently we’re shifting focus as, Kim, mentioned the monarch butterfly western population, which overwinters in the central coast of California is really in dire need of help. This past overwintering count they had just around 2,000 individual butterflies counted. That number could be a little bit off, but I think, regardless there’s a real need, especially with climate change and warming, temperatures and fires and drought and everything going on in California, there’s definitely a real need to support them.
We actually started, Monarch Wings Across California, which is part of our overarching monarch program. It actually started very small and has since grown, which we’re very happy about. We started with three smaller, location plots that were habitat plots to again, do some research, try to figure out a bit more about what is happening and where the monarchs are going, when and what their habitat needs are.
There’s a lot more questions and unknowns about the western population, just because it’s smaller and it’s a little less studied. I think climate is really throwing a wrench in a lot of the research as well. The whole goal is really to establish long-term habitat plots for the migrating monarchs. We’re not really focusing on overwintering grounds or focusing on the migratory pathways.
We want to create a better understanding for the migration patterns and the forage requirements for California butterflies. Then we’re also collecting data, on the actual restoration efforts itself to look at, there may be some pollinator or Monarch preferences in terms of plant species and different configurations of habitat. We’ve been really lucky this past couple of years to be working, on a grant that was funded by the wildlife conservation board in California.
We now are working on three large scale efforts in Merced County, which is right in the San Joaquin Valley, which is definitely a priority area of critical need for more habitat for monarchs, so really exciting. Definitely, a sad situation with the monarchs, but we’re really happy to be involved in and doing some great work there.
Kim: You mentioned, you’re not working so much with overwintering, but looking for habitat on the migratory routes, is that going to extend beyond California, studying those routes?
Kim: Where do monarchs who overwinter in California come from?
Kelly: They come from, basically, up near, Jeff, actually. They come from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and actually, even Arizona as well. They’re all in the western US coming over to the central coast of California, basically from just north of San Francisco Bay down to about Los Angeles.
Kim: You mentioned fires as being an issue and I can see why. Wow.
Kelly: Yes. Monarchs are definitely a fragile species. All pollinators are really indicator species when it comes to things that may be going wrong or right. If they’re in decline or in trouble, it’s a first sound of the alarm that something’s going wrong. There’s a lot of scientists now working on this and concerned about it, which is wonderful.
Still some unknowns, if the western population, itself may go extinct or if just the migration may be in peril. There’s a big debate about that right now. If monarchs may actually become more resident populations, more like a garden butterfly, that doesn’t mind actually migrate. We’ll see, there’s a lot to find out.
Kim: Miles, I can see that you’re encouraging some of your Bee Friendly farmers to plant those things that are going to enhance monarch migration. Now you can probably nudge a little bit in that direction every time?
Miles: Yes, definitely. The Monarch is a great charismatic pollinator, lot of people know it and love it. It’s very good to be used as that entryway in terms of pollinator conservation. Agriculture is already familiar with milkweed. It was at one point a fairly common species. I think people know about milkweed and they know the importance that surround milkweed. What’s good for monarchs is good for all these other pollinators already. It’s definitely a good useful tool.
Also, there’s a lot more availability now of milkweed, of native milkweed in California especially. We’re working with some really great partners, like Great Valley Seed Company and other plant production companies in California that are producing native plant material. We’re able to get that into the hands of our growers, fairly quickly.
Kim: Solving two problems with one planting. How convenient.
Kelly, you’ve also got something in here about solar, and I’m guessing what that is you’re looking at the solar panel fields that are springing up everywhere. We just got an announcement in Ohio, the people who make about half of the panels in the US is starting at another factory here. We’re going to have lots of it here. What’s your relationship with this?
Kelly: There’s been a lot of talk about actually putting, co-locating pollinator habitat with solar arrays. We have done pretty involved with this and basically consulting with, solar developers, as well as, power purchasers, like community choice aggregators or CCAs, and other industry groups to help understand and encourage the co-location of pollinator habitat. There’s a lot of benefits that can be rewarded both by the developers, as well as, to the ecosystem that they raise in, and then in turn also for the general community, in terms of beautification and different educational opportunities as well.
What we’re doing is, basically, helping to come up with a native or a mix of native and non-native seed mixes that can be planted underneath the arrays. Underneath the solar panels and also in perimeter plantings as well, depending on the climate. These types of operations can take place anywhere in the US, of course, as we talked about in California, there’s a lot of different habitat needs and restrictions and capabilities for the different areas. We’re helping to help the industry navigate that. It’s really beneficial and important for them as it helps with permitting and community buy-in.
This is a real benefit that community sees, instead of having bare ground or gravel or turf grass. We’re putting in beautiful mixtures of native, perennials, annuals and native grasses that can support pollinators and other wildlife. It’s really exciting. It’s definitely a very new and novel approach, so there’s again, lots to learn, but it’s getting a lot of attention and we’re really excited about that.
Kim: I can see a field full of solar panels and flowers as being much more attractive than solar panels and gravel, and much more useful also.
Jeff: When we had the folks from Ernst Seed on several years ago, was it last year? It might’ve been last year during Pollinator Week, but I’m not sure. Anyways, that was one of their programs also was to provide the planting for the large commercial solar arrays and it does make a big difference in terms of how those arrays look.
Kelly: Yes. Ernst, I believe also, focuses on supporting grazing in the arrays as well, so mainly with sheep. There’s different, grazing, feeding mixes that you can use that can also help support grazing, which is another thing that solar developers are looking for. Because they need to hit an agricultural component on their permit, because that complexity issue that a lot of agricultural land is being taken out of production to put these solar farms in.
If they’re still supporting agriculture by way of grazing, pollination services, you can actually put these beehives on the arrays as well. You’re getting better pollination services to the adjacent lands. There’s also actually benefits to the actual habitat, because they’re native plants, we know that native plants have deep root systems and they don’t require as much water, the fit for the climate that they’re in. It can actually help decrease the operations and management budget for the solar developers as well in terms of mowing and things like that.
Jeff: What about wind farms? Are there any plans to look at wind farms and are there any similarities? It seems like there would be.
Kelly: It’s a little different, but there’s definitely something to be done there. There’s definitely collaboration that we can do. The wind farms are interesting because it’s the same thing, it’s big slots of land that we can improve certainly. There’s also an issue with some wind farms and mortality of bats and birds from the turbines. This can help offset that, creating some habitat as well.
Kim: You don’t want to say, “Kill a bird feed a bee,” [laughs] but it’s a good way, it’s a good balance. There’s some downsides, but you’re definitely making up for it.
Kelly: Often times, what we think about is that, is there a net positive in what we’re doing. As long as there’s progress, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but as long as there’s incremental progress, I think that’s a win.
Kim: I wouldn’t have thought of putting bees on a solar array, but as big as some of those are, you could probably the one I saw in one of my travels recently was big enough to probably support eight or 10 hives easily and nobody’s going to disturb you.
Kelly: It’s pretty really good habitat, really good for it. It’s safe, it’s clean, you know? You’re not going to get knocked over by anything and I think it’s the best option.
Kim: There’s probably some privacy, some security there, because the owners don’t want just anybody wandering in and tilting panels the wrong way or anything. Kind of a win-win for a beekeeper, if you can find one of those, I would think. Kelly, what have we missed?
Kelly: Another thing we wanted to get touch on since it is Pollinator Week is our poster, which is the pollinators and agriculture poster, which really segues and ties very nicely with our Bee Family Farming program. Some of you may have seen our posters that we put out each year and each have a different theme.
We’ve done some about ecosystem service and pollinators support, we’ve done endangered pollinators. We’ve done really more funky things like carnivorous plants or native orchids, some more specific things, but this year it’s all about agriculture. Maybe I’ll let Miles talk a little bit about the different components and what the educational piece of this.
Miles: The poster is amazing. It’s a very beautiful, I have it on the wall behind me here. It really lays out a scene of what a small Bee Friendly farm could look like. It’s got a really great examples of a handful of our native pollinators. It’s got different types of bees, hover flies, and beetles which are often overlooked as pollinators. Then it also talks about some of these key best management practices like integrated pest management and different types of habitat and water sources.
It’s got an awesome little graphic in the corner then also demonstrates the importance of a continual bloom of different species of plants throughout the year, in how you might go about designing your habitat to incorporate those different bloom timings. We have the physical copies available on our website for purchase. Then we also have a digital version that’s actually interactive where you can click on these different pieces and learn more about each of those individual pieces from the species of pollinators to the practices themselves.
Jeff: That’s a great poster.
Kim: That’s a good idea, having an interactive poster like that. Yes, I like that.
Kelly: This poster was actually, the artist, his name is Hugo Salais. He is from Spain, actually, from Valencia. That was a first for us, is working with someone international, but it turned out just amazing. We’re really happy about it.
Kim: I can still get one?
Kelly: Yes, we have a plenty stock here in our office and we can send those out to people. I’m just going to add that, Miles brought up the bloom chart, which is obviously a key part of pollinator habitat. We also have another resource that came out recently a series of resources called Our Recipe Garden Cards. These can be found at our website as pollinator.org.
These are supposed to be really simple digestible, they’re just two-page little cards for each region of the United States. I believe about eight regions out right now and then coming out this week for Pollinator Week, we have three more regions that it will be released. They give a list of at least 12 species of native plants that will be good for your area and some texts about just planting a pollinator habitat.
Jeff: Those are real handy. I had someone contact me a friend who lives up in Vermont and said, “Hey, Jeff, I know you are in the bees. I have some land here and I want to plant some pollinator. I want to plant a big pollinator garden. What do I plant?” I’m like, “I don’t know,” but your pollinator recipe cards, is that right? The pollinator garden recipe cards is a great resource that I was able to send him to and he’s making use of it. Thank you for that resource save me. [laughs]
Kelly: That’s great, thanks for sharing it.
Jeff: Kelly and Miles, this has been really great and there’s so much to cover. You guys do so much you and your team, guys, collectively do such great work. We are always excited to welcome you back both in Pollinator Week and anytime during the year, anything comes up that you would like to get back on the podcast and talk to us about, and we look forward to having you back next year, as we start our fifth year. [laughs]
Kim: We do. Kelly, again, congratulations. Miles, was nice to me, you and I hope we can talk more about Bee Friendly Farming.
Miles: Absolutely, thank you so much for having us.
Kelly: Thank you. Happy Pollinator Week everyone and happy anniversary to Beekeping Today Podcast. Thank so much for having us.
Jeff: Thank you very much see you soon.
Jeff: Hey, Kim, it was great to have Kelly and Miles on the show today, just kicking off our fourth year on the podcast with Pollinator Partnership. I don’t know. I like your tradition, I’m not always big on traditions, but that’s one I’d like to keep going.
Kim: It is and different voices every year from the same group and they’ve got different stories and different topics that they specialize in. They’re a good group to work with, there’s no doubt about it. I enjoy certainly the Bee Friendly Farming part of it. Plants are as much as my background as bees are.
Hearing what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and then they’re capitalizing on it, by the way they’re making the people who are selling the products, try and encourage the people who are growing their products to become Bee Friendly Farming in that way, both of them have something to brag about to their customers, so good technique. [music]
Jeff: Yes, it is. I’m surprised you’re not wearing a Bee Friendly Farmer hat.
Jeff: Miles had that nice one on. I might have to go out and order that. I like that logo. Happy anniversary, Kim.
Kim: It’s been a good three years, Jeff. I don’t know if we’ll make it three more, but--
Jeff: Oh, yes, we will.
Kim: That’s the plan anyway.
Jeff: We have all this new technology we got to see through and see come to life that we’ve talked about in all of our shows, and that’ll be fun.
Kim: We want to encourage people to ask questions. If we don’t know the answers, we’ll find somebody who does and check out the Honey Bee Obscura with myself and Jim Tew, which is a different kind of program, just Jim and I talking about some kind of problems. Something to keep you busy when you are keeping bees.
Jeff: There you go. That’s a great fit. Honey Bee Obscura, as we’ve said, is a great show. I encourage our listeners to go take a look. That about wraps it up for this special anniversary episode.
Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple podcasts or 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 on top of any web page.
As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American Beekeeping for their continued support of the Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor, Global Patties, check them out www.globalpatties.com. We also want to thank Strong Microbials for the support of the podcast, check out their probiotic line at www.strongmicrobials.com. We want to think Betterbee for joining us on this show. Check out all their great beekeeping supplies at www.betterbee.com. Finally, and very most importantly, [laughs] we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on this show.
Feel free to send us questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you. If you don’t want to type, you can go to our website and click on that little blue microphone icon in the lower right-hand corner and you can leave us a voicemail. Anything else you want to mention Kim?
Kim: No, I think that does it, Jeff. It’s another good year and another good show.
Jeff: Yes, fantastic. I agree. Don’t drink all that champagne in one sitting.
Kim: [laughs] All right, take care.
Jeff: Take care. Thanks, everybody.
[00:51:17] [END OF AUDIO]
CEO - Pollinator Partnership (P2)
Kelly Rourke is Executive Director of Pollinator Partnership and has been dedicated to pollinator conservation for over 8 years. Her focus is on large-scale habitat projects, plant-pollinator interactions, and agricultural and industry engagement.
Kelly holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has also received a Master’s of Science in Environmental Management (Ecology Concentration) from the University of San Francisco.
Her background in ecology, conservation, and culture has propelled her career in the non-profit sector. Prior to Pollinator Partnership (P2), Kelly worked at another bay area-based environmental non-profit called Conservacion Patagonica (CP). Kelly manages the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), National Pollinator Week, www.pollinator.org, and pollinator grants and scholarships. Kelly serves on the Board of Directors of Pollinator Partnership Canada, the Advisory Committee of the Monarch Joint Venture, and the Steering Committee for PlantAgents.
P2 Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator
Miles Dakin, Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator for Pollinator Partnership, has had a lifetime passion and love for insects. As a child he was raised on his mother’s farm and at Bouverie Preserve, where his father lived, giving him a deep appreciation for conservation and land management. Miles spent countless hours hiking through the hills and fields of Sonoma County, chasing after newts, beetles and his 3 older sisters.
He went on to receive his B.S. in Ecology and Computer Science from Tulane University and recently received his M.S. in Entomology from UC Davis, focusing on Navel Orangeworm management in almonds and pistachios. Miles hopes to continue to bring his passion for conservation and his deep appreciation for mindful land management to P2 and the Bee Friendly Farming program