Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Care About Native Bees?

From an Article in Scientific American

Honeybees have been dying in record numbers in the U.S. for at least the past two years. Experts attribute the mass deaths to a catchall condition known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), although both a cure and the culprit remain elusive. Despite as much as a 35 percent loss of bees per year, we remain almost entirely dependent on what until recently was a self-renewing annual population of billions of honeybees to pollinate over 130 kinds of fruit and nut crops.

The blue orchard bee, also known as the orchard mason bee, is one of 3,000 bee species native to the U.S. and is currently the subject of intensive study by the USDA's Pollinating Insect Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit at Utah State University in Logan.

James Cane, an entomologist at the Logan bee lab, has been working for 10 years to increase the availability of these bees and he says there are now a million blue orchards pollinating crops in California.

The reason these bees are considered the best potential honeybee stand-ins, Cane says, is that unlike some specialist native species, blue orchard bees, like honeybees, can
pollinate a variety of crops—including almonds, peaches, plums, cherries, apples and others.

In just about every other respect, however, these bees are totally unlike their European brethren. For one, they tend to
live alone. In the wild, rather than hives, they inhabit boreholes drilled by beetles into the trunks and branches of dead trees. When cultivated, they will happily occupy holes drilled into lumber or even Styrofoam blocks.

The blue orchard bees also do not produce honey, rarely sting and, owing to their solitary nature, do not swarm. They are incredibly
efficient pollinators of many tree fruit crops—on a typical acre, 2,000 blue orchard bees can do the work of more than 100,000 honeybees. Their biggest drawback is that beekeepers can only increase their populations by a factor of three to eight each year. (Honey bees can grow from a small colony consisting of a queen and a few dozen workers to a population of 20,000 foragers in a few months.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Low Tech Process For Creating A Floral Mason Bee Nesting Sculptue

In my Organic Forrestry Studio, I use metal cutting and welding equipment to make large flowers with Mason Bee nesting units. Most folks don't have this fairly expensive equipment, and the skill to use them safely take some time and
education to acquire. See post.

I developed an alternative approach using thin metal sheets and toolx that can be purchased easily for under $20. It is easy and a lot of fun to do. I used thin metal sheets that are used to fabricate air conditioning ducts. I bought tin snips and a rivet gun. 

I cut petals from the metal, and connected them with rivets. The "trumpet" which holds the nesting tubes was created by bending the bottom of the petals and riveting them perpendicularly to the background petals.

The flower was given several coats of bronze metal purchased from Sculpt Nouveau. Colors were developed using acid stains from the same source. 

The nesting tubes were cut from bamboo growing in our garden.

This sculpture can be made by most people in their garages.


Pollination Basics

Some Basic Notes On Pollination

pollen; plural noun: pollens  a fine powdery substance, typically yellow, consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone. Each grain contains a male gamete that can fertilize the female ovule, to which pollen is transported by the wind, insects, or other animals. Reference

This photograph of a lily clearly shows:
- the male part of the flower: comprising the anther and filament (together,
called the ‘stamen’)


- the female part of the flower: the stigma and style with the ovary (containing the ovule) at the base of the flower (the ‘carpel').

The Plant Pollination Process

The following points correspond to the diagram opposite.

1. Pollen grains land on the sticky stigma.

2. A pollen tube grows down the style, followed by male sperm nuclei.

3. The sperm nuclei fuse with the female ovules.

4. The ovules develop into seed, and the ovary develops into fruit.

In most cases, more than one individual plant is needed.

This means that pollen is transferred from one plant, to another individual plant. Reference

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Steel Flower Mason Bee Nesting Sculpture

I am an artist who lives and creates in Fearrington Village, North Carolina. My BeeYouTeeFull steel sculptural Mason Bee nesting unit was featured in the 2016 Sculpture in the Garden exhibit at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. 

I used an oxyacetylene cutting torch to create petals and leaves.I cut segments of the stem from rebar. The pieces were connected using arc welding equipment.


The piece was coated with a bronze metal coating and colors applied using acid stains.

Nesting tubes were purchased from Crown Bees


 See my more cost-effective process.



Mason Bee House How To Videos

There are a number of useful YouTube instructive videos:

About Mason Bees and houses

From a block of wood

From pieces of wood 

From a log

A complex unit

Using bamboo

A mason bee hotel

Friday, August 26, 2016

Wonderful Pollinator Garden in Pittsboro, NC

We have a fabulous pollinator garden at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro, NC

Here is my painting of the garden and a photo of a "Bee Hotel" under construction by Agricultural Extension Agent Debbie Roos. Good restaurant and grocery store too.

See the Pollinator Garden website

Here is a collection of Debbie's photos in the garden

Native Bees

Here is an excellent resource on Native Bees

Mason Bee Cause

This video got me started.

Stay tuned for more ideas and projects.