Sunday, April 10, 2011

Urban Nature and a new love for mason bees

my oldest hard at work on her mason bee nesting box

The weekend is, sadly, drawing to a close. The rain stayed away until today, but the wet afternoon was well-suited for some Harry Potter reading and movie viewing. Yesterday, I took the girls to a truly awesome urban nature festival here in Seattle. We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the event and might have liked another hour were it not coming to an end. We'll hope they do it again next spring. My oldest was eager to get home with her pet mason bee, which was in the process of "hatching" from its cocoon. Too my daughter's joy, she did fully exit her cocoon about 7 hours later and was set free this morning.

Back to the show. We were riveted by the docile, sweet little mason bees from Knox Cellars Native Bees. Lisa, who came down from Bellingham, to share them was fabulous. Mason bees are docile and great for kids, and adults alike, who are just getting to know bees. Lisa was assisting the bees out of their cocoon homes - where they had spent the past 9 months, in refrigeration - by cutting little slits and partially opening them. Fascinating to see the horns of the females and watch them as their wings dried, they crawled around on our hands and prepared to attempt flight. I think they need a full 30 minutes, minimum, before they're ready for full-on sustained flight. The females can sting but usually won't. Over 20 years of working with bees, Lisa has only be stung three times. The girls and I were hooked! We don't mind that masons don't make honey or that they have such a short lifespan. Their temperament, solitary nature and great pollinating ability is perfect for our yard.

Aside from the bees, we loved getting to meet one of the great horned owls, Bob, from our local zoo. Bob can't fly due to a severed nerve. He was found on a trail by some hikers with cuts covering his body. After rehab he has proven to be an excellent ambassador for owls and other raptors. He is bea-u-ti-ful!! I had drawn up a little horned owl, recently, to eventually carve into a printing block. Bob is the perfect inspiration to finish it up.
horned owl from our zoo website. I don't think this is Bob

Don, from Insect Safari, has the most amazing collection of specimens. I've encountered him before but hadn't ever seen this much of his collection. He's another one with a fantastic style of responding to questions, furthering interest, and helping to shift our typically anthropomorphic mind set a bit. Perfect to capture the attention of a budding entomologist!
via Don's website,

The Reptile Guy from Roving Reptiles - he'd be great for a party - did not disappoint. Snakes, monitors, turtles, even an alligator. While much of his subtle humor was lost on my 4-yr-old, it was just that much more fun for the adults. And there was more, but you get the gist. Great stories from people so passionate about their area of expertise and highly capable of passing on the enthusiasm. Who wouldn't be gripped and grossed out by the story from the guy from NOAA who was performing a necropsy on a whale when he noticed the massive whale lice jumping from the dead whale to his own leg?! When he was able to pull these critters off, their legs stayed imbedded in his own leg. Ugh!
whale lice via

We shared our enthusiasm back at home with my husband who then worked with the girls to create a bee block for each of them. They worked with Dad to drill all of the holes, then lined each hole with parchment paper and used our wood-burning tool to add their names. Photos coming of the final nesting blocks hanging on our shed outside once the sun returns. Photos taken at the show were made with my phone and are of poor quality - darn - so I'll not post them. In any case, we are now committed to a more intimate relationship with our native bees. Orchard mason bees (osmia lignaria) now, maybe Californicas (osmia californica) come summer.

Lastly, I mustn't forget to share our new clothes pin people made this weekend. These two were made by my youngest with only a tad bit of assistance from me. Love that floral dress with flower belt.
Mom & Daughter

Clementine. I've already forgotten her daughter's name.

1 comment:

  1. I noticed in one photo that your daughter was getting a Mason bee nesting house ready to go. Did it get put out and what were the results?