Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flowers and Bees

Spring in the Ozarks is breathtaking. Really and truly. Fall, too, but spring--my. I'll spare you the litany of the season's virtues, but I did want to share one in particular:
Two blue bee butts, one at the bottom center and the other in the upper right.

Can you see them? They're Blue Orchard Bees! Also known as Mason Bees, or Orchard Mason Bees. They're adorable. Woody and I made this bee house together in the workshop I co-led with my friend Kas last July at the UU church. It was before I applied for the job there, and the really great experience I had at this workshop is part of what inspired me to give it a go.

For a long time yesterday afternoon and evening, we sat out on the porch watching the bees fly up, pick out "their" bamboo shoot, climb in, and fly out again twenty or so seconds later. What they're doing in there is creating, from back to front, cells that will contain 1) a mud wall, 2) a pollen pillow, and 3) an egg. They make several of these cells going up the length of a tube, then they plug up the tube and move on to another. After filling four or six, they die. Their eggs hibernate through the summer, then they hatch, the larvae eat the pollen-nectar pillow, they pupate, and then the adult bees sleep in a protective cocoon until next spring. All this happens in the pitch-black of their individual cells in the tubes through the summer, fall, and winter. When it's time to hatch, early spring of next year, the first bee wakes up, eats its way through the mud plug, and all the other bees in the tube follow suit and climb out. They mate right away, then the males die, and the females start the nest-building/egg-laying cycle just as their mamas did.

It's fascinating, and also makes me feel a little lonely to think about.