Monday, April 14, 2014

Bee in the hole!!

Had a bit of excitement today as I discovered that I imported a snoozing mason bee into the house, who woke up as soon as it warmed up and was buzzing like crazy, where it was partially trapped.

A strong cold front came through the 'hood late yesterday and I woke up to a dusting of snow on the grass, this, after a previous day in the near 90s. The fauna certainly noticed and took refuge where it could be found.  Obviously. Still a surprise.

Well, because I have fruit trees in the yard, encouraging the bees to come early and stay late is something a priority around here, and because honeybees are a premium cultivation and, in terms of temperature, really picky, I chose to raise mason bees instead.'s not that I personally breed them or anything--it's just that I provide an irresistible nesting area for them, and took advantage of the cold snap to refresh the "bee condo" I have set up in a dead tree trunk 'way out back.

It's a simple matter of taking a 5/16" diameter extra long drill bit and drill a bunch of holes about an inch and a half or two apart from each other into the trunk, slightly angled downward to provide for drainage of any rain that might get in--somewhere between 4" to 10" deep--and you've got a mason bee condo.  They'll use the holes once and won't come back if you don't prepare those holes further, like, with common drinking straws of the proper diameter.  When a young bee hatches from a hole, you replace the straw and the hole's all clean again for the next use.

Mason Bee nesting tutorial

As it happens, I took an old straw out, put a new straw in, and put the old straw in my pocket without examining the thing carefully enough.  There was a mason bee that had taken refuge inside, I didn't see it, and into the house it came, via my pocket, via the straw in my pocket.

As long as bees stay chilled, they can't move very fast and can't fly at all. Same is true of wasps (and I keep red paper wasps around, too, by the way--best pest catchers ever!) and so I was able to carefully export the mason bee back outside, but making sure that where ever it was put, it could find cozy refuge quickly.

Here's what the deal looks like out back:

The pink straws are the new ones I installed, and clipped, except for the ones at the bottom end of the picture. They will be clipped not-quite-flush as work progresses. One orange straw is new.  The red ones are old and I found adult bees holing up in those, so I didn't replace 'em yet.
Anomaly--this straw is shoved far into the hole. Why?  It was windy and so all the old straws I pulled were put into my coat pocket, and this proceeded until I discovered an adult bee in one of them.  When I pulled out an old straw from the next hole, I put this one into that hole and it was deeper than the straw was cut for, and I wanted to make sure that its resident was properly away from the elements.
The straw in the center is mud-capped, which means it has a baby bee inside from an egg laid last fall. When the baby bee is ready to come out, it bores a hole through the mud cap.
Another mason bee discovered, taking refuge in the condo.  I pulled the straw out of the hole just enough to take this shot.  The bee is too cold to move much, so there's no problem.  The biggest problem would be if I disturbed it so much it won't come back. 
Cell replacement all done except the clipping.  The straws are clipped to stick out just a bit, and at an angle where there is an overhang provided for the bee that lands on the bottom part of the straw--for shade and protection from precipitation, which is why the holes are also angled downward, slightly, to keep the hole dry.
That bottom hole with the new blue straw in it is where the bee in my pocket came from. The blue straw was removed and the straw with the bee in it was put back in, and all's well in my universe. Between the two blue new straws is a flush-cut old straw with a mud cap.
Question: what kind of pest control do red paper wasps perform? They're great at killing off caterpillars, and with pecan trees, you get 3 kinds of worms, only one of which is a caterpillar--the Webworm.  Pesticides rarely get inside that tent they weave, but these wasps have that aced.  Ever since I started cultivating the wasps, I've had zero incidents of webworm infestations. ZERO.  Can't beat that.  They'll also eat other caterpillars like the Tomato Cutworm and Armyworm, and, unfortunately, the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, but that's basically a tradeoff in my book.  I'll keep the wasps, thank you.

Tuesday fauna UPDATE: This morning greeted a first time visitor to the regulars in the backyard zoo: a Rufous-Sided Towhee.  In years past, I celebrated being visited by the occasional Orchard Oriole, a bird that, from the side view, this Towhee resembles.

Can't tell that there's a white streak on the breast from this angle, and so it can be mistaken for an Orchard Oriole.
I also made a point of trying out the camera on the lunar eclipse in the wee hours, too.  Unfortunately, I had to fiddle with the contrast on the following pic first before getting this result....

Rewinding to the initial parts of the eclipse....

The following shot are taken from videos I made of the event, and hereby stress the reason it's important to make videos even if it's just for the purpose of getting stills from them.  In venues where stills are permitted but video is not, it's still a major problem getting good stills all the same.

As I type this update, OETA's OKLA channel is running a repeat of Tavis Smiley--guest, Ken Burns.  At about 45 minutes past the hour, Ken's talking about time travel, not buying that history repeats itself although it appears to sometimes, and then quotes Ecclesiastes 1:9 about how there's nothing new under the sun and what has happened before will happen again (hello, Battlestar Galactica II!).  I consider this evidence that Ken has discovered time's fractal pattern at last.  Welcome to the world of time travel, Ken! Incidentally, the man who portrayed the first new Doctor in the "NuWho" era has the last name of Eccleston. ^_^

...and a late late late night Tuesday insert on the topic of Who...related, Who writer Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...NASA just issued a newsflash that Doug Adams was right about 42 being the answer to life, the universe, and everything, and it's also called molybdenum. However, NASA failed to discover what the question was...and so Doug Adams was right about that, too.

Tuesday PM UPDATE--City Commission Study Session: Benson's good behavior went out the window after the study session was over, and I got some more great footage to post.  He took some video of me, and so did Tammy Wilson, bless her li'l pea-pickin' heart.  She still thinks she's onto something with my "secret identity", so it's clear she has no clue what a pen name is.  Neither does Benson, apparently, because while he had me on his camera, he asked for another explanation as to where I post news items exactly and had me explain (AGAIN!) MSNBC Newsvine. It all soundedd like he tried to look me up there but with the expectation of somebody NOT posting under a pen name, ha. Benson threatened court, too--friends n neighbors, the fun's just now getting to warm up.

Next time you try teh Google again, Mr. Benson, this page should come up.  You're slow, Mr. Benson, but you'll get the idea eventually. It'll dawn on ya.

Tammy Wilson and beaux think I'm hot, too (she just snapped my pic on her blue machine).  Gee, I feel like a celebrity.

gri, because I know you I also have known of the other old Soviets who dream of a second USSR.  It ain't gonna happen, and taking over buildings and killing people won't bring that old dead horse back to life either.  For centuries throughout history, Europeans dreamed of resurrecting the old Roman Empire, too, and look how successful THAT was--all we got was World Wars I and II out of that aspiration. Delusions of grandeur work for nobody, and destroys everybody. Those are just the facts.  You have another fact: China, with its own delusions of grandeur second only to N. Korea's delusions. Putin wants to be the eastern alternative to the west? China disagrees.  Russia's the red filling in a global sandwich, buddy.
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