While stinging insects can be a nuisance at a picnic ground or patio, the opposite is true when it comes to vineyards and the land that surrounds them.
Keeping the bees happy is not something Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon thinks is for the birds. As an active Low Input Viticulture and Enology and B Corp certified company, Stoller Head of Corporate Gardens Corinne Gosness said conserving insect habitats and communities has consistently remained a focus in the company’s vineyards, landscapes, buildings and tasting rooms.
“All vineyard management practices are conducted with beneficial insects and pollinators to promote a low impact, high yield effect on the insect communities,” Gosness said. “Portions of the farmland where vineyards are not planted have been cleared of invasive species so that we can continue improving the quality and size of the pollinator habitat.
“This enhances the benefits pollinators bring to our ecosystem. We implement alternate row mowing to keep portions of that habitat available to pollinators when mowing is needed.”
Stoller keeps more than just European honeybees in mind when it comes to its pollinator population.
It alternates the rows it mows and plants with a flowering cover crop to maintain consistent habitat and food for beneficial insects and pollinators such as lady beetles, lacewings, predatory mites and many species of bees, which encourage vine health by pollinating crops and native plants as well as preying on pests in the vineyard and reducing the need for inorganic control.
The estate’s grounds include areas with undisturbed ground providing habitat for several types of ground-nesting bees. Mason bee housing is placed and created near all fruit orchards as part of the landscape design.
“Additionally, the estate has dedicated gardens with large swaths of native and non-native food oasis plantings,” Gosness said. “Each is designed to provide blooming food sources throughout the different seasons.”
Stoller has also made general conservation efforts for endangered species a priority in the Willamette Valley, too. The objective of its Pollinator Pathway Project objectives is to help connect and create habitat for two rare species of butterflies in Oregon: The Fender’s Blue butterfly and the Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly. The butterflies rely on threatened/endangered plants for food. The Fender’s Blue lives its life cycle on Kincaid’s Lupine while the Taylor’s Checkerspot feeds on Golden Paintbrush during adolescence.
Making these plants available for these species is one way Gosnell said the winery is trying to lead by example.
“These rare plants, along with 50,000 native species bulbs planted in our White Oak savanna, may be the inspiration to gain willing partners through observing our models across the estate.” Gosnell said. “With the inspiration to gain willing partners through observing our models across the estate. With much of the Willamette Valley’s oak savannas lost, the Stoller estate has approximately 57 acres that, with great effort, could be restored to thriving ecosystems with pollinator habitats.
“Scheduled plantings of flowering hedgerows will draw wild species of insects to reside and migrate to our vineyard and other partners across the Willamette Valley.”