All posts by Clifton P. Dowell

Kids Unearth Ancient Native American Town

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

In the News: Ice Age Leafcutter Bee Fossils At La Brea Tar Pits

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.

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Mason Bee Experiment – 2014 – Post #2

Mason Bee Hotel
‘Bee Hotel’ placed facing east on April 8, 2014, against post supporting deck. Architectural shingle used to prove additional rain protection.

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.