I was asked to be a nature mentor and take some Vancouver NatureKids and their caregivers on a bee safari. We met in beautiful Oak Meadows Park at the bee hotel. I started by showing them the small leafcutter bees that were using the tunnels in the hotel as nesting sites and we saw a little bee carrying a piece of leaf into one of the entrances.
It was the perfect day for a bee safari and the flowers were active with bees of all stripes. Before setting out we covered some bee safety tips and I gave everyone a sheet with prompts: twenty things to try to find on our safari.
A flower with pollen that is a color other than yellow or orange: fireweed. Check! Fireweed has green or blue pollen. Look for honeybees, bumblebees and leafcutter bees in fireweed.
And here's a reminder to enter any good bee safari photos you've taken in the EYA's photo contact. There's gonna be prizes!
Another flower with unusual pollen is lacy phacelia or The Bee's Friend. This little bee is rubbing herself along the long stamens to gather the purple pollen. West Coast Seeds sells packages of this flower, calling it purple tansy. There's a really nice photo of a bumblebee right on the package. Whatever it's called, I highly recommend putting it in your garden.
Doesn't she look fierce in flight? Even so, she's a "tickle bee" and cannot sting you! Look at the mandibles she has for digging her nest. She must be some kind of sweat or mining bee, carrying pollen on her legs.
When you're on a bee safari always look in the weeds for bees, especially dandelions and false dandelions. You are likely to see the really wee bees swimming around in the shallow flowers, covering themselves in pollen.
And here's a wool carder bee, resting before nesting in one of these holes where she stuffs wool carded from the nearby wooly lamb's ear plant. I think she's the bee that's sealing the holes with the tiny pebbles you see here. We also saw a hole stuffed with resin--made by another kind of bee or wasp. I even saw a parasitic wasp or ant stuck in the resin--what a cool evolutionary tool!
You often see these little bees on yarrow literally up to their armpits in pollen. Some have yellow leg hairs, making them seem even more neon yellow when they are coated in yarrow pollen.
At the end of the safari we headed over to the entrance of VanDusen Gardens. This planting is an example of one of my favorite native combinations of plants: sedum, blanket flower, nodding onion and Ocean Spray. There were Melissodes digger bees and leafcutter bees here.
This patch of flowers near the entrance of the new building is worth a visit in itself.
And I did see a turquoise sweat bee, even though she proved elusive during our safari.
The sloped soil and stone wall likely provide great sites for ground nesting bees here.
I really enjoyed my afternoon jaunt with the Vancouver NatureKids Club. The adults and kids asked really great questions and they were so appreciative of the work done in Oak Meadows Park to support pollinators thanks to biologist Nick Page and the Environmental Youth Alliance.
As I walked north of VanDusen Gardens to have tea with my inlaws I was rewarded with the sighting of a bee that's rare in Vancouver. In fact, I'd never seen it here before. This was taken in a front yard garden. Too bad my photography skills went on vacay!
I'm pretty sure this in Bombus nevadensis, or the Nevada Bumblebee, a really golden velvety bumblebee queen with a black head and black tip on her tail. How exciting!!!!!