More than 400 years ago, Spanish explorers built a small fort in the Native American town of Joara in the mountains of North Carolina. Today, archaeologists are exploring the fields where Joara once stood. And students get to help. Involving lots of work and lots of fun, it’s the only way to learn about hands-on archaeology for kids. Learn more at GoPhineas.com
The La Brea Tar Pits in California are known for saber-toothed cats and mastodons but they also have insects. Recent examination of fossil leafcutter bee nest cells, led by Anna Holden of Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and colleagues, reveal insights into the habitat and climate at the La Brea Tar Pits toward the last Ice Age.
After getting rained out yesterday, we got the bee hotel placed today. April 8 is later in the year than we originally intended, but we’ll see whether we are too late soon enough. We first put the blocks under the screened porch, where they would be out of the rain entirely, but decided it would be hard to see them there when the plants start growing. So we decided to move the hotel to a more open area under the deck. Both locations face east, which matters because — according to our reading — young bees emerge and need sunlight to ‘get them going.’
We added a shingle to provide more protection from the elements, and weighted it down with rocks and two bricks. We had to use a hoe to level the ground beneath the base block, which left some exposed mud. If bees move in, it seems reasonable that they’ll use the closest mud to start building. The mud is nice and dark, so it will be easy to find some lighter-colored mud that we can leave in a tray. If they have two choices, both of which are equally convenient, we can observe whether the bees prefer one color over the other.
During the winter we looked at an easy way to build a “bee hotel” to attract solitary bees to your garden. Solitary bees — mason bees are the most well known — do a super job pollinating fruits, vegetables and flowers and don’t like to sting. They build nests in long narrow holes that they find already made in their environment. These holes could be hollow plant stems or holes drilled by woodpeckers and insects in wood. The bees use mud to build chambers in the holes, then lay an egg in each chamber. Before sealing up the chamber, they leave a dab of pollen and nectar in each for the larva to eat when it hatches.
Now that spring has finally arrived, we’re going to put out a simple bee hotel and see if we can, in fact, get bees to move into it. If they do, we’ll follow their progress and see what we can learn as we go. If they don’t we’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can figure out where we went wrong.
First things first. We wanted to make our bee hotel stable, so we went with a very stable and simple design that should be easy enough for anyone to replicate. We used the round collection of canes we made in the winter and placed it in one side of a cinder block, then filled around with additional canes. We filled the second side, which took a lot more time without the head start. As you can see from the picture above, it’s hard to fill all the space because the canes jam on each other when you try to slide them in. You can buy cardboard tubes that are uniform, but we like to use supplies we find around the garage when we can.
We’ll put our bee hotel out tomorrow and document it in its southeast-facing location. Then we’ll wait…