Plants & Farm StoriesFeb 2, 2022

Pharm Spotlight: Oregon Bee Project

Sayaka Lean, who oversees our Botanical Education Garden, became a Master Gardener back in 2007, and her work at Herb Pharm feeds her passion for learning all that she can about plants. However, she wanted to do more for the insects who share space with our herbs. Sayaka has tended our land for over 16 years, and she spends a great deal of time observing these insects.

To deepen her knowledge of one important pollinating insect, Sayaka began looking into the work of the Oregon Bee Project, an initiative that combines the knowledge and resources of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon State University Extension Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry and other interested parties.

Entomologists believe we have more than 500 species of bees in Oregon alone, and OBP wants to take inventory and observe all of them in their natural habitat. That’s a big undertaking, so they’re working with gardeners like Sayaka. Climate change, as well as the manipulation and loss of habitat, makes tracking bees even more challenging, according to Judi Maxwell, an entomologist and Master Gardener with OBP.

A decline in the population of even one type of bee can have wide-reaching consequences in nature. “A lot of our bees only collect pollen or only feed on a particular type of flower,” said Phylis McIntosh, a botanist and Master Gardener with OBP. “The flower depends on that particular bee for its pollination. And so if something happens to the bee, or bee life cycle, you not only lose that bee, but chances are you’re going to lose that native plant, too.” Getting involved with the Oregon Bee Project is one more way we can help ensure that our native plants and their habitats prosper for generations to come.

Sayaka calls our Botanical Education Garden “insect heaven,” due to the diversity of plants and the sustainable, regenerative practices we use. She has observed 20 or so bee species in one year, with the hope of identifying even more in the coming seasons. Sayaka is working with OBP to learn additional pollinator-friendly gardening techniques, as part of their flagship program. Working with Oregon Bee Project is an easy way for us to help protect our ecosystem and all that call it home.

About the Oregon Bee Project:

Initiated in 2017, the Oregon Bee Project is a cooperative effort between the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon State University Extension Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and a diverse set of stakeholders who are actively engaged in caring for our bees. Together these collaborators and supporters are launching several initiatives to maintain and enhance bee health in Oregon.

Its mission is to bring “together Oregonians around a science-based strategy for protecting and promoting wild and managed bees through education, pollinator-friendly practices and research.”