“People don’t seem to know very much about native species of bees. They think honeybees are native, that all bees produce honey, that all bees live in hives.”
Randall Cass, Iowa State University Extension entomologist for honeybees and native bees, will help overcome some common misunderstandings like these about bees during his Pollinator Week program 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 23, at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.
“A lot of people are blankly open about the fact they don’t know very much,” Cass said.
His passion for bees took a long and winding road to where he is today. He worked with bees doing organic certification in Portland, OR, and did research on the economics of beekeeping in South America. He also worked in a honeybee research lab while studying for his masters degree at the University of California Davis. He finally worked with small farmers and rural beekeepers in Central America before deciding he wanted to focus on bees as the Extension entomologist.
During his approximately one-hour program at the Dickinson County Nature Center, Cass will talk about honeybees and native bees in the Iowa landscape, the latest research on bee health in soybean and prairie systems as well as best practices of how beekeepers, farmers and landowners can help promote pollinating species.
Cass’ job consists of about 30 percent bee research and 70 percent reaching the public, including beekeepers, farmers, landowners and homeowners, about how they can help pollinators.
Pollinator populations have suffered in the past 50 years, with up monarch populations dropping by up to 90 percent, honeybee populations decreasing by more than 50 percent and the rusty-patched bumblebee even being placed on the federal endangered species list in 2017.
However, pollinators are incredibly important for wildflower pollination as well as for the pollinating of food sources. One in three bites of food that humans take is due to the pollination of bees.
Cass wants people to be aware of where pollinators live — from cavity dwellers to those that nest in prairie areas — as well as what flowers bees like to visit and how people can make a difference by planting those species.
Cass said that honeybees and monarch butterflies are the poster children for pollinators, but “I would like to see more attention brought to native bees species.”
He hopes that a new awareness of native bees begins to come to Iowans as he continues reaching the public through his programming.
“I hope they’re aware and have some tools to take action to promote pollinator conservation,” Cass said.
For more information on pollinator programming at the Dickinson County Nature Center or to learn about the new Pollinator Paradise addition and how to donate, click here or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up on the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.