Chief personnel and activities (2021-23)

Denise Ellsworth, Mary Gardiner - Entomology

“Plant by Numbers” landscape pollinator habitat program will train gardeners and others to establish pollinator habitat with the development of a set of garden design plans and instruction cards, an online course, and network of demonstration gardens aimed at transforming Ohio urban, suburban and rural residential yards into gardens that meet cues to care theory as well as the foraging, nesting, and overwintering needs of beneficial insects and birds. 

Working with a landscape designer we will create six simple pocket garden designs that focus on both cues to care and the resource needs of their target fauna. The six gardens will be designed to target generalist bees, specialist bees, bumble bees, butterflies, birds, and beneficial predatory insects. All gardens are likely to be visited by a diversity of insects and birds, however, within a design we will make specific planting choices that provide ideal habitat for each target. 

In-person workshops and field days focused on pollinator health will be offered to target audiences including gardeners, naturalists, beekeepers, park managers, growers and others but depending on pandemic restrictions, these events may be switched to hybrid workshops or webinars. 

Other planned educational activities include training and supporting community scientists of all ages to collect data on pollinators and plants using The Ohio Bee Atlas on iNaturalist and the Ohio Bee Survey. 


Chief personnel and activities (2017-20)

Denise Ellsworth, Elizabeth Long, Mary Gardiner - Entomology

Protecting Pollinator Health - Denise Ellsworth

Bees are all the buzz! Scientists have been concerned about honey bees, bumble bees and other essential pollinating bee species for years, and now Ohio farmers, gardeners, naturalists and others are enthusiastically working to learn about and conserve these important animals. With the listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species in 2017 (and probable additional bumble bee listings in the near future), attention has turned to observing and mapping all bees across Ohio. 

Through public bee biology workshops, identification workshops and intensive volunteer training, hundreds of observers have been trained to use the free iNaturalist app to document sightings of bees in Ohio via the Ohio Bee Atlas project. Preliminary results from the Ohio Bee Atlas and the Ohio Bumble Bee Survey were shared at The OSU Pollinator Summit in 2019 at the 4-H Center in Columbus. This one-day workshop, attended by 126 participants, focused on bee biology, identification and conservation. Attendees included conservationists, researchers, graduate students, agency employees, naturalists, gardeners, Extension employees, volunteer pollinator specialists and others. 


Creating and supporting demonstration pollinator gardens - Denise Ellsworth

Our ongoing work in the pollinator health arena from 2018-2019 has been to increase the number of pollinator habitat sites focused educational and demonstration gardens across the state. All of these 68 sites were supported with Ohio native perennials, signage and training support. These gardens are located at OSU Extension offices, metro parks, fairgrounds, community gardens, and other public sites. Many of these gardens were developed by (and are maintained by) OSU Master Gardeners, OCVN naturalist volunteers, and Volunteer Pollinator Specialists. Four hundred fifty flats of native perennial plugs (approximately 16,000 plants) were grown and distributed in 2019. The perennial plants are native to Ohio, and many are grown from Ohio-collected seed.

Fifty-one sites in 31 Ohio Counties received native perennial plants in 2019 to create or support existing pollinator habitat. Native plants that support specialist bees were featured in this year’s plant distribution along with signage about specialist bees (these native bees can only collect pollen from specific plants). The goal of this effort is to increase knowledge about plants and nesting habitat for pollinators, and to create a patchwork of habitat to support native bees. Next year’s plant distribution will focus on plants suited for urban areas, including smaller native perennials and pollinator-friendly herbs.


Pollinator habitat establishment at Muck Crops Station - Elizabeth Long

In late July, about 40 extension educators, members of general public, commercial vegetable producers, university students, faculty, staff, and representatives from local and state government attended a muck crops field day at the OSU Research Station in Willard, OH. The field day serves to highlight research in the areas of entomology, plant disease, and weed science that have implications for IPM strategies used in commercial production of muck crops. It is also a venue to demonstrate differences in production and yield outcomes of plots managed using various IPM strategies. On this date, demonstration plots of native wildflowers were highlighted for their ecological value of providing resources to beneficial insects, reducing wind erosion of muck soils during off season, and their aesthetic value by diversifying colors and textures provided by flowers in the margins of the landscape, which would otherwise have to be sprayed with herbicides for weed management.

In a short evaluation of the topic, 75% of respondents (n=8) would be at least moderately likely to install some pollinator habitat on their farm if the cost of the seed were reimbursed. In a more general statement about creating pollinator habitat on their farm, 75% were at least moderately likely to perform this action.

Observe Bees: Become a Dandelion Detective - Mary Gardiner, Sarah Scott, Kayla Perry and Denisha Parker

The Gardiner Lab has launched Dandelion Detectives, a youth-focused citizen science program aimed at measuring the value of weeds for bees and other insects. Dandelion Detectives is designed for youth in grades 3-7, and offers individuals, school groups, and organizations such as 4-H clubs the opportunity to participate in this collaborative scientific study. Each detective will establish an “Observation Dandelion” consisting of yellow funnel live trap with a sugar-water soaked sponge and record and release all insect captured after a 6 h period. Participants will also measure the richness of blooming weeds (or lack thereof) found in their yard and interview their parents about lawncare practices. 

During 2019, the Gardiner Lab developed and tested the Dandelion Detectives protocol. We produced a step-by-step workbook, insect identification guide, weed identification guide and toolkit of materials to measure insect and weed abundance. We also designed a pre- and post-test survey and online data entry interface to compile all project findings. Dandelion Detectives will be open to youth nationwide during the summer of 2020. More information and instructions on how to register can be found on the Dandelion Detectives Website (u.osu.edu/dandeliondetectives).

Pollinator Investigators - Mary Gardiner, Kayla PerryPollinators

35 percent of the global food supply is highly reliant on animals for pollination! Worldwide declines in bees have been documented, threatening pollination services. The goal of the Pollination Investigators program (u.osu.edu/pollinationinvestigators) is to measure and compare the pollination services that insects provide to gardens in urban, suburban and rural areas. We do this by engaging citizen scientists to compare fruit set, fruit weight and seed set in pepper plants grown in the presence and absence of insect pollination. In the initial year of this program, 64 people elected to participate but only 14.1 percent submitted any data at the end of the summer. Using a follow up survey, we found that plant survivorship rates and protocol complexity were two factors that must be addressed to increase citizen scientist retention throughout the measurement of pollination services. To address these issues, we launched a website, blog, and Facebook page to provide citizen scientists with multiple avenues to interact and ask questions. We also provided additional plant care informationand a step-by-step animated video explaining the protocol. 


Creating Pollinator Habitat - Denise Ellsworth, Elizabeth Long

Pollinators face many threats, including lack of forage, damaging pathogens, climate change and harm from pesticides. Two workshops were held in 2018 to help Ohioans make positive changes to enhance pollinator health. The first one, Pollinators on Ohio Farms, brought 65 attendees together to focus on farm pollinator biology, bee identification, mason bee management, protecting pollinators from conservation and pollinator conservation. The second workshop focused on Bumble Bees in Ohio with 68 attendees who learned to identify common bumble bee species, received training to conduct queen bee foraging and nesting surveys, and learned strategies to conserve bumble bees. Many participants in these winter workshops attended field sessions in spring and summer to practice bee identification skills. 

In addition to the workshops, 50 pollinator plots were developed or enhanced for demonstration or outreach activities. Each plot consisted of locally sourced native plants which provided pollen and nectar sources for the various pollinators. Twenty of these sites are actually part of The Ohio State University phenology gardens, monitored by citizen scientists for pollinator visitation at sites such as Chadwick Arboretum on Ohio State’s Columbus campus, the Licking County Extension office in Newark, and at the A.I. Root Company in Medina. Additional sites feature cooperative efforts with OARDC Muck Crops Station, Ohio Department of Agriculture Soil and Water Districts, Holden Arboretum and various park districts. Interpretive signage was also developed and placed at the plots to help communicate the importance of pollinators and their habitat.