Sunday, October 4, 2015

Faux Queen on Gaillardia

When you're trying to get a good photo to ID a bee, you need to get a clear shot of the head, thorax and abdomen.

 Usually this takes me about 20-30 shots. It takes patience and perseverance.

It becomes a meditation.

And a kind of conversation. Often with the bee telling me in so many words to leave her alone so she can get back to work.

The model: I'm guessing she's a cuckoo  bumblebee.
What she's wearing: At first appearance it looks like she's covered in shaggy hairs designed for gathering pollen, but the glare off her body shows she may be wearing the faux fur intead of the setae a true bumblebee. And I don't see any pollen baskets.
The location: Mountainview Cemetery meadow created by Jack Tupper as part of the Antler Collective.
The flower: A drought tolerant Gaillardia, or blanket flower
The seed mix: West Coast Seeds Bee Garden Blend custom made by Brian Campbell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Martin John Book launch with Anakana Schofield

Hi Friends,

I'm thrilled that my friend Anakana Schofield's novel Martin John has been nominated for the Giller Prize. Woot! She is touring this fall and the Vancouver launch is right in our neighbourhood. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Comes to the Bee Garden

Late-blooming perennials can provide important food for bees.

I like the way this gardener has layered and interplanted some great pollinator-friendly plants, including garlic chives, savory, and sedum.

This plumbago is my new favorite, after seeing giant bumblebee queens foraging in it in the Xeriscape garden in Summerland.

 Look at the crazy blossom morphology of this bluebeard blossom!

Before you pull all those oxalis plants from your garden, think about the last sips of nectar these little bees will take before their life cycle ends. And look at the lovely symmetry of the leaves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Beautiful Okanagan Bees

While on holiday to the Okanagan I saw this  beautiful bee in the garden at Poplar Grove Winery. Wineries that plant pollinator and/or insectary gardens are my favorite because it breaks up the monoculture of the acres of grape vines. These gardens also provide beneficial insects that help make healthier grapes, even though they are pollinated by wind and gravity. As I guessed, there was an abundance of ground-nesting bees.

A highlight of the trip was the Summerland Xeriscape Garden where we made mental notes on which plants were functioning well with minimal water while feeding the bees. This is a cuckoo bee on Heliopsis.

Golden rod and milkweed make good companions and attract beneficial wasps.

In other gardens, spirea supported bumblebees.

There were many turquoise sweat bees, especially in this weed. The bees circled round and round the stamens collecting pollen.

Syrphid flies also visited these small white flowers.

 Gaillardia is an important drought tolerant flower and Perovskia is used in many gardens as well.

We'll need to continue to look to the Okanagan to choose hardy plants that perform well in dry summers.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mountainview Cemetery Meadow by the Antler Collective

Jack Tupper and Antler Collective have planted meadows all over Vancouver to study pollinators and the public's reaction to various kinds of meadows in public spaces. The meadow at Mountainview Cemetery is in bloom right now at 37th ave between Main and Fraser.

I found it touching and inspiring to see this vital planting in the graveyard.

 With every flutter, pulse and buzz, bees give us the message to live our lives diving into beauty.

Creating corridors of these meadows could provide valuable links among the network of backyard gardens in this neighborhood.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beespotting at City Farmer

My physiotherapist is close to City Farmer, so I have a good excuse to go on a few bee safaris these days. The heliopsis is the current star bee plant, bringing in little leafcutter bees, like the one above and a few more species with cute striped butts.

 Here's the pointy butt of a cuckoo bee. She was also foraging in one of the many patches if thyme that are flowering in the garden right now.

And then that glamorous sweat bee showed up. Even though those the legs appear as if they have pollen, I think it's a male because of the long antennae.

 The cosmos were also popular with the striped butt crowd. Here is a larger species of leafcutter bee.

 Finally, a wee bee, maybe a Halictid species. Stripes are definitely the fashion at City Farmer Garden this summer!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Perennial Sweet Peas for Bees

 Look for bumblebees and leacutter bees in perennial sweet peas. The blossoms are a great source of nectar and pollen. However, the bumblebee seems better equipped to trigger the keel of the blossom to release the pollen and get right into the nectar tube. I noticed that this leafcutter bee was not triggering the blossom, but still sipping nectar. You can see the damage her feet are making to the flower as she struggles to find purchase.  

You can see the nectar guides and the damage clearly in this photo. When a bumblebee  depresses the keel a stamen wraps around her back and dusts it with pollen. I have seen leafcutters with pollen I thought was from perennial sweet peas, but now I'm not sure how they would harvest it. Keep a look out for clues! These sweet peas are unscented, but the annual varieties are not as attractive to bees.