Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beespeaker is on Instagram, and a Personal Loss


I have finally figured out how to post images on Instagram without owning a cell phone or ipad. And then moments after I posted my first images, I got news that one of my dearest friends had died suddenly.

It's like the experts say, I was absolutely in denial. Even this morning, the reality of what her death means to me has not fully penetrated the surface of my heart. That would be too much pain at once. Instead we let the truth in by fits and starts. Grieving takes its own time and you break down at odd moments. When you're eating peach crisp at a diner and you just wish you were sharing it with her. When you're grieving, you're eating for two.


Her voice is very much alive in my head: eating, shopping walking alongside me


John O'Donahue said we must create a raft of words to help the dead pass over. I will create a raft of images.



Donna, we love you so very much.

"You belong in wildflowers."

--Tom Petty

Bees in a Field of Phacelia: The Sharing Farm Hosts a Bumblebee Party


It's great to see a concerted effort to plant bee forage at The Sharing Farm in Terra Nova Park.


As you can see here, there is borage, mustard and sunflowers all along this fence, and the honeybees and bumblebees are loving it.



This is a lovely trio: borage, goldenrod and mustard. I spotted some lupins in here too.


You can also see a row of borage here and lots of clover interplanted with this Swiss chard.


 Even some of the everlasting flowers grown for the garlic braids will provide some food for bees.


I visited a farm this summer and although it was an organic farm, very tidy and well-managed, it felt lacking. Then I realized there were no sunflowers. A farm in summer without sunflowers is like a farm without a soul.



At this time of the year, we are seeing more and more of the eastern bumblebees, escapees from greenhouses. The practise of farming bumblebees is implicated in the loss of many native bumblebees. The bee on the left, however, is one that I can't identify. It looks like the male of the species I found below.


Since the hair is worn off its abdomen, identification is even more difficult than usual, but I will do some detective work.


It was quite a large bumblebee--queen-sized in fact.


As you can see, its wings are quite worn and it has yellow or buff hairs at the top of its head and a handsome black tache.


The farm has been a recipient of grants from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation to grow bee forage on the farm. This field of phacelia bordered by clover and mustard is a direct result of that funding under the leadership of Leslie Williams.


While I wandered around the edges of the meadow, a photographer had his wife wade into the flowers so he could take the classic "beautiful women in flowers" shot. One of the farmers had suggested he mow a U-shaped path in the meadow for folks to wander through. Paths are good, but most of the action happens around the edges of the field anyway. And less paths means more flowers for the bees.


This eastern bumblebee is having a rest after gathering pollen from another plant. The pollen from this phacelia is actually dark purple.






This is what I think is the female of that mystery Bombus above. She is lovely!


Having this field of phacelia on the farm boosts the number and variety of bees on the site. Dr. Gordon Frankie has counted 56 species of bees on this species of phacelia in California. You can check out a nice interview with him here.


Thanks to Leslie Williams, the instigator of this project, for demonstrating what a beautiful meadow can do for our bees. This is a great model for Richmond because it creates a good habitat synergy in the zones between farming sites and wild habitat. Meadows help feed the farmed pollinators and the wild bees. More meadows please!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vampire-Free Bees at the Metro Vancouver Garlic Festival


I've been looking forward to the Garlic Festival at the Sharing Farm all summer. This is such a great event for a great cause--good karma all around.


Garlic is a great thing to celebrate, especially when it's grown organically on a small organic farm.


They also grow the strawflowers used to make the garlic braids.


The morning light makes those tomatoes look especially delicious.





And of course you need some good ole Chilliwack corn to go with that garlic, picked just that morning. The corn dude told me he was up at 4 a.m. That's a real farmer for you.



There was wonderful music and good food by local chefs. The blackberry sage ice cream and tostado salads rocked.


There were a few things I missed from earlier festivals: winter veggie starts, foccacia with garlic cooked in the cob oven, and garlic for planting. PLEASE BRING THEM BACK!!!!!!


I love to see a whole raised bed full of catmint animated by (vampire-free) bees.


The fennel is explosive!


More catmint, plus borage and mustard make good bee forage.


At first I thought these were the latest hipster invention: fish popsicles! Fishicles.


This invention in the kid's area was such a great idea--even the really wee ones could play with it.


And I had a blast helping kids make and decorate seed packets to take home to plant for the bees.




Kudos to my cool volunteer who was an amazing helper and did this awesome drawing! And thanks to the staff and all the volunteers who made this event successful. Long live the garlic growers and eaters!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vines Art Festival in Hadden Park


 It was my pleasure to lead a bee story safari for the Vines Arts Festival, starting in Hadden Park. I got my first glimpse inside the lovely field hose, with George Rahi giving me the rundown on Publik Secrets and showing me all their cool stuff. I love all the musical organ and bike-related inventions.


We started the tour by talking about the relationship of trees to bees, and I mentioned the mountain ash tree in the first photo above. The beach is quite windy, which presents an energy-draining obstacle for bees, but I was impressed to see intrepid bees in blackberry flowers, Japanese knotweed and morning glory along the paved walking path.


We stopped at this totem pole in front of the Maritime Museum and I was very excited to see this tree poppy (Romneya coulteri) for the first time ever in my life. The stamens are lush with pollen and the scent is beguiling.



It was intriguing that the honeybee we saw was carrying golden brown pollen. Was this the color of the flowers or was this pollen from visiting a previous flower?



 Before heading to Vanier park, I stopped by some perennial sweet peas and talked about ground-nesting bees and the problem with neonics. As Vancouver has banned neonics there are likely still nurseries selling plants treated with neonics in Vancouver without any labelling. Then we headed to this patch of ragwort tansy by a pond. The bees, like this Eastern bumblebee, love it but it is a noxious invasive plant.




This is a  turquoise sweat bee I saw on the ragwort tansy last week.


In front of the museum we have coleus, prized for its beautiful foliage. However, I was happy to see little black bees, honeybees and bumblebees in the flowers!





The zinnias and brown-eyed Susan flowers in the planters attracted bumblebees and honeybees.



This goose-necked loosestrife at the side of the museum attracted bumblebees and wee bees.





Here's a honeybee collecting pollen from brown-eyed Susans.


This is a sweat bee (Halictus rubicundus) also collecting Rudbeckia pollen. There were also many sand wasps last week.


Here's a shot of the mint plant growing around the pond we visited.


Now this is a male bumblebee. Male bees are all about the sperm delivery system. The male bee has a penis that only fits into the female of its species--like a key fitting a lock. Some male bees mate with one female and die (like honeybees). Others mate over and over again with several females (like wool carder bees). Most male bees eat and mate and that's about it. Other males defend their chosen flower patch and male wool carder bees will even attack other male bees and inflict damage with his spikey butt. Charming.


Now this is a cool insect. At first glance, it seems like a yellow jacket. However, I noticed some wierd wing action going on, so took a closer look. This is a fly mimicking a wasp.



 See the stubby antennae? That'd be a fly. And look at those big compound eyes!


The flower is threadleaf coreopsis, which bees of all stripes love.


This Canada goose was also visiting the pond. Modernism meets Canadian feathered fauna.


And speaking of modernism, let's get rid of this bloody useless lawn in front of the Vancouver Academy of Music. It sucks and it's full of goose grease! More native bee gardens please! The Smithsonian has gardens, so why not the Museum of Vancouver?

Please join me on Saturday in Trout Lake Park for more Vines Arts Festival fun!