Home Industry News Economics Oregon Vineyards are Becoming Bee Friendly in Four Easy Steps

Oregon Vineyards are Becoming Bee Friendly in Four Easy Steps

Did you know that many Oregon vineyards have bee habitat? Think of the shrubs that volunteer in the headlands, the landscaped gardens around the tasting room, and the resident vegetation, cover crops, and weeds within the vineyard. Some of Oregon’s 780 species of bees already call Oregon vineyards their home.

While bees are not required for successful pollination of grape flowers, helping bees can be an important part of a broader strategy to increase on-farm biodiversity that can help buffer pest issues. Consumers are also taking notice of efforts to protect bees, and there are several national certification programs highlighting bee friendly farming. For example, LIVE, Oregon’s sustainable farming certification program, began working with Pollinator Partnership, a national non-profit organization dedicated to pollinator protection, to enable growers to promote their grapes and wines as bee friendly.

The Bee Friendly Wine initiative from Oregon State University started in 2022 to prepare our wine grape
growers to lead the nation in the production and promotion of bee friendly wine. The initiative focuses on four approaches to achieve this goal: 1) take stock of what pollinator habitat exists in vineyards, 2) provide a custom report on how to best increase habitat, 3) learn techniques for building bee habitat and 4) allow companies to promote bee friendly wine to patrons. The full program is currently only available to producers in the Willamette Valley, but some components, like training and promotion, are available to all growers in the state.

Bee Stewardship Tool – Protecting what you have, adding what you can. We are developing a tool to help Oregon growers easily take stock of the bee habitat already in vineyards they manage. The Bee Stewardship Tool was piloted at 12 commercial vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2023 and combines plant records from each vineyard with the nation’s largest bee-plant network. This is accomplished by the grower capturing flowering plant images from across the vineyard landscape using the smartphone app iNaturalist. The Pollinator Health program at OSU then relates the plants to the bee species that typically visit that plant, and a report is automatically generated showing the top plants already on-site and the plants that would make the vineyard an exceptional bee habitat. This report also provides information on the rare and interesting bees at the site, and this information can be shared with winery patrons or staff to showcase the success of your conservation efforts.

Training on how to add bee habitat. Habitat for bees can be added to vineyards in a variety of ways. Shrubs and trees can be added to headlands, bee attractive ornamentals can be inserted into landscaping around tasting rooms, grass-dominated ground cover can incorporate species that flower after the grass has gone quiescent and flowering species can be included in cover crops between vine rows. We are offering five free demonstration events through spring 2024 to show wine industry professionals how to implement these practices within their vineyards.

Promoting conservation efforts to patrons. Winery patrons may be interested in the sustainability of your wine, but they may also be interested in learning how to be stewards of their own gardens and acreages. The Bee Friendly Wines team can help winery staff reach patrons with seed packs and infographic cards demonstrating garden designs that help pollinators. We also operate an annual Bee Friendly Wine Tour, where patrons can attend a tasting where trained Master Beekeeper, Gardeners or Melittologist docents can provide brief and engaging demonstrations on how to keep bees, garden for bees or a bee safari to identify common bees in your gardens.

The OSU Bee Program is ready to roll the new stewardship tool out across the Willamette Valley by enrolling more vineyards in the Bee Friendly Wines Project. If you are a vineyard and/or winery interested in getting more information or enrolling, email Andony (Andony.Melathopoulos@oregonstate.edu) or, better yet, complete the following interest form online at https://beav.es/qbT.  — By Dr. Andony Melathopoulos (Assistant Professor Pollinator Health Extension, Oregon State University) and Dr. Patty Skinkis (Professor & Viticulture Extension Specialist, Oregon State University)

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