Catching Up with CALS — Aug. 12, 2020
Dean's Message — Praise Bees
Virtually everyone on the planet knows that pollinators are in trouble, and faculty in CALS (on and off campus) are designing educational and research programs to help.
During the past few years, the college sponsored a Pollinators in Peril program at Sandpoint’s historic Panida Theatre. This program initiated a study of bees at the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center and drew on the expertise of renowned bumble bee expert Robbin Thorpe from the University of California, Davis.
In southern Idaho, UI Extension educator Bradley Stokes helped raise the profile of pollinators in Elmore County, which led to Mountain Home attaining Bee City USA and Monarch City USA status in 2018. Twin Falls adopted a similar resolution in 2019. Garden City was Idaho’s first in 2015.
Now Moscow is following the same path through the efforts of Extension educator Iris Mayes in Latah County. She organized the excellent Pollinator Summit early this year that offered basic information on pollinators and added a program for middle school students.
The effort underway now will help organizations like the Idaho Native Plant Society and the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute learn more about what our faculty are doing with pollinators.
The pollinator awareness efforts are part of the Extension mission, educating people with research-based information.
CALS has an education and research mission, too. The William F. Barr Entomological Museum is the state’s most important resource for information about the state’s pollinators.
Curator Luc Leblanc developed a poster earlier this year that illustrates the butterflies found in Idaho. In addition to its beautiful photographs (which are actual life size), the poster helps people understand important pollinators and other insects that flowering plants attract.
Luc also helped complete the digital archiving of our butterfly and moth collection through a grant from the National Science Foundation. That project will make high resolution photos and the collection records available online for the 42,765 specimens from the order Lepidoptera in the collection.
The next step will be to secure funding to digitize the records and representative photos for the 47,000 bee specimens in the collection. The museum records show 707 bee species are found in Idaho and provides information about when and where they occur.
We already have a jump start on digitizing the bee collection through a project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Lab in Provo, Utah. That effort archived information on the Barr museum’s nearly 3,000 bumble bees and 1,400 mason bees.
Idaho is particularly rich in bee species because its varied landscapes from rangelands and forests to canyons and prairies. Put another way, Idaho’s native bee species represent a fifth of the 3,500 bee species across the U.S.
So when we see pollinators in our backyards or fields, we can take pride in knowing CALS is contributing to a greater awareness of their presence in Idaho and the benefits they provide.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
156,000 colonies of bees were reported by Idaho beekeepers with 5 or more colonies on Jan. 1, up 18.18% from the 132,000 colonies reported on Jan. 1, 2019. Nearly half, 44.2% of Idaho’s bee colonies suffered from Varroa mites between April and June. Other stressors afflicting bee colonies included 10.9% from other pests and parasites, 11.1% from diseases, 8.6% from pesticides, 6.9% from other issues and 5.8% from unknown causes, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Our Stories — Moscow Begins Exploring Bee City USA Status
Garden City, Twin Falls and Mountain Home all share the official Bee City USA recognition as Idaho communities that recognize the importance of pollinators.
Now a group plans to seek similar recognition for Moscow. The Bee City USA recognition basically serves as a public declaration that pollinators are important to the environment and important to the foods we eat. By one estimate, pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites people eat. An online list at www.pollinator.org/list-of-pollinated-food is impressive.
The Bee City USA program is an initiative of the Xerces Society, which is based in Portland, Oregon. The society promotes invertebrate conservation.
In Mountain Home, UI Extension Educator Brad Stokes worked with city officials and others to have the community designated as both a Bee City USA and Monarch City USA.
Stokes, who earned a master’s degree in entomology from U of I, was invited to Garden City to talk about pollinators and integrated pest management several years ago. The community was the first in Idaho to earn Bee City status in 2015 with formal action by the City Council.
As part of his duties in Elmore County, Stokes is also conducting a bee survey that involved a 100-mile trapline. He has already identified 62 species and collected more than 2,000 individuals.
One of the most visible results of Mountain Home’s Bee City USA status now brightens the city’s golf course. The J.R. Simplot Co. donated to the project to purchase wildflower seed for a planting to enhance bee foraging resources.
In Moscow, pollinators get their due in multiple ways. The Moscow City Library adds to its curb appeal with a colorful mosaic mural featuring bats, bees, birds and butterflies.
The Moscow city staff maintain pollinator-friendly and water-conserving plantings around City Hall and others maintain similar plots elsewhere in the community, including a wildflower garden established by the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Forestry Sciences Laboratory along South Main Street.
The effort to ask the Moscow City Council to seek formal recognition as a Bee City USA affiliate took shape earlier this year when UI Extension Educator Iris Mayes and others organized the Pollinator Summit in Moscow. The idea for the Pollinator Summit came from Deb Berman of Rural Roots and Pat Rathman of the Palouse Environmental Sustainability Committee, Mayes said.
Pollinators are popular topics in general. Stokes presented pollinator programs at the Mountain Home Farmers Market in 2018 and 2019. The community celebrated a pollinator appreciation week in June.
Twin Falls plans to add a pollinator garden this year with the help of UI Extension horticulture educator Andy West and Idaho Master Gardeners there.
Project Tests Catch-and-Release Pollinator Trap
CALS entomologist Steve Cook and College of Natural Resources student Cassandra Goodmansen are teaming up on a new project to make traps friendlier for beneficial insects.
Bright blue or yellow are the favored tools for studying insects that key in on flowers.
Bees locate nectar sources by the colorful attraction of flowers. The plants benefit from the visit by the bees spreading pollen that is necessary for seed and fruit production.
To better understand the relationship between pollinators and plants, entomologists often use traps to sample local insects.
Cook became interested in a less-lethal collection system for bees after a recent project to survey pollinators in southern Idaho rangelands.
His preferred insect traps were repurposed Japanese beetle traps with four vanes to attract the insects, then funnel them into a capture jar below. The traps, which normally drown insects in liquid, worked too well.
The researchers were surprised by the richness of the pollinator community. They collected 14 species of bumble bees and hundreds of specimens from the traps, Cook said. The toll was far higher than necessary for the project’s needs.
Goodmansen, who is enrolled in CNR’s Department of Natural Resources and Society connected with Cook’s project after she helped establish a pollinator garden along the Chipman Trail on campus.
The students who created the garden wanted to study which and how many pollinators are visiting the wildflowers.
The monitoring expanded to include tests of a new style of catch-and-release trap. It jackets the capture jar in frozen plastic ice packs usually used to keep beverage cans cold and an insulating sleeve.
The cold packs chill the captured insects enough to slow them down enough to reduce stress or to keep them from attacking each other. Even when liquid is not used in the jars, high summer temperatures routinely kill most trapped insects.
So far, the method shows promise. Early trials showed condensation from warm air meeting the chilled glass either drowned or damaged trapped insects.
Goodmansen is monitoring the temperature in the chilled collection jars throughout the day to better understand how long conditions in the jars allow the release of live insects.
The solution was adding a strip of paper towel to the capture jars to keep insects out of the moisture that accumulated, Goodmansen said.
The pair hope to gather enough data from different trapping sites to publish the results, Cook said.
Faces and Places
Animal and veterinary science alumna Tanya Weber placed second in the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology/Reciprocal Meat Conference poster competition for muscle biology and fresh meat quality competition. She graduated from U of I this spring with a master's degree and will begin her studies in Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine this fall. Her research focused on using genetic panels to predict tenderness in beef cattle.
- Aug. 19 — "Sleuthing for Lost Apples, Lessons from the Experts," Heritage Orchard Conference, 10-11:30 a.m. PDT
- Aug. 24 — U of I Fall semester classes begin
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