Bee counters wanted at pollinator event

    Kids and adults can learn how to capture and count wild bees from an Oregon State University professor at Pollinators Appreciation Day Saturday in Phoenix.

    “We have about 500 species of bees in Oregon that are wild. We really would like to get the public involved in counting these different kinds of bees and actually taking a role in how they are doing,” said Andony Melathopoulos, who is part of a joint OSU Extension Service and Oregon Department of Agriculture effort to learn more about wild pollinator species in the state.

    Events will take place at the Phoenix Grange on Main Street from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The bee-counting session will last two hours starting at 10 a.m. There will also be exhibits, a dress-like-a-scientist contest, crafts for kids and a Jackson County Fire District 5 hotdog cookout. Phoenix’s Bee City USA Commission organized the event. All activities are free.

    “People confuse honey bees with wasps. People who come to this event will know the difference,” said Melathopoulos. “There are things that people don’t think of as bees, but they are right there in their backyards. Some of them don’t even look like bees. ”

    After an hour in class Saturday, the new bee counters will head to Blue Heron Park with nets to capture bees and take them to Melathopoulos, who will identify them. At a recent Corvallis session, 30 different species of bees were captured in an hour.

    Wild pollinators are critical not only to agriculture put also to forests, home gardens and shrubs, urban parks and many flora, said Melathopoulos. Results of the count will be announced at 1 p.m.

    “Not all bees are social. Most of the species that we see … will be solitary, just one person in the nest,” said Melathopoulos. “It’s more complicated than any soap opera, and there are no commercials.”

    OSU and the state Agriculture Department are working on a state strategy to make sure the native species are retained. Melathopoulos suspects a thorough search will find more than the 500 species already known. He may need to take some pollinators captured Saturday back to the lab to determine their species.

    Plans call for counts to be conducted year after year. The project is just beginning, with counting instruction already given in Portland, Corvallis, Milton-Freewater and Hermiston. A Klamath Falls session will be held Friday before the Phoenix event, and Bandon will follow. An earlier event scheduled for Ashland was canceled due to rain.

    “We hope to find a few people who are really fascinated by this and have them do some routine monitoring,” said Melathopoulos.

    A local pollinator count may also arise out of the event.

    “Throughout the year we would like to have individuals do pollinator counts at specific times on their own property,” said Sharon Schmidt, chair of the Bee City Commission. “We would record those data points on a central website.”

    Creation of origami bees will be one of the craft projects, said Schmidt. Exhibitors will include groups explaining ways to encourage pollinators, as well as companies with products that would help create bee-friendly environments.

    — Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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