Monday, April 27, 2015

Make a Bee House Class Follow-Up

I had a lot of fun talking about native plants, native insects that use them, and our native pollinators at the Make a Bee House Class I taught last week through the Missoula County Public Schools Lifelong Learning Center.   
Twelve people participated in the class, some had never used a drill, others had never really thought there was a difference between a bald faced hornet, western yellow jacket, European paper wasp, etc… but all were eager to learn and excited about native bees!

Everyone had great questions and I think were pretty excited to install their houses and see who shows up.  I hope people keep me posted about their boxes.  I also know most were eager to build more.  Like I mentioned in the class, if nothing else building the bee houses and watching them is a great way to learn about out native bees and other insects.  

Ultimately the class made 14 boxes, and only a little blood was shed.   

I got all the materials at my favorite building material reuse center, Home ReSource, including Douglas fir 4x4" and 4x6" for the boxes, cedar shakes and tin ridge cap for the roofs, cedar fence boards for the backs and a variety of nails and screws to fasten it all together.  Home ReSource has it all.

This just in....I just got an email from Cate from the class showing where she installed her bee house- right next to her vegetable garden!  Beautiful!
Marilyn, my wife, made a box too (she was a test subject for the class; she survived), and this one will be installed at the Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant this Thursday when we do a spring cleaning, and weeding of this neighborhood native plant garden.   Everyone is welcome to attend, and we will even be giving out free native plants!  See I was able to turn this post into a plea for help!  Here is a link to the event page with more information, but you can just show up at 8th and Grant, at 6pm on Thursday (April 30), ready for an hour or so of light work in this little garden.  Bring gloves and your favorite weeding tool if you have one.

This box is heading to the Native Plant Garden at 8th and Grant!
The idea of ground nesting bees interested a lot of people and prompted some discussion of what we can do for them (since they comprise the majority of our native bees), and I thought I would pass a long some timely information.  One was a recent blog post on how to provide habitat for native ground nesting bees from my favorite native plant and insect personality, Heather Holm of Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants, and author of Pollinators of Native Plants.  Be sure to follow her on Facebook, and any other social media you can.  And buy her book.  She is a wealth of information on native plants and insects, and a fantastic artist, graphic designer, educator and landscape designer! 

The other experience with ground nesting bees came to me yesterday (unexpectedly) when I was hunting in a snow storm in the mountains east of Missoula.  As I was sitting under a ponderosa pine escaping the cold and wet snow, a bumblebee came buzzing by me visiting some flowering lupines and other snow covered plants.  I immediately thought of how I explained to the class that our native bees will tolerate a much wider range of temperatures and conditions than Eurasian honeybees.  So I took out my phone to get a picture of a bumblebee pollinating flowers in the snow.  Then the bee landed on a patch of bare ground and started furiously digging, probably a excavating nesting burrow.  I captured this action on camera:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A flower a day

Biscuitroot (Lomatium ambiguum)
Follow me on Instagram (montanawildlifegardener) where I am trying to post a picture each day of a species that is flowering in our garden.  I say "try" because we have over 100 species of Missoula area native plants and their flowering time has a lot of overlap.  It has been easy for the last week or so as things are just getting started.  Here are a few examples from this week...
Shooting star (Dodecatheon conjugens)

Golden currant (Ribes aureum)