It’s National Pollinator Week

Thanks to Pollinator Partnership for providing these Pollination Fast Facts!

What is pollination?
Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of all flowering plants. When pollen is moved within a flower or carried from one flower to another of the same species it leads to fertilization. This transfer of pollen is necessary for healthy and productive native and agricultural ecosystems.

  • About 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization.
  • About 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals.
  • Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees.

Why are pollinators important?
Pollinators are often keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem. The work of pollinators ensures full harvests of crops and contributes to healthy plants everywhere.

  • An estimated 1/3 of all foods and beverages is delivered by pollinators.
  • In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.

How you can help:

  • Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
  • Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your
    area, download a free ecoregional guide online at
  • Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators. Host a dinner, a pollinated food cook-off or other event and invite
    your friends.
  • Join the Pollinator Partnership Go to and click on “Get Involved.” Be part of a growing community of pollinator supporters.

For more information visit Pollinator Partnership



Meet Mark Nagel Volunteer Beekeeper

Hi Everyone!

Let me introduce myself.  My name is Mark Nagel and I am the new volunteer beekeeper at the Garden.  I have been keeping bees for 6 years and am an Oregon State University certified apprentice beekeeper working towards becoming a master beekeeper.  I have several beehives located throughout the valley and also manage the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club hives located at the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center in Boise.

May has been a busy month for the three new hives at IBG.  We started with one hive from a package of bees the first weekend of April.  A package of bees is about 3 pounds of bees and a newly mated queen that are placed together in a hive.  This hive has shown great progress harvesting the spring nectar flow leading up to me having to add a honey super this week to start collecting honey!  It is not common for a package of bees to produce honey the first year, but we have had a warm early spring with a lot of nectar and pollen in the Foothills.  It also helped to have previously drawn honeycomb to put us ahead of schedule.

The second hive was started from a swarm I caught the last week of April on the Boise Bench.  I gave them a permanent home at IBG the first week of May.  Doing a routine inspection this week the queen has a beautiful laying pattern and hive population is increasing quicker than expected!

Finally, the third hive was completely unexpected.  I came up to install the swarm I had caught into their permanent home and another swarm had moved into the hive we had just set up the week prior to moving the new swarm into!  What a great surprise!  This hive is just starting to establish itself and making some good early progress.

Looking forward into June I will be monitoring queen production, hive population, and early season mite counts* as we move into the main nectar flow for our region late June and into July.

Please stay tuned in the upcoming months as I plan on providing monthly updates about the newest members of the garden!  I look forward to discussing bees with you all!  If you have any questions about the IBG hives or beekeeping, in general, please feel free to reach out to me.

*Mite counts are a way I can track the level of the Varroa Destructor mite.  A parasitic mite that is plaguing the honey bee population.  You can read more about this honey bee issue at:

Submitted By, Mark Nagel, Volunteer Beekeeper


30,000 Honey Bees!

Please welcome our newest IBG staff members…30,000 honey bees!


Please welcome our newest IBG staff members…30,000 honey bees! The Garden is now keeping honey bees (Apis mellifera) to promote honey bee and pollinator awareness through hands-on education. Our bee hives are NOT open for visitors yet, so if you see hives in the Garden please respect the “restricted area” signage.

We’d also like to welcome our amazing Volunteer Beekeeper, Mark Nagel! Mark comes to us from the Treasure Valley Beekeeping Club and his own 720 Apiaries with many years of beekeeping experience. Thanks Mark!

The Buzz Around Town: This is a bumper year for bees! With an early winter warm spell, honey bees in the Treasure Valley have gotten a jump start. As the queen bee lays eggs and populates the hive, the hive gets crowded. This causes the hive to split into two populations, wherein one of them “swarms” and leaves the hive in search for a new home. If you see a honey bee swarm, do not “bee” alarmed! Contact a local beekeeper to remove the swarm at


Submitted By, Sierra Laverty, Assistant Horticulture Director


Interested in Saving Seeds?

Here are some very basic seed saving tips!

Some of the easiest flowers to collect seeds from include:

  • Chocolate flower (Berlandieria lyrata)
  • Winecups (Callirhoe involucrata)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea sp.)
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

Be aware that there are many hybrid varieties of Black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and sunflowers. If you save seed from a hybrid, it may be sterile, or the resulting plant may revert back to looking like one of the hybrid plant’s parents. You can save these seeds, but the plant you grow will be a surprise!

A couple of very easy herbs to save seed from include dill and cilantro.

1. Observe your plant and seed formation:

Don’t deadhead if you want to collect seed! Let the flower bloom and then go to seed. The best time to collect seed varies for each flower type, but you want to let the seeds dry on the plant as long as possible. Observe plants frequently and watch as seeds develop and ripen.

2. Collect your seed:

Shake the seed head over a paper bag to collect the seeds, or snip off the entire dried seed head and drop it into a labeled paper bag.

3. Clean your seed:

Some seeds fall freely from the seed heads or pods; others need to be rubbed to loosen them. Discard non-seed material.

4. Store your seed:

Don’t use plastic bags to store your seed long-term. Good choices for seed storage are small glass jars and envelopes. Whatever you use, label your seeds! Store your seeds in a cool place, like the refrigerator.


For more information on seed saving, check out:



Written by IBG


Nursery & Greenhouse Coordinator

Garden Tour Search Coordinator


Plantoids at the Garden

Idaho Botanical Garden hosted the Plantoids Robotics Workshop


In an unusual pairing of robotics and horticulture, the Idaho Botanical Garden hosted the Plantoids Robotics Workshop. Plantoids are simple robot creatures that allow a plant to move, explore, look for food, and even ask for a drink of water. These plant cyborgs help us to better understand the relationship that technology has with nature.

The Plantoids Robotic Workshop took place in the spring of 2017, and was made possible by a grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center. Dave Ultis of Citizen Scientific created the workshop and agreed to partner with the Garden. He was inspired to develop plantoids because “the idea of a carnivorous, cybernetic plant experiment just seemed like a really fun concept that had a lot of great practical outcomes in terms of the hardware platform and new concepts for robotics. I saw how some really intriguing sciences are performed with plant signaling and I wanted to make my robots perform a series of experiments that start simply and work through building more complex systems a bit at a time.”

The plantoid chassis are laser cut plastic components connected by zip ties. Participants had to master “Zip Tie Fu.” Dave shares that zip ties are the perfect connector system: “both a permanent and temporary solution to anything, being able to become an instant fix while being able to be taken out of service quickly without making a mess.” With little more than a screwdriver and wire cutters, the robots took shape. Workshop participants constructed the plantoid chassis, added a battery pack and sensors, and then integrated the butterwort plant host. This was the first robot and terrarium for several participants. Dave said, “The camp was incredibly fun because we were doing a new approach. We were blazing a trail for robotics in the Garden.”

Workshop participants used a basic kit from Citizen Scientific Workshop (the Medulla Oblong Bota Arduino Nano Breakout Kit) in the creation of their plantoids.
Sensors connected to the kit allow each plantoid to react to specific stimuli. The robot monitors temperature, light, and moisture, and is programmed to seek out optimum living conditions, moving along on treads. Participants programmed their plantoids, setting variables for optimum living conditions.

This first plantoids workshop resulted in robots buzzing around the classroom at the Garden! Several builders replaced the treads with wheels and experimented with the sensor variables. Dave shared that he was encouraged by how quickly the builders “became comfortable with solving problems and beginning to have their own ideas on how to optimize and tune their robots. “Everyone was super enthusiastic. It had an engaged community feel to it.”

INCLUDED IN THE PLANTOIDS BASE KIT ARE: Soil moisture sensor, Air temperature and humidity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Air quality sensor, RGB LED, & Speaker


Dave believes that such projects can engage a wide range of people, allowing “everyone to participate in the sciences starting at a beginner level.” In his Kickstarter campaign for Citizen Scientific, Dave also shares some practical wisdom, pointing out that “plantoids are living beings, which meansthey can …meet an unfortunate end. In fact, they are guaranteed to expire at some time, just like all things. It may not happen for weeks, months, or years, it could very well happen to your plantoid tomorrow when your little brother launches it down the stairs. The key is science and through all experiments in science, something can be learned.”

You may soon see plantoids at gardens around the United States. Citizen Scientific conducted a Kickstarter campaign that featured an “Adopt a Garden: Plantoid Workshop” pledge level. As part of its recent Kickstarter campaign, Citizen Scientific has pledged to host plantoid workshops in public gardens located near project donors. These workshops are planned for 2018, though locations have not yet been announced.

After shipping the initial batch of plantoid kits from the recent Kickstarter campaign, Dave plans to release an ecosystem for Plantoids with new lessons and types of robots, as well as an app that integrates the Plantoid environment with augmented effects driven by the data it collects.

Richard Mussler-Wright
Member Relations Coordinator, Idaho Botanical Garden


Focus on Early Childhood

Project Learning Tree – Professional Development Workshop

Focus on Early Childhood – March 16-17, 2018

Friday, 4:30-8:30 pm. Saturday, 8:30 am–3:30 pm with Idaho Botanical Garden

This class features PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood activity guide (recipient of Learning Magazine’s Teachers Choice Award) aimed at learners ages 3-7. PLT activities integrate nature-based exploration, art, literature, math, music and movement, STEM and outdoor play into early childhood education pro-grams. “Family & Friends” activities provided in both English and Spanish. FUN!

DOWNLOAD REGISTRATION FORM HERE. To guarantee your place, send the $40 workshop fee with a copy of this sheet to PLT, 350 N 9th St., #102, Boise ID, 83702. (Fee refunded if you cancel at least one week before the workshop.) We will send you a memo with workshop details. You’ll sign up for Idaho STARS hours and/or university credit (if applicable) at the workshop.




Rethinking Idaho Landscapes

The Idaho Botanical Garden and the University of Idaho continue popular and important community forum, Rethinking Idaho Landscapes on February 22, 2014. Keynote speaker, Toby Hemenway, will introduce the ecological design approach known as permaculture and shows how it can be used to create water-wise landscapes in dry climates. Read the article »