Notes from Dewey – February 2024

by Dewey M. Caron, Communications and Content Specialist for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program

Free seeds for bees

The Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge, Oregon State University Extension’s statewide seed giveaway, with continued partnership with the Oregon Bee Project begins its fifth year. It is a program of Food Hero, a statewide initiative of the Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). The Individuals and households, schools and groups should visit  to receive a seed kit, group kit or seed-starting teacher classroom kit through the mail.

The seed-starting classroom kits include a reusable grocery tote, stickers, foil pans, seed markers, a spray bottle and a peat pot for each child. Information is available in both English and Spanish. Plans are to mail seed kits to 3,600 individuals or households and enough classroom kits to reach over 40,000 classroom students and their teachers. In 2023, an estimated 122,500 Oregonians participated. About 1,350 classroom kits were distributed to 419 schools, reaching 40,500 students. And the program distributed 6,500 individual/household seed kits.

New online guides to PNW native bees

 Just in time as our spring season arrives bee enthusiasts  have a new online tool to ID native bees in the Pacific Northwest. Online tools have “keys” that resemble the field guides familiar to fans of fauna and flora. However that also contain the extraordinary detail needed to identify bees, which are much harder to tell apart than say trees, birds or mammals.  Many bee species appear identical at first but are in fact distinguished by very small, nuanced differences like size and distributions of punctuation of their exoskeleton.

There are an estimated 600 native Oregon bees. These native bees are the standard bearer among pollinators because they’re usually present in the greatest numbers and because they’re the only pollinator group that feeds exclusively on nectar and pollen their entire life.

The new keys, 3 in total (bee genera of the Pacific Northwest plus one for males and another for females of PNW bumblebees) were developed by Jim Rivers of the OSU College of Forestry, Lincoln Best of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences (Andony’s pollinator lab), Josh Dunlap of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, August Jackson of Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Eugene and Paul Williams of the Natural History Museum in London. It took the collaborators about three years to complete – their project funded by the OSU College of Forestry, Fish and Wildlife Habitat in Managed Forests program. The keys are easy enough that amateur can use them; students in the OSU Masters Melittologist have been reviewing and field testing them the last couple of seasons.

Best, Lincoln R., Dunlap, J.B., Jackson, A.S., & Rivers, J.W. (2023). Bees of the Pacific Northwest: key to genera (Hymenoptera: Anthophila). Version 1, October 2023. Fish and Wildlife Habitat in Managed Forests Research Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.

Lincoln R. Best, et al, Bees of the Pacific Northwest : key to bumble bee species for males (Hymenoptera : Apidae : Bombus) (2023). DOI: 10.5399/osu/1165

Lincoln R. Best, et al, Bees of the Pacific Northwest : key to bumble bee species for females (Hymenoptera : Apidae : Bombus) (2023). DOI: 10.5399/osu/1164

Image: Female Perdita bee by Josh Dunlap, Oregon DoA




NEW Pollination Committee of USDA

A new USDA National Pollinator Subcommittee was just announced. This newly constituted  subcommittee advises the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education & Economics Advisory Board on pollinator policy, research priorities and informs USDA pollinator-related program decisions through the Office of Chief Scientist. Dr Ramesh Sagili is one of the 9 members. Congratulations to Ramesh for this distinction and the recognition of the importance of the OSU Bee lab. More information here:


Writing a bee article

“The Oregon Master Beekeeper Program has science-based learning at the heart of its Journeyman Level in the form of what are called Guided Studies. It was a brilliant idea that not only helps Journeyman candidates learn topics critical to good beekeeping, but also learn how to do good research, how to discern good information from bad, and how to write.” So begins an article by Tina Sebestyen, the initial Colorado Master Beekeeper program director, on how to write a bee article for the American Bee Journal (or other source). She cites the Guided Studies requirement of the OR MB program as a possible way to “think” of a topic and to use a GS as an outline.

This innovation, and others, was developed by an advisory committee that helped form the Oregon Master Beekeeper program.  Tina used the same concepts to develop the Colorado Master Beekeeper program. After a lapse of a couple of years I am in process of reincorporating an OR MB advisory committee. We had our first meeting in January 31st via Zoom. If there are issues you think the advisory committee should address in our program your suggestions are most welcome.

See Tina’s complete article in upcoming February American Bee Journal.