Key Wildlife Pests of Fruit and How to Promote and Protect Pollinators in Fruit Systems

March 24, 2022

More Info

The 2022 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With conference was held virtually, February 28-March 31, 2022. It was a month-long program encompassing many aspects of the agricultural industry and offering a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors.  More information can be found at:


Video Transcript

 So just go ahead and get things going here. This week is our second week of the Michigan AG Ideas to Grow With fruit track. The, the top, the focus of the track is fundamentals of growing fruit. This week is our pest and disease week. You guys have heard from me and Amy on Monday talking kind of setting the foundation of what modern Pest Management looks like, integrating multiple tools together. And then the last couple of days you've been hearing about the key pests and diseases of tree fruit and small fruit. So today is a couple of talks. One on how to think about integrated management of wildlife pests. And a second talk discussing how to work with pollinators in your fruit systems, both promoting them and protecting them. Unfortunately, we've had some interesting scheduling conflicts. So both talks today, they, both presenters were unable to be here for the majority of the session. The second presenter on pollinators may be able to be here towards the end of the session to answer questions. but, you know, so what that means is they both are recorded converse, recorded presentations. So they will both have a questions sent to them if you have any questions, we can send them send their responses back to you if necessary. I will be doing my best to answer the questions as well. So if you if you have any questions, don't hesitate to put them in. We will make sure they get answered. They're also both potentially going to be available tomorrow during our end of week panel discussion. So towards that, because of that and just wanted to mention tomorrow, our final day of the session, we are going to have a panel discussion of the presenters from this week's presentations. This is a way for you to ask questions that didn't get answered during the week. We have been recording the questions, so anything that wasn't answered, we're going to try to answer it on Friday. We also are asking for if anybody's interested in sharing photos of any of your pest or disease questions, we are going to try to do a slideshow of some of the questions and help with answering some of those. Identifying insects or diseases or other issues that you might have that are a management question. So come back tomorrow for that. We had really, we had a lot of fun on the the, the panel discussion of the first week and we are expecting it's going to be a fun discussion again tomorrow. Also wanted to mention if anything comes up that you have questions about that we have not been able to answer during the course of the week. Anything that comes up after these sessions are done, you can always reach out to your local extension office. We're always here to help. If the extension office doesn't have the right person, they know how to get a hold of the right person to get you the answer. You can also reach out to Ask Extension. It used to be called Ask an Expert, but they've changed the name recently. It's a it's an online service. You gotta ask and you can submit a question. You can put in photos or other documents there as well to help with answering the question. And it gets wrangled by a couple of people and then gets sent out to educators or extension people around the state, around the region. And it's an interesting one because yeah, it doesn't matter where you're from. The question gets to the exact right person. So it it gets answered by one of the authorities on whatever that subject it so it's a great service. I know that everybody that you've been hearing from, we are all people that answer questions in that system. So we we love it, We appreciate it, and we would like to see you guys use it, so please use it if you have any questions. So with that, I'm going to go ahead and move on to our first presenter. This is going to be James DeDecker. He's going, he is an educator up in the UP. That works a lot with wildlife management in agricultural systems. So he is the, I like to call him our MSU Extension authority on these wildlife management. So he's going to give a great PowerPoint presentation here. So enjoy it. Like I said, if you have any questions, I will either answer them or I'll make sure they get to James. Hello. My name is James DeDecker and I'm with Michigan State University at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Chatham, Michigan. It's a pleasure to join you virtually today to discuss this topic of integrated wildlife damage management in Michigan fruit systems. Over the last eight or nine years, I've been working with colleagues Erin Lizotte and others around the state to try to develop solutions for agriculture and wildlife coexistence so that farmers can maintain productivity and profitability while allowing wildlife to use their farms and contributing to wildlife conservation. A quick outline of the topics that we'll touch on today. I'll start with providing some contexts of the wildlife damage problem in Michigan and nationally. Try put some numbers to what exactly this looks like. The bulk of my talk will be focused on this concept of integrated wildlife damage management. And for anyone that's familiar with IPM, these concepts should be pretty familiar as well. We'll round out the talk with a look at this concept of phase 2 wildlife management, which is sort of a maybe a new philosophy or new approach that we might take to wildlife management that could help address the issues of damage that occurs on farms. And then I'll share a little bit of information about some of the resources that we've made available through Michigan State and some of the colleagues that have assisted with this work over the years. So wildlife management is really a complex and value laden problem. It's difficult because we have multiple passionate stakeholder groups that are involved in this. And they're fairly high economic stakes and that's on both sides, both for wildlife themselves and the revenue that they can generate through hunter license sales or economic activity associated with wildlife viewing, for example. but then of course, there's also the risk of economic loss, yield and quality loss associated with wildlife damage on the farm. You also have this complex intersection of state, federal laws and agriculture best practices that come together to both influence the amount of wildlife pressure and damage that occurs on farms. And also in some ways constricts or sets boundaries upon the tools that we have available to address wildlife damage on the farm. There's also this thing called the North American model of wildlife conservation. This is sort of the basic philosophy that we've used in the United States to develop our wildlife management policy. And the thing about the North American model is that it's really based on assumptions of scarcity and a goal of preservation. So many of our wildlife policies were formulated at times where species had been extirpated from the landscape. We had, had hunted them down to very low levels in many cases, or removed habitat in ways that limited their numbers and their success. And so the North American model was focused on how do we build wildlife populations backup from this position of scarcity and how do we preserve the wildlife that we have? In some cases now we have, some species have become over abundance. So they really conservation success stories. And I think we need to look at shifting our, our perspective or our philosophy a little bit when we're making our laws and policies. Another challenge that we have related to this problem of wildlife damages, that data, wildlife damage and Michigan and really around the world, is quite limited. You can see here some examples of estimates at the state level or national level of what wildlife damage might cost agriculture. For example, in 1997 Wisconsin growers were thought to have loss as much as $28 million to white-tailed deer alone. but when we zoom out at the national level, think about other species than just deer, those numbers can get quite large very quickly. but most of these are fairly gross estimates. We don't really have good information to put exact figures on this. Part of that is related to the way that we collect this information. And the fact that differences often exists between perceived and real losses due to wildlife damage. So if we survey farmers, excuse me, and we asked them how much yielded you lose to wildlife this year, they're going to provide an estimate. but oftentimes we found when we go to validate that those estimates aren't very accurate and that's nobody's fault. I mean, this is a fairly complex phenomenon to try to measure even in a scientific context. We have made some effort here in Michigan to understand kind of the scope and the impact wildlife damage. We conducted a survey in the fall of 19. Received 243 responses, mostly from Michigan, but some adjacent midwest states as well, and captured about a 150 thousand acres of crop production. You can see the breakdown there is, and we'll see field crops, some vegetables and fruit. And we were mostly wanting to understand what species do growers feel are doing damage? Do they think this is an important issue? And do they feel like the resources that are available are currently adequate? And what we found is that 81% of respondents felt like this was an important issue, but 59 percent of them also felt like the current resources were inadequate. When we look at the species that were reported to be doing damage on these farms, majority, 47% was coming from deer and elk, and then another big chunk from birds. And when we break that down, songbirds are causing the most damage and fruit producers will be very familiar with that. Migratory birds like cranes were 7% and Turkey 7%. And then beyond that, we've got some other species that are quite a bit more minor in the amount of damage that they're causing in these production systems. Another issue that really adds complexity to wildlife damage is that not all crops are damaged equally. So we see variation across crop species and even the portions of those plants that are damaged. So here's one example from Ohio looking at deer damage to different portions of tree crops. And you can see that when we look at some of the fruit trees there at the top, apples and peaches received quite a bit more damage to fruit directly than, pears and cherries, for example. So the complexity of understanding which species are causing damage, which crops are susceptible to it, and what portions of those crops are damage can be pretty difficult. And all of those different combinations are going to require different approaches to management. So therein lies some of the complexity of dealing with this issue of wildlife damage. Oftentimes when we talk about integrated pest management, wildlife are not part of the picture. Usually IPM is in discussion of kind of more traditional pest complexes, insects, diseases, weeds. but I always argue that actually I think the concepts of IPM are definitely applicable and in some ways maybe even more important to addressing wildlife damage specifically. And that is for a few reasons. One, IPM emphasizes dealing with risk while managing pests. So how do we reduce the financial costs of pest management? How do we provide, prevent resistance or habituation to control tools? How do we maintain that beneficial or valuable attributes of pest populations or non-target species, beneficial species, as well as human, human health, environmental quality? And when we're talking about species that are thought to have a lot of value beyond the damage that they're causing in ag systems. I think you really have to try to balance risk and benefit when we're, when we're managing wildlife damage. So I think that cost-benefit calculations can be a lot more complex. Also, we have the sort of social component or the human dimensions of wildlife management and wildlife damage management. So I would say it's pretty rare or unlikely that you're going to have a stakeholder group that is really focused on advocating for many other types of pests, say insects like an aphid or weeds. Very few people are going to be concerned about exactly what we do to manage those species. but on the other hand, you have a lot of people, that are very concerned about anything that we do to try to manage wildlife populations as pests. So I think IPM is pretty important in this case. Just like any other pest complex, we achieve these goals of IPM by applying advanced knowledge of pest ecology, trying to anticipate, prevent, and monitor pest damage. Using thresholds in our management decision-making. And really combining multiple control tools into a package that is more likely to be successful. The other thing that I'll say IPM really emphasized, emphasizes using multiple control tools and using chemical controls often as a last resort. And the thing about wildlife damage that's quite a bit different when we're talking about chemical controls, is that with other pests, we have really good chemical tools that have really high efficacy. And so the temptation is usually to use those first because they can be quite effective. We have other issues like pesticide resistance that can develop as a result. but This is a pretty different picture when we're talking about wildlife were actually a chemical control tools are few and far between and the efficacy is generally pretty low or at least variable. So we're sort of forced to use non-chemical options when we're talking about wildlife. And, and for that reason too, I think IPM is a pretty important lens to use. So when we're thinking about wildlife damage. Now there is a separate concept called wildlife damage management. And this is defined as the art and science of manipulating habitats, wildlife and humans to alleviate damage issues. You have this triangle figure here. It's kind of like the disease triangle if you're familiar with that. but it's really look at this intersection of wildlife, habitat, and humans. And I think it's, it's quite unique that we figure humans to be basically part of the production system here and a key component of managing wildlife damage because of the goals and values and best practices that we might apply to this issue. This is a figure here from an old publication from 1959 called Michigan White Tails. but just like how it really demonstrates the, the human dimensions of this problem and the way that our values feed into our decisions regarding wildlife management and damage. So depending on who you are, you might view white-tailed deer as a thing of beauty, sort of representative of nature and wildness, and something that you appreciate seeing out in your yard or on the farm. On November 15th, you might see deer more like this middle picture as a trophy, something that you enjoy pursuing as a recreational activity. And then on the far right is probably, you're wearing your farmer hat. Is maybe more how you see deer as kind of a hungry pest looking to damage your crops or get a free meal from your farm. And you know, it's not only who you are that drives these values and these perceptions, but people can wear multiple hats as well. And oftentimes I encounter farmers who complain about deer as a pest and deal with deer damage on their farms most days of the year. And then when hunting season rolls around, suddenly their perceptions shift pretty dramatically and they enjoy seeing deer on the farm or may be reticent to control wildlife damage or reduce deer populations on their farm or use other tools to exclude deer because they enjoy hunting at that time of year. So pretty difficult and interwoven values and perceptions that contribute to management challenges. When we're thinking about integrated wildlife damage management, there are some basic questions that I think we need to be asking and seeking answers for. For example, where is the damage occurring, is it a specific crop or areas of the farm or a field? What's the associated habitat and land use? When is damage occurring? Is it certain seasons, certain phases of the crop, time of day or night? Those things can help you answer the next question. What is the cost of the damage versus the value of the wildlife? So this could be economic cost benefit analysis just looking at the damage and the yield loss that's occurring. Economic thresholds for that damage, your personal tolerance, social acceptability of control tools that you might want to implement. And then finally, what resources do you have available for control? What are the regulations that sets some limits on your on your options there? What control tools make sense based on efficacy, the time you have available, the amount of labor and capital you have to invest? And these are some of the core questions that we need to answer. Managing wildlife damage really begins with identifying it, this ID pieces, one of those critical bits of information. You have to not only be able to look at the wildlife species directly and identify them, but many cases you're not going to see them doing damage. So you have to understand or be able identify the species based on things like tracks, scat, the type and timing of damage that's being caused. And here's just three pictures, not from fruit systems, brought from cropping systems here with corn. And you can see three shredded cobs that may look similar at face value, but have some key differences that might help you identify who's causing the damage. So one is, you know, what part of the plant as damage as it, the individual kernels is at the end of the year. What is the growth stage of the damage? For example, the picture at the right is a much earlier stage where the kernels are still soft and milky looking. Versus on the far left you have a cob that looks more mature with brown silk. And a more dry husk there. So these are all clues that you can use to really key in on who's causing the damage and also begin to assess the damage to try to put a number to it, and determine is are enough damage here for me to invest in control in it. One of the key types of tools that we have in integrated wildlife damage management is cultural controls. When we're talking about wildlife, this can be things like field and crop selection. What are you growing and where you're growing it? Are there alternative food sources available, either something that you're providing or that might be available on adjacent lands. Can you manage wildlife movement through travel corridors, whether you're cutting those off or creating new ones to allow wildlife to move through the farm, but keeping them away from your crops. You could look at things like planting field buffers or trap crops to try to attract wildlife to those areas and away from your cash crop. Are you managing your forest lands on your farm to provide alternative habitat and food sources for wildlife so they don't have to be so dependent on your crops? And then finally, are you creating perhaps predator habitat to help control the population that way? Habitat modification can take the form of plant species selection. So certainly plants differ in their attractiveness to wildlife and also their ability to resist and recover from damage caused by wildlife. And understanding the ecology of those plant, wildlife interactions is really key to preventing damage to plants species selection. Now sometimes we're limited by markets and so forth, what we can grow or just what our farm is set up to produce. but even within that, we have this question or, or opportunity of variety palatability. So we're beginning to collect good evidence to show that wildlife preference certainly varies by crop varieties and nutrient or anti nutrient content contents within those crops. What's lesser known is really what quality factors are driving wildlife preference within different types of cropping systems. We have some examples from the literature of certain nutrients or other factors like maturity, for example, that might be playing a role in wildlife preference. So I think the question that's yet to be answered is really can we identify some of these important quality factors and select less palatable varieties? Now, that could mean that crops our also less palatable for humans or less palatable for livestock. So something that we have to consider. but I think there's a lot of opportunity in this area. For example, this is a Polish study from 2016 that looked at deer browse bites per shoot on different types of apples. And here you can see some really clear and significant differences between various varieties of apples. And what I thought was neat here, you've got two examples of Idared both pretty low palatability or low preference by the deer versus the Ligol variety here, which was highly preferred. So certainly I think there's, there's ways that we can apply this concept. but you have to have an apple that's also in demand in the marketplace that meets your other production objectives. And I think there's a real question too about how picky are  wildlife going to be if they have fewer options. So if we plant all these apples in the same area and deer can choose, maybe they're going to have a preference. If your orchard is all one variety, maybe they're going to show less preference because it would be too costly for them in terms of energy or predator risk or whatever it may be to access another food source. Filed buffers are something else that certainly has been tried and I know some growers have used successfully. So can we leverage wildlife behavior in terms their food preferences? Where on the farm they like to be, usually near cover at the edges of our, our fields. Or the timing when damage is occurring to try to create some buffers are a trap crop type spaces like the white area you see outlined on this field. It's nice because they could really be multi-functional. They can provide other types of crop yield like forage or biomass crops can help with water quality as riparian buffers, maybe habitat for beneficial insects. They also can help us would net profitability because of the fact that many times the edges of our fields are orchards are less productive anyway, you have competition with trees, you have compaction, whatever it may be, it may not even be profitable to crop these areas to begin with. So perhaps they can be used for a better purpose. And that's really sort of precision Ag take on wildlife damage. And there's groups like pheasants forever that are really working actively to apply precision ag for wildlife goals and their case to create more habitat for upping game birds. but I think the same thing can be used to address damage. Population management has always kind of been the fall back, as far as lethal control of wildlife species. It really has to be a landscape scale and cooperative approach because wildlife move, they don't just spend time on your farm. They're all over the place. And so we have to work cooperatively or with wildlife management agencies to do something like this. It requires good data, like population surveys looking at the quantity and quality of wildlife that are out there on the landscape so we know how to adjust our harvest practices. We also have to deal with issues of hunter recruitment and access. And unfortunately, hunter numbers have been going down for years in the country and Michigan in particular. So regular, seasonal regulated hunting may not be, or I would suggest actually, is not likely at all to be a successful tool. Standing alone as you move forward to address issues of over abundant wildlife on farms. So if regular hunting doesn't do it, can we look at special permits and so forth? Yes. but again, just the number of hunters is becoming more and more of a problem. So this was just to show here the fact that we have this net change in license holders. So you can look across the states here and understand that many places are losing hunters. In the United States, the Midwest in particular in Michigan. We're seeing less and less hunter licenses sold. So going to be pretty difficult to use that as our main tool for wildlife damage management. Predators offer another source of biological control to help us deal with wildlife damage. Unfortunately, that can also sometimes mean conflicts with wildlife advocates, livestock producers, or pet owners. However, if you think about it, the opportunity either introduce predators or maintain predator habitat should really allow us to create some balance between predator and prey populations, which should benefit everybody. Aside from predators like wolves, another great example of using predators for biological control would be the work of our colleague, Catherine Lindell. She has been working for a number of years in fruit systems, tree fruit in particular in Michigan, but also some small fruit. Looking at predator bird's-raptors, in this case kestrels. And by putting up nest boxes, for example, can we limit the amount of Songbeeird damage in fruit systems? And she's found quite a bit of success with that approach, actually. There's often a lot of questions among producers about what types of lethal control or what species require permits. And so we put together this handy table in a, an extension article just to show folks that wildlife species are managed by various agencies. So some are managed as game species at the state level. Others are managed at the federal level by US Fish and Wildlife or USDA Wildlife Services as kind of an interim there. And so it's important to know what species is doing damage and what the regulations are related to that as far as lethal control. When we're talking about wildlife, mechanical control really comes down to scare tactics. There are tons of tools out there available for this purpose. Lights, lasers, sounds, predator effigies, bio acoustics. We had a lot of luck with this air dancer or tubeman, to protect some of our crops, hemp in particular from bird damage. So there are a lot of tools out there. The key thing is to keep it novel and, and mix it up. So using multiple tools, moving them around, making them variable in terms of their timing. With the air dancer, we set it to up for 10 minutes and then down for ten minutes and then it'll pop back up. So that kind of novelty and dynamic nature is going to make these things and most effective. however, even then sometimes you get habituation and a loss of efficacy over time. Fencing is a great tool. And I think a lot of people go right to this idea of ten-foot exclusion fence. but it's important to realize that there's lots of different approaches to wildlife exclusion. And some of them can be more or less effective and more or less costly to install and maintain. In some cases, we're protecting individual plants like tree guards or tubes, or cages and other cases we're protecting larger acreages. This is a great table out of a paper by VerCauteren et at all from 2006 that compared a lot of different fencing types based on cost, height, efficacy, longevity, and maintenance level. And I think it's nice to have a resource like this to be able to look at, okay? You know, how, how bad is our problem? How much efficacy do we need? What does our budget look like? How much labor and time do we have to dedicate to maintenance? And you can make some decisions. And again, not every farm needs a 10 foot exclusion fence. You may be able to get by with something less expensive or with a lower lifespan if it's going to meet your needs. Fencing design is also important as far as this concept of perimeter to area ratio. So you want to try to minimize the perimeter to area ratio. And you can do that by fencing larger areas at once and also fencing more squarer type shapes. We also have chemical controls that are available. There's sort of two categories of chemical controls for wildlife, what we call contact versus area repellents. Contact repellants are applied directly to vegetation and they deter via taste or physical discomfort. So the wildlife actually have to come in physical contact with the product to be repelled. Area repellants are a little bit different. They usually work via odor. And for that reason they can apply, be applied on or near the vegetation that you're trying to protect. We've actually seen in some cases that we get control beyond the treated area with area repellents. So for example, maybe you could put strips in a field or a border treatment on a field that would provide a similar level of control as, as a full broadcast application across the whole field or, or block. Repellents really differ in their efficacy. And it's often based on sort of the context of when they're being used and how they're being used. but in general, they're suited to smaller areas and high-value crops. They often have to be renewed fairly regularly because they tend to break down or wash off. They can be quite costly. Unfortunately, there's few that are registered for food crops, but there are some that can be used in commercial agriculture for, for vegetables and fruit. I use this to really illustrate what I just said about the efficacy of repellents is that we've seen a lot of variability in how effective they are, and it really comes down to all these different factors. So how much deer pressure do you have? What is deer density look like on or  around your farm? What about other available food sources? Are there are there other food sources out there? What about deer preference for the crop that you're growing versus other sources of food around the area? The timing of when repellants are applied. One key thing to understand about repellents is you have to be out there treating the crop before the damage starts because one's damaged start, that's much harder to stop it than it is to prevent it initially, with a repellant application, in most cases. This concept of phase 2 wildlife management is something that I'll, I'll wrap it up here with. So phase two is really kind of look at what I said earlier about the North American model of wildlife conservation. It really reconsiders that model to instead emphasize wise use and utilitarian ethics over this idea of scarcity and preservation that has kinda been the norm for our policies for wildlife management. It's science driven with public data not only on wildlife populations and goals, but also the cost-benefit of species and management efforts. So think about what I've mentioned earlier about deer or a game species. What is the cost to agriculture versus the benefit of hunting opportunities, for example? And it's grounded in this idea that response, responsible wildlife population management is possible despite some of the significant economic, technical, and social barriers. So a lot of people like to say, you know, ehhh wildlife damage is just something we have to deal with. It's just part of, of farming in a place like Michigan. And I would say that that's, that's not really the case. You know, we have we have vested interests at play here. And I think we need to just create some balance here between the benefits that wildlife generate, and there are many, to the costs that are incurred by mostly one population or demographic, and that is ag producers. There are a number of tools that I think are really important when we're thinking about kind of switching to this phase 2 approach to wildlife management. We need much more data and much more education on wildlife populations, ecology, the damage itself. And it needs to be shared openly and transparently among, among all the different stakeholders. We're making progress in Michigan, but they've got a lot of work to do. We also need a social programs. You know wildlife damage is much or if not more, a social problem than an ecological or technical one. So we need education and we need social programs like wildlife co-ops, QDMA, other tools to make sure that people are as aware as possible and helping to work together to address these problems. We've also got the need for economic incentives. As I mentioned, hunter license sales are down. There's fewer hunters out there. So how do we create economic incentives for people to go hunting, to harvest wildlife? How do we build in economic tools in terms of claims or abatement programs to support the costs that farmers incur in trying to manage wildlife damage or prevent wildlife damage? And then even more so I mean, I think it's time to have conversations about ideals like commercial hunting, to create an economic incentive for people to go out there and harvest wildlife that they could sell the meat, for example. We've got a number of resources available from MSU on this topic. We have a webpage that's dedicated to wildlife management, as part of our IPM website. We created a bulletin series for producers that each bulletin is dedicated to a different wildlife species and talks about the type of damage they do and how it can be managed. We started a podcast on this topic as well. I think they've got four episodes out there that you can access. And in terms of food safety, MSU has produced a really neat pre-harvest assessment video that kind of walks growers through the process of doing a pre-harvest assessment, looking at wildlife damage, and food safety risk. And of course, everybody should have a good relationship with their local DNR and USDA Wildlife Services offices because those are the people that are going to be able to provide lethal options for you to control damage on your farm and make sure that you're doing it legally. Finally, I want to say thank you to a number of folks that have contributed to this work. Again, I'm sorry, I couldn't be there in person or even live today to present this information for you. but you should have my contact information. Feel free to reach out after or with any questions that you might have on this topic. And I hope you have a good rest of your program today. So I want to I know he's not here, but I want to thank James for putting the video together. I can provide you with his contact information if anybody wants. I can also pass on any questions. I will be passing on a couple of the questions that came through the chat. I know I've been answering a couple, but I'd like to share those with him as well, so we knows. So if you have any further questions for him or about wildlife management, please share them. but we're going to move on to the second recorded presentation for the day. And it's kind of a flip of the two. because our second presentation is about beneficials and trying to preserve some of these, some of these insects and and improved their populations in your fruit systems. So Meghan Milbrath is giving this presentation. She's a pollinator expert, specialists on MSU campus. She has been working with a number of honeybee research projects over the years and is a, I would call her, the expert on on pollinators that we have. So I'm glad that she was able to put this video together and she may or may not be here towards the end of the session to take any remaining questions live depending on whether she'll be able to get out of her conflict, time conflict. So we'll go ahead and start her video. Hello and welcome to a discussion on how to promote and protect pollinators in fruit systems. My name is Megan Milbrath and I'm an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. A lot of the resources that I'll reference in this talk are available on our website. As we know, pollination is an essential part of fruit production. It involves the movement of pollen from one plant to another or from one flower to another that allows the fruit to grow or allows the plants to set seed. Most fruit pollination is performed by insects. So insects are going to provide that movement of the pollen either to a flower on the same plant or cross-pollination to a different plant. If we want to maximize our fruit production, we really need to promote insect pollination. We could see the effects of this here, which is from a study at Michigan State University looking at the importance of insects in blueberry pollination. The blueberries on the left-hand side. So in the person's right hand were covered during bloom, so insects were not allowed to access the flowers. That was the only thing that was different. So these two branches had access to the same water, same sunlight, same disease and pest pressure. What you can see is the ones on the right hand side are going to be able to grow and be available for market, whereas the ones on the left are much, much smaller. Even if the plants do have access to insects, so if they aren't covered by us, we can still get incomplete pollination if we don't have enough pollinators available. Here we can see examples of fruits that look fantastic for market. We can see a pair and we can see a strawberry where that have really nice shapes. However, if we don't have full pollination, we can get misshapen pairs. And commonly seen misshapen strawberries. In order to promote pollination, we generally use bees, and three different groups of bees are used for pollination in fruit systems. There are managed honeybees, other managed bees, and wild bees. And I have wild bees, but I'm also including that there's flies and ants and moths and butterflies and wasps and lots of other pollinators that are wild. We have a program at Michigan State University called integrated crop pollination. And that program looked into how we can combine different types of pollinators. So we don't necessarily have to use just one. And in many cases it works best when we use multiple types of pollinators and ways to promote pollinators. So first, I'll talk about managed honeybees. Managed honeybees are the most common pollinator that are used in fruit crop production in the United States. If we want to increase the amount of pollination that we have using managed pollinators. There's two really easy ways. One is we get more colonies, or two, we have bigger colonies. It's easy to get more colonies by working with a beekeeper and paying them money for more colonies. And a lot of people will say, well won't it just be easier if I raise the bees myself? You can choose to become a beekeeper. but you want to make sure that it actually fits into your farming system to do so. Honeybees are food producing animals. And you want to ask yourself if you actually do want to raise livestock or if adding a new livestock system makes sense for your farm. You want to determine all of the costs. beeeekeeping equipment is quite expensive and your labor is quite expensive. You'll also want to make sure that the timing fits in with your other systems. beeees need a lot of attention at certain times a year. And a lot of that in Michigan or another Northern States is going to be in the spring time and the fall time. So you want to make sure that that works within your other cropping systems. The last thing is that purchasing bees do not necessarily get you a nice, big, healthy colony that's available for pollination. beeeekeeping has a fairly steep learning curve and we usually say that people are beginners for the first seven years. So even if you purchase bees immediately, your pollination needs may not be met for the first few years. So we generally recommend working with a beekeeper at least until you get to the point, or if you want to keep bees on your own. And that is because they're experienced and they can allow you to have big healthy colonies. So that's the most important thing is that the colonies that you get are going to be big and healthy like the one that you can see in this photo here. The reason that they need to be big is based on their biology. So this is a photo of honey bee brood and that's the term that we use to describe the eggs, larva and the pupa. The larva require a lot of care. So the larva require feeding, the pupa required to be kept warm at 95 degrees. And the bees are going to put all of the attention into the care of the brood because this is the future of the colony. As old bees die off, they're going to depend on the brood to emerge and become the workers and the future of the honeybee colony. We use the term brood nest to describe the area where the brood are raised. You can see from this photo, this frame of brood is actually a cross section of a sphere or the top of a sphere. And so I have the indicated in the image on the left where this dark brown circle represents our brood nest. If we only have a small number of bees, then all of the bees in that colony are going to be involved with feeding those larva and keeping the brood warm. So those we would call nursing duties. If we have a larger colony, we'll still need the same number of bees to take care of all those nursing duties. Once those nursing duties are taken care of, then we have these available to go out and do other jobs like foraging. And those are the bees that are going to provide your pollination services. So big colonies means lots of foragers, which means lots of pollination. It will actually take many, many weeks for a bee to become a forager. A honeybee is a brood. It's an egg, larva, and pupa for three weeks. Once it emerges, it takes another few weeks for it to become a foraging adult. This means it's really important for you to have good communication with your beekeeper. They're going to be making colonies to make sure that you have a large population right at your bloom time. If you want to increase the number of colonies or if you're going to change something in your management, you have to make sure you have really good communication with your beekeeper well ahead of time so they can account for all of the time it's needed to make foragers. So I mentioned that you can get more colonies just by increasing the number of bees that you have in your contract, but sometimes you can talk to the beekeeper and get more bees if you have a really nice site for bees. So beekeepers will be more likely to bring more colonies to your site if it's considered a good place for bees. A big part of that is easy access. It's really hard in the spring time and a lot of places are muddy to drive around to all of these different sites to set bees down. If you've got a good location that has really easy access in and out, that makes a really big difference for the beekeeper. Also larger drops. So here you can see a beekeeper moving a palette through an orchard. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of labor, it's a lot of fuel to spread colonies out throughout an orchard. If you can have one large drop, you can often get more colonies in that location. And honey bees are going to fly for miles. So you won't lose in pollination when you have them on the edge compared to spread out throughout your orchard. A good site will also have more food, and I'll talk about that a lot later when I get to the wild bees. And that just means more flowers available for the bees to eat. And then if you have a lowered pesticide risk. So if you have a good site, you might be able to talk beekeepers into  putting more hives in your location. Alright, so to maximize honeybee pollination, you want to communicate with the beekeeper, focusing on how you can get more and larger colonies on your site. And you want to make sure that you're doing everything that you can to preserve the foragers that you have in your colony. And I'll talk about this a lot more, but you want to increase the food you have available and minimize the pesticide damage that can occur to those foragers while they're out working. Other managed bees are also available for pollination. You want to choose your other managed bees based on what crops you're trying to get pollinated. For example, the Japanese orchard bee, which comes from Asia, is really good at pollinating apples and pears because the way that it pollinates is that it carries the pollen on their bellies. The Eastern bumblebee, which is from North America, is really good at pollinated other plants that are from North America, like tomatoes and blueberries, as you can see here. because they operate using buzz pollination, which works well with those flower shapes. You can actually purchase bumblebees from a bumblebee producer. Here is what was called a quad. So it's for colonies that is purchased from Koppert and these colonies will last the season and then that colony will die out. You can do things to improve the health of that colony. because again, similar to honeybees, you want to have lots of foragers. So one thing that you can do is provide shade and shelter to those boxes and that will allow them to remain robust throughout the season. You can try to attract mason bees by providing housing. As you can see here, mason bees are cavity dwellers and they look for long tubes or long holes that they can nest in. You can also purchase cocoons. It may be that you don't have sufficient ones in your location already, and cocoons are available for purchase. These bee hotels are much less work than honeybee colonies, but they do require some maintenance. So here you can see one of the examples of the pests. These are pollen mites that can affect these. You can also bring in a lot of predators if you have a lot in the site. At MSU, we do have a really nice extension document on how to build and manage bee hotels. That's a common term for them. That will guide you on both how to build them and also how to maintain them to minimize pests and pathogens. The final group of bees is our wild bees. The ways that you can increase wild bee pollination is to increase the habitat, to increase the food and to minimize the risk. So most of our wild bees are ground nesting bees, and these are not the ground nesting hornets that people don't like. They're going to be solitary bees and they will not build huge societies underground, but they'll nest underground, as you can see here. So they'll provision an egg with pollen and that will form our pupa, will later develop into an adult bee. We can promote this by leaving spaces of bare ground and reducing tillage, which is great because those are things that basically require no additional work from you. You can also improve habitat and food by increasing wildflower planting. So this is something that we have done a lot of research on at Michigan State University. And I'm going to show you some data from 2009 to 2012 where they worked with blueberry farms and they put in pollinator plantings next to the crop. And I'm going to show you a series of graphs where they always compared the, what they found in the pollinator planting or at the fields with the pollinator plantings compared to what they found at the fields with just mown grass nearby. And so this is what the pollinator plantings look like. One thing to keep in mind is if you're using native plants, it does take many years. So these plots were established in 2009. beey 2010, you can see there are some weeds, but you do see some natives coming up. 2011, way more natives and you can see the marestail and other weeds are actually pretty well suppressed. So this is a figure looking at the number of native bees that they collected over time, or that the observed over time. And what you can see is as the plot was getting established in 2009, there wasn't a difference. But by 2012, once the plot was well established, you could see an increase of bees next to and in the flowering habitat. In those pollinator habitats actually resulted in increased blueberry yields. So the green bars are always lower than the yellow bars in all of these cases. And what they showed is that in 2011 and 2012, once these sites were established, the fields that had the pollinator habitat always had a greater yield. That actually turned into an economic advantage. So again, you can see that it did take time for that to occur because it took time for the pollinator habitat to become established. So when you have plantings, you have more wild bees and you also had more honeybees. So I mentioned before that it's important to have really strong and healthy colonies. And one way we can do that is by providing diverse food sources while they're there. And you just want to evaluate your whole property to see where you can put in food sources. So maybe you can't put in a two acre planting. But here's an example of where there is an additional food source on the orchard floor. Or here's a grower that has white Dutch clover in-between the rows and that's an excellent ground covered that can provide additional food for bees. You can evaluate your ditches. Ditches are often a large amount of space that can provide a large amount of habitat that require very little maintenance. And you can utilize cover crops. Here's an example of buck wheat, which is a great nectar producer that all sorts of bees can use. And prairie strips. So I put in the CRP program, this can fall under CP 43, but at our Kellogg Biological Station we're doing a lot of work on prairie strips. One thing to keep in mind is you can evaluate other programs or evaluate other planting practices that you're using for other goals and to look at how you can make them more valuable for honeybees and other pollinators. So in this example, a lot of times people are using prairie strips for soil retention. but you can use plant selection to also make them valuable for pollinators as well. The same thing with windrows which fall under the program of CP 5A. You can evaluate the plant species that you're putting in your windrows and make them more supportive to pollinators. You just want to make sure that you're also working with extension or using guidance documents so that you don't do things that promote more pests. All right, the last thing I'm going to talk about is how we protect our pollinators from pesticides. So pesticides can damage all three types of pollinators. They can reduce the number of honeybee foragers that you have. So you can pay or you can do a lot of work to have big honeybee colonies that really get damaged by pesticides that are on site. And you can also reduce your populations of wild pollinators. So can put in this beautiful planting and not actually get any return on that if those pollinators are damaged by pesticides. It is really important that you read and follow the label. Especially if you do see the bee icon that indicates that they're special restrictions for the sake of pollinators. but keep in mind that the lack of that extra pollinator-related labeling does not mean that it's safe. That's a really common misconception as people say, Oh, it doesn't have that pollinator of restrictions; therefore, it's safe for pollinators. We do know that products like fungicides and surfactants, which aren't labeled, have been shown to have negative health effects for honeybees and lots of other pollinators, and most of these products are just understudied. The lack of the label is actually due to the fact that they're just not well studied. We know a lot about honeybees, but we don't know a lot about other species of bees or effects on larva and developing brood, on sub-lethal effects like memory and ability to forage, and then also in synergies in combination. So when we study pollinator exposure to pesticides, we find that bees and other pollinators are exposed to many, many different chemicals when they're in agro ecosystems. And so it's really important that we try to evaluate the risk of all of them in combination. What we want to do is evaluate all possible routes of exposure and try to minimize exposure to all the chemicals regardless of how they're labeled. So you can see that bees can become exposed to pollinators. Through direct spray. They can be exposed through eating of pollen or drinking of nectar in exposed  plants or even drinking the guttation fluid for water. They can be exposed through water on, from puddles, from rinsate. They can be exposed from drift going directly into the colony or directly into the ground nesting bees. They can be exposed by your neighbors as well. So as I mentioned, honeybees do fly for three miles, and other bees will fly distances as well and can leave the farm. And so you want to be paying attention to, of the pollen is that you're trying to protect and promote on your farm, what is the whole exposure scenario for them? We can minimize exposure as much as possible. First, use scouting and integrated pest management. Only apply an agrochemical when it's absolutely necessary. And if you can skip one while it's in bloom or if you can put it off until the end of bloom, that's much better. Spray at night when it's possible. So just to avoid the exposure route of directly spraying the bees when they're in the orchard. Use the most specific products as possible. So try to avoid really broad spectrum insecticides. And there are some things that don't affect bees at all, such as Bt. So if there's an option that is more specific to your pest, choose that. And choose formulations that are less likely to be picked up by bees. And you want to pay attention to the actual bees you are trying to promote. So we do pay attention to things that are happening during boom. but different bees are going to be there all summer long. So some bees, like asthma for example, are going to, those are the mason bees, are going to be found early in the summer, whereas the bumblebee queens are going to be found in the, during bloom in the early summer and again in the late fall. And the workers are going to be found all summertime long. So even if your honeybees are getting moved out, there are going to be bee's in your orchard at different times. And they may overlap with the pests that you have. So we want to pay attention to when we're spraying based on when the bees are there. We also want to pay attention to when we're planting based when the bees are there. We can choose what we plant depending on the bees we're trying to promote. So we can look early in the season or later in the season, depending on who we're trying to feed or what gaps we have on our own farms. So we do have other documents including this extension bulletin, establishing wildflower habitat to support pollinators of Michigan fruit crops. And the document conserving native bees on farmland. There's also some of our partners that have excellent documents, including the Xerces Society, which has farming for bees. but on their website,, you'll find all sorts of resources to promote wild pollinators, as well as the pollinator partnership that does have a bee friendly farming certification. And as well as there bee friendly Farming Handbook. They also have technical guides for monarchs and other pollinators. And then make sure you utilize the resources at your NRCS FSA offices. You'll find both guidance there and funded opportunities. I mentioned a couple of them, but we actually do have Conservation Reserve programs and NRCS programs that are designed specifically for pollinators as well. So you can get some funding and support to install pollinator habitat onto your farm. Finally, we have a state managed pollinators protection plan. This is done through the Department of Ag in partnership with MSU, Farm bureau, and beekeepers. And we really focused on communication strategies to reducing pesticide risk for managed pollinators in Michigan. And a major outcome of that was the development of pollinator stewardship guides. So all of these are available on our website as well. You can always follow up with us by finding the resources on our website, or reaching out with questions. We're happy to answer and to be a resource to help you promote pollinators on your fruit operations. So just in summary, to promote and protect pollinators in fruit crops, evaluate pollinators and what pollinator habitat you already have. There may be a lot out there that you're not aware is providing a resource. And so make sure you preserve what you already have. And then if you can, add in habitat for solitary bees, which is open ground, but also spaces for stem nesting bees had food for all bees. This is flowers and flowering trees. Wherever they fit in, if it's along your driveway or if it's in the ditch or along the hedge row. And especially if you can put it next to the plants that you want to see pollinated. And finally, minimize your pesticide use as much as possible to reduce the exposure to all of your pollinators and your beneficial insects. Thank you very much for your attention. So I definitely want to thank Meghan for putting that together for us. And actually, I want to also thank her because she's actually still here. She was able to join. So I thank you, Meghan, for making the time to be able to come live. I understand the schedule was tough, so you couldn't give the presentation, but thank you for showing it and showing up for Q and A. We really appreciate it. Any, I guess, there are a couple questions that have come in the chat. I saw you answer one, but I want to also throw one straight away at you about cover crops. There was a question that came in asking about clover as a, as a recommended cover crop choice. It's clover a good option if you're looking for pollinator benefits inside an orchard setting or a farm setting. And are there any others? Yes. So clovers are ones that we generally support and promote a lot, mainly because they are really high nectar producing. So some plants produce nectar for pollinators. Some produce pollen and some produce both. One of the things about trying to choose like a best cover crop is depending on which type of pollinator you're trying to promote. So different types of clovers, some of them, like the crimson, can have a really long nectary. So it won't be available to all types of bees. So if you're promoting something that has a really short tongue or if you're trying to get a rare pollinator, it may not be the most useful one. But in general, clovers overall are pretty good. Um, the only other thing about them is they do, some of them have really shallow root systems so they don't produce a lot of nectar if you're in like a drought periods, so you'll see blooms, but they won't be providing any food. Whereas some of them that have the deeper root systems, I know it's an invasive but beekeepers love the sweet clovers, those really produce a lot of nectar. Even when there are droughts. There, there isn't, there isn't the best. I mentioned the buck wheat, which we like a lot because it has such a short time to flower. And so that's something that people can use often as a cover crop because you could plant it really late in the season and still get it to bloom. But basically anything that goes into bloom. So um depending what you're trying to do, so if you're trying to break up soil, a lot of brassicas are also really useful to bees, as long as you let it bolt. That's the big thing is is getting flowers. Sure. So it sounds like you, by the way, we, we've used buck wheat at the research station to, as food habitat for honeybees that we have on our station. So I appreciate that one as well directly. But it sounds like it's an interesting balance that you have to create between worrying about any weed management concerns, just standard orchard floor management, and promoting pollinators. So it's every system, every farms going to be different in how they weigh that balance back and forth. Absolutely. Yeah. And if you are doing, I mean if you're already on a system of mowing, or if you're already in a system of using herbicides, it may be not such a good deal as people historically had been so afraid letting everything bloom because we haven't had the same level of control techniques. But if you really evaluate what is the risk if I let this weed go to bloom, or if I let this area of ditch go to bloom? If you're already managing it, it may not be a big deal. Even though your knee-jerk reaction is always just mow things immediately. Well, that, that gets to another question that actually came in the chat. Because of this balance, this weighing things back and forth. The question was, what impacts do invasive insects have on wild pollinator population? And you've got this weighing about habitat, promoting invasives, promoting benefits of beneficials and pests. And so it gets to a bigger question than even that person asked. But how would you answer that question? It's a really hot topic right now, and I think there's two different ways that I can interpret it and maybe Lilly you can follow up if there is one that you had in mind, but I mean, one of the issues is just with when we're working with growers, and they have a really, really horrible pest, like spotted wing drosophila, that's overlapping when a lot of the pollinators are there. You know, when you're talking about weighing it, you can't maybe withhold a pesticide treatment if you're going to lose your entire crop. And so some of these invasive pests, like the spotted lantern fly, is a really big concern for beekeepers because it just means insecticide use is going to go way up. And so some of these invasive pests that have come in have really damage both the native and managed pollinator populations. So that's one aspect of it. The second aspect is that there is competition between the native pollinators and managed pollinators. And the strengths of that or the severity of that really depends on the location. But a really hot topic right now in the pollinator research world is looking at disease transfer between the two groups. So we do see a lot of honeybee associated diseases in wild bee populations. And wild bees could be maintaining those are getting infected, the impact of that is completely unknown. In Michigan, the competition, competition issue is less severe. So there are other places where there's less food available for bees. And there's a really big concern about honeybees actually taking food resources away from native pollinators. So in Michigan we're sitting pretty good. Sure. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Coming, having done some work on the West Coast, I can corroborate what you're saying. We are lucky here from a pollinator standpoint about having these riparian habitats, these non crop habitats that are really helping us out. There actually could, sorry to interrupt, There could be specific problems, like little microecosystems that are the problem, but overall, it's not, a lot of the things that you read about in the literature do indeed come from the West Coast or the other side of the Rockies. Right, right, right. Another. I think I might be able to answer this question, but in case you want to add to it, Virginia was asking about if our fruit management guide, the E 154 guide, I assume is what she's talking about, which I was just looking at. Has, talks about the pesticide concerns for bees. And I don't see it having much directly in the guide, but it does reference the the our other document that I'm sure you've been a big part of is the document's called minimising pesticide risk to bees and fruit crops. The E 3245. If you look at it, Virginia, the document link is written on the top of page eleven of this year's, so you can get information for E 154, but we have much more complete information in other documents that are referenced there. Yeah, I would like to follow up on that, especially just because the term bee friendly and was used. And the other one that is really knee-jerk response for me is bee safe. And I mentioned that just briefly on one side in the presentation. but the big issue with all of those charts is they really focus on highly toxic to adults, honeybees. And they're, in, a lot of times people think that if they're not highly toxic to adult honeybees, that they are friendly or safe. And one of the big things for honeybees, and it's really counter-intuitive, but a highly toxic to adults insecticide may have less impact on colony health than something that's sublethal. because, so for example, if I spray something that is highly toxic, and I don't realize my damper has bees, and I kill 1000 foragers that happened to be in that field. Those foragers are going to die in the field. Whereas if I add something that is not labeled as highly toxic, like an insect growth regulator or a fungicide that's known to have larval effects. And those get brought back into the colony, then that actually slowly kills the colony. What we see in terms of pesticide damage in Michigan, and in actually in commercial operations all around the country, we don't see as often these pesticide kills where there's handfuls of dead bees. That happens occasionally in Michigan and it's usually just an accident and it's a spill or misapplication of when somethings in boom, what we actually see in terms of pesticide damage to bees is these slow dwindling, dying colonies from sublethal effects. And then what happens is the balance in the honeybee colony. I mentioned how you have eggs, larva, pupa, and you've got this six-week thing. If you have even one generation that gets knocked out by, say, insect growth regulators, which are not often labeled, then you'll lose that next generation that would be nurse bees. And then they're not able to feed them. And so I really do take issue with this term and that's why, bee friendly or bee safe, because most of the time it's just not highly toxic to adults. And so absence or it's not studied, and let's see if I can do this right while I'm being recorded, evidence, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So we don't have data on the risk. It doesn't mean that risk doesn't exist. In most cases they're just is not funding to study that. So you can, you can use those charts because they do so the toxic ones. but what we really focus on is just reducing exposure because in most cases we just don't know. There's very few cases. I did give the example of Bt, which of course hurts other loveadoptrin but for bees it's okay. Yeah, yeah. Okay. That was good to get that more clearly defined. That's something we don't think about so much.