Monday, May 25, 2015

You're Invited to a Second Site Tea Party and Wind Garden workshop on Sunday, May 31

Second Site collective: Tea Party and Wind Garden workshop
at Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre
7646 Prince Albert St, Vancouver
(60th and Prince Albert, two blocks east of Fraser)

Sunday May 31st from 1pm to 4 pm

Join us for a Tea Party and wind-crafting workshop on Sunday May 31st
at the gardens beside the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre. Help build
a Wind Garden by making your own wind powered gizmo to plant in the
earth or simply come for tea and take a look at the artworks. Diana
Burgoyne will work with participants to create a field of wind-powered
buzzing noise-makers. Peter Courtemanche will build a sound piece that
sings-along with the wind. Robin Ripley will help you fashion your own
wind catcher using a variety of recycled materials. Lori Weidenhammer
will craft parachutes for carrying wind-borne materials to different
parts of the garden.

Spread the word and invite your friends.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

First Leafcutter Bee of the Season in Vancouver: California Lilacs Bloom

A California lilac shrub stopped me in my tracks at the busy intersection of W4th and MacDonald.The flowers were covered with bees of all stripes scrambling to collect pollen. I watched as their pollen baskets filled and their jodhpurs grew fat with lemony pollen.

There were bumblebees, andrena mining bees, and lots of these solitary bees with striped butts.

Back home in our garden I also spotted the first leafcutter of the season, looking fluffy and freshly hatched. I am amazed at how having three lupins in my back yard has attracted a variety of native bees.

The wool carder bees have also set up shop at the lupins where the males patrol the flowers and mate with the females. I witnessed a male wool carder bee knock a bumblebee queen right out of the flower with a full body check. She didn't even see it coming. Cheeky!

 I also observed a honeybee try her darndest to access lupin pollen or nectar, but she gave up after two valiant attempts. These small bees are sneaking in and gathering pollen, flying under the radar of the possessive wool carder males.

As the blue orchard bees are wrapping it up, the smaller summer mason bees are getting busy. Even this little one can trip the keels of the lupins to daintily  sip the nectar.

I'm also pleased to announce my first sighting of a cuckoo be in the forget-me-nots our back yard. My friend Jasna tells me the rim around the nectar turns from yellow to white once the flower has been pollinated. Cool!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Queen and Comfrey: Visit VanDusen Gardens this Victoria Day Weekend

 If you want to visit VanDusen gardens, this is the long weekend to do it because there are so many cool plants in bloom and the bees are very busy. The laburnum walk is humming with bumblebees. This comfrey is also a popular spot for the queens and workers. It's a good place to observe different species of bumblebees working alongside each other.

We don't have many redbud trees in Vancouver, but this is a beautiful example of a Judas tree with pea-shaped blossoms that is a bumblebee favorite.

Here's a close-up of the stamens and the nectar guides. The blossoms are a striking hue of hot pink.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

They're Back: Turquoise Sweat Bees Emerge in Vancouver on Mother's Day

 Happy Mother's Day! We celebrated with a picnic at the farmer's market and I spent some happy time gardening at home and at MACC. I noticed that the white Dutch clover and red clover are blooming today, which may be an indicator for the arrival of some late spring emerging bees such as this turquoise sweat bee and the common large Adrena mining bees we have here. These flowers are five spot, which reseeded themselves from last fall. There were all sorts of bees in the flowers from honeybees down to tiny black solitary bees.

The last of the blue orchard mason bees were also foraging in the five spot and the poached egg flowers, which also reseeded themselves generously.  I also witnessed a small female mason bee tripping the keels of the lupin flowers and drinking the nectar in my back yard.

I noticed that even though the two patches of flowers were side by side, the syrphid flies seemed more attracted to the yellow flowers, and the bees were more bonkers over the five spot. It would be worth doing a quick survey of these flowers every time I visit the garden.

The native roses we planted are also in bloom and they were full of little mining and sweat bees swimming in the stamens. Another phenological indicator that's about to happen is the mock orange trees are just starting to bloom.

On a completely different note, I am suddenly seeing a lot of click beetles this year. Keep an eye out for wire worms!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chafer Beetle Shadenfreude

As the European chafer beetles and their predators ravage lawns in East Vancouver, I am silently cheering them on. Skunks, raccoons flickers and crows are the Vancouver foodies who love the new culinary trend in raw exotic larvae. The scruffier the lawn, the more it appeals to little ground nesting bees. On a sunny day you can look at lawns like this and see masses of them digging holes and laying eggs, with cuckoo bees lurking and nipping in to lay their eggs and then shirking their maternal duties. Carnivorous wasps are foodies too, hovering above the living buffet to snatch their favorite delicacies.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trafalgar's Spring Menu: Beet Risotto

Early spring is an exciting season when the first locally grown produce from the new season starts to hit the Vancouver menus. Trafalgar's has added a new beet risotto to the menu garnished with translucent slices of spring radishes and freshly shaved horse radish. It's borscht-meets-risotto, but even better than the sum of its parts. Creamy brie is the magic ingredient that ties it all together. Isn't it pretty?

The lilacs are in bloom, pumping out their spring cologne and the male flickers are making a racket. Today my neighbor Jean and I saw two crows chasing a bald eagle away from their nest. My forget-me-nots are full of bees of all sizes and I am seeing the first runty bumblebees emerging from the nest. The cherries are dropping their petals, but any trees still in bloom are full of a frenzy of honeybees, bumblebees and mining bees. I'm not seeing many mason bees. They may be finishing up early this year.