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Willamette Valley winemakers are buzzed to help wild bees

Buzz Cover Crop Seeds
Rebecca Sweet

A new partnership between regional vineyards and Oregon State University is aimed at strengthening habitat for native bees.

Andony Melathopoulos is an Associate Professor in pollinator health at OSU. He told KLCC so far 10 wineries, including Eugene's King Estate, have swarmed at the chance to participate. “They have a long tradition with Salmon Safe of doing conservation work on their vineyards," he said, "and I also think that it’s connected, at least in the Willamette Valley, with a broader initiative to preserve oak savannah. So a lot of vineyards are in that oak savannah type area and many of them are trying to hold on to those remnants of land. And this is going to fit in really nicely.”

Melathopoulos said they coach the vineyards to enhance their bee habitats and help visitors learn how to create better habitats at home.

This work is possible because of a huge and growing data set, gathered since 2018, of Oregon’s wild bees. Melathopoulos tells the vineyards they’re poised to lead the nation. No other place can pinpoint the best plants to add to a specific location in order to attract bees.

Using the same database, OSU is working with ODOT on an roadside management project. They’ve trained 500 frontline workers to manage the weeds at the side of the state’s highways, while at the same time allowing some key, bee-friendly plants to grow. The program will soon be an online course, available to all state road workers.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.