ODA launches new native bee health pilot program

Goals include field research, public outreach and education, and the creation of an Oregon Bee Farm Certification to reward farmers who adopt bee-friendly practices.

By Jan Jackson

For the Capital Press

Published on March 20, 2017 1:28PM

Last changed on March 20, 2017 1:30PM

Sarah Kincaid, entomologist with Oregon Department of Agriculture, introduces the Oregon Bee Project to attendees at the recent Small Farm Conference on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis.

Jan Jackson/For the Capital Press

Sarah Kincaid, entomologist with Oregon Department of Agriculture, introduces the Oregon Bee Project to attendees at the recent Small Farm Conference on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis.


SALEM — With the help of a specialty crop block grant and the expertise of agriculture professionals and volunteers, the state Department of Agriculture is launching a pilot Oregon Bee Project to help improve and ensure the health of 500-plus native species of bees that help pollinate many crops.

Project goals include field research, public outreach and education, and the creation of an Oregon Bee Farm Certification to reward farmers who adopt bee-friendly practices.

“We’re fortunate to have such a wealth of human capital standing by to help us with this project,” Sarah Kincaid, an entomologist with ODA, said. “We will be holding a series of meetings around to state to get input from farmers, conservationists and other agencies and organizations who would like to contribute to the project. We recently held our first advisory meeting in Portland, and plan to hold others in Myrtle Point, Central Point, The Dalles, Hermiston and the Willamette Valley.”

In addition to the meetings, she will be working with six flagship farms across the state operated by farmers already providing for pollinators, she said.

In Kincaid’s illustrated ODA Guide on Common Bee Pollinators, she details the preferred crops and nesting habits of Oregon’s most common of bees. Unlike social honeybees, which need many individual bees to maintain the hive and care for the young, most native bees are solitary, meaning only a single female builds a nest (or nests) and lays eggs. The native species are remarkably different in their size, appearance, habitat, life cycle, flowers visited and overall behavior.

The social ground-nesting bumble bee, she points out, prefers crops such as blueberries, cranberries and red clover grown for seed, while the solitary leafcutter bee that nests in cracks and crevices of wood or rock, in beetle holes and occasionally on the ground, prefers alfalfa, onions, carrots and sunflowers.

“We decided to launch this program because we don’t know enough about our native bees,” Kincaid said. “We will be looking at bee habitat including over-winter nesting sites and the value of planting pollinator hedgerows along edges of fields to provide wind breaks and wintering habitat.

“The program begins doing the research we need to begin filling our knowledge gaps. We are looking forward to working with growers who are already providing native bee habitat as well as with new people who are eager to learn. The last component of the program is to develop a logo and a bee friendly farm certification that could help growers market their products.”

Online

For more information about meeting dates for the project, email oregonbeeproject@oda.state.or.us



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