Bees making headlines on the radio!

Melittologist Lawrence Packer was interviewed by Terry Gross on Wednesday’s Fresh Air. He wrote a new book that highlights that conserving diversity in nature and agriculture is key to keeping bees healthy.

Packer‘s new book is called Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do To Save Them. Read a brief book review and an excerpt.

Then on Science FridayDennis vanEngelsdorp , who has been a pioneer in promoting and studying honey bee health, spoke about new research that shows the threats of neonicotinoid pesticides to insectivorous birds. Previous work has shown that neonics are highly toxic to invertebrates, but this is the first study I am aware of that connects the pesticide to harm in vertebrates.

The dirt on bees

A week ago I gave a talk all about my research on native bee nesting in agricultural landscapes at East Bay Nerd Nite- it was called “the dirt on bees.” You can watch the raw, uncut video in all it’s glory and learn about where bees are nesting and what it might mean for our food security. It’s is available on the Nerd Nite website, my talk starts at 1 hour, 13 minutes, so be sure to cue it up or there is a lot of dead time:

President Obama establishes a task force to develop a “National Pollinator Health Strategy”

Over the weekend the white house issued a presidential memorandum that calls attention to the continuing decline of honey bee and native pollinators and set a new agenda to begin addressing the issues head-on. First the memorandum establishes a task forces comprised of numerous governmental departments and organizations. It then goes on to highlight the objectives of the task force, specifically to 1. create a pollinator research action plan, 2. generate a public education plan, and 3. build public-private partnerships to increase and encourage pollinator-friendly habitat.

Buried within the memorandum is a directive for the EPA to assess the effects pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees. Another interesting focus is for member agencies to re-evaluate permit and management of power line right-of-ways, areas that could be managed for pollinator habitat. The Department of Agriculture has been given 90 days to come up with best practices to enhance pollinator habitat on federal lands- something it would be very neat to be involved in (so we could help them focus on nesting habitat).

At the same time, the USDA has pledged $8 million to agricultural conservation reserve programs in the midwest states to establish new habitat for honey bees (habitats which also benefit native bees).

In all, Pollinator Week was a resounding success in terms of actions taken on capital hill. This is the largest national effort at pollinator conservation since the Pollinator Habitat Conservation Act in the 2008 Farmbill. I look forward to the exciting research and conservation efforts spurred by this timely and important legislation.

“Buzz about bees” discussion pannel

Next week is Pollinator Week! 

You can start it off Monday June 16th by going to or live streaming a discussion about bees and their decline, co-sponsored by the Berkeley Food Institute and the Pesticide Action Network:

What’s the buzz about?: A conversation about bee declines, impacts on our food system and what you can do about it

Most of the worlds sunflower is grown in California . . . initially

Sunflower field near Winters, CA

Sunflower field near Winters, CA

Although I study sunflower, even I was surprised to learn that most of the world crop originates in California. The Central Valley is the incubator for seeds that then get shipped around the world and grown into the plants that provide us with sunflower seeds and sunflower oil. Those thousands of acres of buttery yellow blooms create the blooms elsewhere next year!

Learn more about the interesting, global process here:

Help count pollinators this Thursday

Citizen science is a great way to get involved in important projects and provide key data. The University of California is asking you to go outside and count all the pollinators you see for 3 minutes, then add that data to their map. This will help them learn which pollinators people re seeing all over the state.

To learn more about how you can contribute, check out their web page: