Thursday, July 19, 2012

Changing the nests

Rosie sent me an e-mail this morning:  "I just changed out some binderboards.  I mowed last night and got to look around the farm a bit.  We still have a lot of black berry blooms and late red raspberry blooms and ones just getting ready to bloom."

Here is a photo of the shelter today.  All of the flowers and weeds that were overgrowing the entrance are gone.  Makes it easier to see the nests, although I liked seeing the Phacelia.  The bottom two filled O. lignaria nests have been removed and replaced by two small O. aglaia nests..  I'm already seeing a few O. aglaia checking them out.  I had Rosie leave the top O. lignaria nest because there are still some O. aglaia making nests in it. 
From what Rosie had to say, there are still some Rubus blooms in the fields, so I hope that's where the O. aglaia are foraging now. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Phacelia visitors

This inflorescence of Phacelia is blooming in front of the bee shelter, and today for the first time I took a close look at the Phacelia and saw bee visitors.  The first image shows an O. aglaia foraging on the right of the inflorescence.  The bee in the center of the second image is darker, thinner, and seems to have yellow pollen on the hind legs, so I'm guessing a small sweat bee, Halictus

Rosie says she has seen O. aglaia on the flowers near the shelter, but not on flowers a distance away.  She also is not sure if there are still berries in bloom.  If there are, they are probably blackberry, including Himalayan blackberry.  She says she will check.

Update on O. lignaria nests

I haven't seen any blue orchard bees in a couple of weeks, but the berry bees have started using empty tunnels in the one remaining orchard bee Binderboard in the shelter.  There are still 9 tunnels with O. lignaria mud plugs, but in addition there are 4 plugs of chewed leaf material typical of O. aglaia.  At least 4 of the tunnels have bee abdomens visible near the entrance.  I think they are all O. aglaia, but can't tell for sure.

Rosie tells me that there were a few O. lignaria active around her house last week.  The orchard bees there were released quite late, so I suppose it's not too surprising that they are still active. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Berry bee on grass stem

Someone was visiting the webcam today, looking at the pre-set views, the nests and some of the flowers growing around the shelter.  I'm not sure who it was, but I hope that you enjoyed your visit to Corbett.  
At one point the visitor focused in on this individual berry bee resting on a grass stem just outside of the shelter.  I saved the image, and probably stopped the updating of the camera for a few seconds while I saved the image to my hard drive.  Whoever was looking, I hope that the pause didn't worry you.  It's a pretty amazing image from the webcam. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Yes, O. lignaria are still active!

I captured these three images in quick succession of an O. lignaria coming out of a tunnel (5 holes in from the left, third row up from the bottom of the Binderboard) and sitting on the face of the Binderboard, presumably warming up before flying away.  The top and the bottom image also have an O. aglaia going into a tunnel (top image), or sitting on the face of the Binderboard (bottom image).  the middle image shows a second bee, probably another O. lignaria,apparently coming out 
 of the same tunnel as the first bee. 
Images were taken about 1pm, sunny day about 66oF.  I shifted the camera to the right between the first and second image. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Are O. lignaria still active?

It was 65oF at 4:30pm today, overcast and wet.  There are some active bees, but most are still sitting in their tunnels waiting for some sun, or warmer temperatures.  I checked to see if O. lignaria is still active.  There has been one new plug on tunnels of the newest orchard bee Binderboard, the bottom row, 6 from the right.  That makes a total of 9 complete nests out of 98 in this binderboard.  There are also 5 bees at tunnel entrances, three on the left side near the bottom, one in the middle of the top row, and one on the right, third row down .  I'm not certain that they are O. lignaria.  Some could be O. aglaia.  Some of the heads look a bit small for O. lignaria.  I'm not sure why O. aglaia would nest in the large tunnels, since there should be plenty of tunnels available in the O. aglaia Binderboard; but perhaps most of those already have nests in progress.  The plugged nests look like mud to me, which would not be O. aglaia.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Update on completed nests

So here is how the shelter looks today.  Temperatures have been up to 80oF, and the bees have been active.  You can see the Phacelia and California poppy growing tall around the shelter. 

The second photo shows the O. lignaria Binderboard.  The bottom two boards are almost completely plugged.  There are 8 plugged nests in the top board, and signs that a couple of tunnels in the third row from the bottom still have females actively working on them.  

Looking closer at the O. aglaia Binderboard on the right in the third photo, the bottom board is filling along the left edge and the bottom.  Fewer complete nests are visible on the top board.  Some of the filled nests, maybe most of them, are O. lignaria mud plugs, but I think some are O. aglaia.

The fourth photo shows the Binderboard on the right side of the shelter, also plugged mostly along the bottom and the edges, also mostly with O. lignaria mud plugs.  There are two active females sitting outside of the tunnel entrances.  Their color looks like the blue-black of O. lignaria, but it's hard to tell for sure.  I doubt that many O. lignaria are still active. 

The final photo is a close up of the Binderboard on the right, taken yesterday morning, June 28 at 8:43 in the morning.  Notice three O. aglaia sunning on the emergence container on top of the board, as well as a couple of females sunning on the Binderboard, and several bee faces at the tunnel entrances.   It was about 64oF at the time, and I think that many of the bees were just starting their day.

More feedback on webcam

E-mail from Eric Mader of the Xerces Society:  

Hi Karen,

The camera has been a nice feature. 

Ultimately, if it could also zoom in on crop flowers, and most importantly to me—the ground areas around bee shelters so that we could monitor our wildflower seedling development—that would result in a lot more camera use on my part.

It did save me a bit of travel time out to the site. And if I had site monitoring like this on many of my projects around the country, it could be a great tool. 

The resolution to date however has not been quite good enough for me to monitor seedling development as accurately I'd ultimately like.

That said, I think this was a great first start at using this technology. Live web cams are tricky enough indoors, but to make it work on a remote site, with little connectivity, and lots of wind/rain I think is a pretty great accomplishment! Thanks for involving Xerces in this process!

E-mail from Matt Allen of Pacific Pollination:
Dear Karen
Thank you for your email. I would like to say that I found your webcam trial very useful indeed and am delighted you carried out the work. My view is that commercial pollinators as well as researchers will find this technology very advantageous, and ... I can think of several applications that could use the technology as it stands, and more than could be done by developing it.
In terms of feedback on the current set-up, I think the main points have already been touched upon. The camera could be faster to respond, and the definition could be better. However, these issues can be remedied, I am sure.  The key thing is that (a) you have done it and (b) it works. I never did a job yet that I didn't think I could do better the second time round. 
Thank you so much for carrying it through. 

Xerces Society plantings for pollinators

From Eric Mader with the Xerces Society, sent to me on June 21:  
What are the pink spikes to the left of the tower? 6/21/12
I'm not sure what the pink spikes might be, I haven't been out to the farm for a couple of weeks to see what's starting to bloom. The plantings seem to be mostly successful (there are some larger ones that we've been working with Don to create). We have some annual weed problems, but I think they will decline over time as the slower to establish Oregon natives: Eriophyllum, Prunella, Gaillardia, Lupine, etc take off. Some of them won't even bloom the first year, but should they should fill in over time. On average we've got 5 to 10 wildflower seedlings per square foot. 
Update on pink spikes, and odd berry bush, 6/29/12

You might also be interested to know that I'm still seeing the odd O. lignaria in Portland here as well. Definitely not many, but whenever I've worked the garden lately, a few show up to collect fresh mud. Interesting the O. cornifrons in the neighborhood seem to have finished up earlier this year than the lignaria. I've never seen that before. In any case, we're starting to get some hot days now, and I imagine the spring bees will be finished up soon.

My Feedback to Beeline Services: how has the webcam been helpful?

Basically, despite the drawbacks with the system, I find it very useful.  When I’m at home and working on the computer, which is most days except Saturdays, I bring up the webcam when I first log on, check the weather and the bee activity in Corbett, and sometimes check the flowers.  I record in an excel file the time, temperature, and whether or not the bees are active.  I try to do this several times a day.  This is giving me a pretty good idea of how much foraging time the bees have had this season, which should correlate with their productivity, both in terms of flowers pollinated and bee cells produced. 

It’s easy to see whether or not it’s sunny by the shadows on the bee shelter in the default view of the bee nests.  If it’s not sunny, I usually go to the “blueberries” preset to see if it’s wet or dry.  On rainy days I can not only see the mud puddles, I also can usually see drops of water hanging off of the box that houses the camera.  

With access to this information, I felt this spring that I didn’t need to take the time and money to drive out to Corbett to see the bees.  There are plenty of things that I could have done or seen by being there instead of watching on the webcam, but they were less important now that I can see what’s going on in the field most days.

I’ve been a bit surprised at how long the season is in Corbett.  With cooler spring temperatures and more rain, the orchard bees started activity later than bees here, and have been active much longer.  There were still some active orchard bees in the shelter on June 21, whereas here in Parma they had been finished for about three weeks.  I would not have known this any other way, short of moving to Corbett.  But if I did that, I wouldn’t have the comparative information about Parma, so that’s one big advantage of a webcam. 

The webcam has also given me a much better sense of when the O. aglaia become active relative to O. lignaria, and relative to blueberry and black raspberry bloom.   The O. aglaia became active too late relative for blueberry bloom this year, and they were probably not very helpful for black raspberry bloom except for two or three sunny days.  The O. lignaria become active when the temperature reaches about 60oF.  In contrast, the O. aglaia did not emerge until temperatures were up to the 70s and I don’t see them leave the nests to forage in the morning until it’s over 65oF and generally only on sunny days.  This also is the kind of information that I could not get any other way except to camp out at the shelter.  What’s great about the webcam is that I can get this information while doing other things.  I don’t have to spend hours sitting in front of the shelter waiting for something to happen!

Vicia (Vetch) under the webcam (from preset view)
I like the ability to save images – that has worked very well, allowing for me to get images for my blog (a journal of what’s happening with the bees) and to keep track of changes in bloom status of the black raspberries, blueberries, and even the flowers that are planted in the road between the fields.   I was not even aware that those flowers had been planted, but I was excited to see them start to bloom just as black raspberry was finishing. 

The photos have also been useful for assessing how fast the Binderboard nests have been filling, which species are nesting, and when the nest blocks are full.  I was able to contact Rosie and let her know that new Binderboards were needed in the shelter for the O. lignaria.  When I stop seeing active bees, I’ll able to contact her to take the nests out of the shelter, which should result in fewer unwanted species in the nests at the end of the season. 

I like being able to add pre-set views.  Over the season as different flowers came into bloom, and as nests filled and the thermometer moved around, it’s been very useful to add and change the presets.  Except for a few early tries that didn’t work, it’s been relatively easy to do.

One drawback to the system is that I can’t really see much bee activity on the flowers.  When blueberry was in bloom, I was able to make out bumblebee visits on two occasions – that was the only bee visitation that the blueberries had during the times when I tried to watch for flower visits.  I think that O. lignaria would also have been visible on the blueberry flowers if they had visited while I was looking.  On a number of occasions I tried to make 5 minute timings of bee visitors to blueberry, to get a sense of how often the flowers were visited.  Visits were rare when I watched, and the same was true when we tried to watch bees on blueberry on the farm last year.  So that information was useful and consistent, if disappointing. 

The black raspberries were much more difficult to watch for visitors than the blueberry, mostly because they are farther from the camera.  That could be remedied by moving the shelter and the camera closer to the raspberries.  I doubt that Don would be willing to do that at this point because so much would have to be moved, but if we could set up the shelter again, I would ask to have it closer to the raspberries.  I was able to detect visitors to the black raspberry flowers on a couple of occasions (dots that appeared and disappeared on the flowers) but couldn’t tell what they were.  Still, by comparing images from overcast days, I have had a good sense of when the flowers started blooming, when they were in peak bloom, when they were past peak bloom, and when bloom was basically over.   That’s been very helpful.  I’m impressed that the bees are still active now that the raspberries are finished, and I think that’s because of the plantings in the road.  Again, these are things that I wouldn’t have known any other way. 

As for the slow response of the camera, that is the main drawback with the system, and I can live with it because there is so much information that I can get anyway.  If there were lots of guests using the camera, I might have difficulty making the observations that I need to make, but so far that’s not a problem.  The images are not so exciting that lots of people would want to visit the webcam.  Also, although the camera is less responsive on overcast days, that’s not a big problem for me because the bees are less active.  So far there has always been enough power for me to check the temperature, weather conditions and bee activity even on overcast days.

One minor problem that I’ve noticed is that the camera sometimes moves suddenly to focus on the ground below its shelter, at the base of a post.  It seems to happen if I inadvertently click on the web image, or perhaps sometimes if I’m only running the mouse over the image.  I haven’t quite figured out what causes it to do this, or what determines where it focuses when it makes these unwanted moves.  But I can always go back to a preset after it happens.

I’m impressed that the webcam has not needed much maintenance once you had Don fix the problem of condensation.  (KNOCK WOOD!)  So far the webcam has been there most of the time when I’ve tried to get to it.  Although it sometimes disconnects when I’m not actively watching, I’ve always been able to reconnect when I’m actively watching again. 

So, overall the webcam has more than met my expectation.  I hope that the Sturms will agree to continue using it in the future. 

Beeline request for feedback on webcam

On June 19, Mike Carter from Beeline Services e-mailed a request for feedback on the webcam.  If you haven't had a chance to visit the webcam, contact me and I'll e-mail you  the connection information. 

The webcam can be viewed between 7:30 am and 7:30pm, Pacific Daylight Savings Time.  

If you have comments on the webcam for Mike, submit a comment to this blog, or e-mail one of us.  I'll post my response to Mike next.

Here's Mike's request:   

I'd like to get your candid views on how this tool has performed in its assigned role, and have you provide some insights and feedback on 'hits and misses' with the system now that its been in operation for a few months. 

While I don't expect the Sturms will be interested in spending any additional funds on the system, I'd like to wrap up my engineering documentation on the system with input from the end-user's point of view. Please also share this request with your associates, as candid input from them may provide a few additional insights we may not have considered in the requirements gathering / design phase.

From my own perspective, the system isn't as responsive as I'd like it to be. Unfortunately, the factors involved are fairly complex and not easily addressed without significant changes to cellular carrier infrastructure. Data performance can vary greatly based on weather, carrier loading (traffic) and RF path variances to the cell site. Ultimately, the local ISP would have been the best route, but as they appear to be incapable of correctly configuring their own equipment, that option is not available. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Black raspberries finished bloom, blue orchard bees still active

Black raspberry June 19

Yesturday, Monday June 18, it rained in Corbett, and the temperature didn't get above about 55oF in the bee shelter at the Sturm Berry Farm.  Rosie e-mailed me to confirm that the Black Raspberries are almost finished blooming; there are only a few blossoms left.  She says "the pollination was good and the fruit looks good."  Let's hope for some warm sunny days to ripen the fruit.  Here's a photo of the the same branches of the black raspberry that I photographed on June 7, when it looked like bloom was past peak.  Today the inflorescences appear more brown than white or green, so I think that the webcam picks up enough of a color difference to get a sense of where we are in bloom.  The bright pink flowers at the bottom of the photo are Phacelia.

 I'm still seeing a few active blue orchard bees, O. lignaria.  There is one in the top right hand corner of the top orchard bee Binderboard.  Faces of a few other bees are visible in nest entrances. The bottom two Binderboard that were in the shelter at the beginning of the season are almost full at this time, and several new nests are plugged in the top Binderboard as well.  Plus there are quite a few new O. lignaria nests in the smaller Binderboard intended for O. aglaia

Mostly full orchard bee nests
The O. aglaia have been active on warm days, but not cool ones.  They may be helping the pollination of other raspberry varieties, but my guess is that they didn't contribute much to the black raspberries. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

California poppies

California poppy among the Phacelia
California poppies are now blooming among the Phacelia.  I didn't notice them yesterday.  This is a lovely combination. 

This morning at 9:45am it's sunny on the Sturm Berry Farm in Corbett, and about 58oF.  The Osmia lignaria are active.  I haven't seen O. aglaia yet, but they should become active soon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Phacelia in bloom

Purple Phacelia tanacetifolia in bloom
It's 67oF in the bee shelter, overcast, wet, probably drizzling today.  The bees are mostly sitting in their tunnels waiting for warmer weather.
From the "Raspberries wide view" preset, I can zoom in on these purple flowers in bloom in the road next to the black raspberry vines.  Looks like Phacelia tanacetifolia to me.  Don probably planted it as part of a project with the Xerces Society and the NRCS to create plantings to attract bees to the farm.  Phacelia is one of the most attract bee plants around.  I have quite a bit in my yard, and it is always humming with bees - honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, miner bees and more.  With black raspberries finishing their bloom,  this plant will help the bees increase their reproduction for the year.  I hope they don't detract from pollination of other raspberry varieties.   I'm not sure what are the thin, grass-like inflorescences. 
Bees in at least 3 tunnel entrances

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Black raspberries setting fruit

Black raspberry setting fruit, June 7
It's raining this morning in Corbett, 50oF, and so far there is no bee activity in the shelter.  But the past week or so has been mostly sunny days with lots of bee activity in the shelter, except for rain on June 4 and in the morning of June 5. 

Black raspberry in full bloom, May 28
I've not spent much time trying to watch bee activity on the flowers because they are too far away to see the bees, but I'm sure the bees have been very busy.  I was surprised to see today that many of the inflorescences appear to have green dots in the center - a sign that pollination is complete and fruits are starting to form.  Compare today's webcam image of the black raspberry bushes with the second image from May 28 when the infloresences were all white flowers.  Hopefully that means that there will be a large crop of berries.
Wide view of black raspberry in full bloom, June 1

The third image is of the black raspberry field on June 1 when the berries were in full bloom, to compare with the same image in April, before bloom started (bottom image).  On June 1 the raspberry bushes were covered in white inflorescences. 
Wide view of black raspberry before bloom, April 27

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunny days at last - Berry bees are active!

Black raspberry in bloom on Sturm Berry Farm, 5/28/12, 8:47am

This first image from our webcam shows the black raspberry in full bloom on Monday, May 28.  At 8:42am it was only 52oF and the bees were not yet active.  It was overcast, so the shadows were subdued and the white clusters of blossoms stand out from the leaves.  On sunny days the blossoms are hard to distinguish.
By 2:30pm the temperature was up to 65oF with some sun, and O. lignaria were active.  
 At 5:50pm on Monday I watched the blossoms for 5 minutes and counted 3 visitors based on dots that appeared and disappeared from the blossoms, but I couldn't tell if they were honeybees, sweat bees, blue orchard bees, or something else. The webcam is too far from the raspberries to distinguish species of small bees.  I think large bumblebees would be distinguishable, but I did not see them. 

Rosie made changes in the bee shelter today
Until today there has been very little activity of Osmia aglaia.   From past experience I figure that the temperature has been too cold (mostly in the 60s), and that the adults may have been emerging but haven't yet left the emergence containers.  But today seems to be warmer, up to 70oF at 2pm.  Rosie apparently came out this morning and opened the emergence containers so the O. aglaia would warm faster and start flying.  When I noticed the change at 2pm, the O. aglaia were very active.  You can see several metalic green bees in the containers, and one sunning next to the container on the left.  I also noticed quite a few faces at tunnel entrances in the Binderboard.  Hopefully they will get to work pollinating the black raspberry very soon. 
Berry bee emergence containers opened to warm the bees

Rosie also removed the O. lignaria emergence containers (they finished emergence several weeks ago) and added an empty Binderboard with large diameter tunnels on top of the first two, because the first two O. lignaria Binderboard are close to full.  Today I count 85 out of 98 tunnels plugged in the middle, "KS" Binderboard (the one that was on top until today), and 69 plugged tunnels in the bottom Binderboard.  There are quite a few of the small diameter tunnels plugged with mud as well. 

An O. lignaria female checks out an empty Binderboard.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where have all the blueberry flowers gone?

 Yesterday, Thursday, was another rainy day in Corbett.  When I checked conditions in the afternoon, about 1:15, I was surprised to see that the flowers on the blueberry plants were gone!  They seem to be in full bloom on Wednesday when I checked, so this means there must have been a heavy rain or hailstorm.  This morning I noticed that there seemed to be patches of white dots under every blueberry plant.  Looking closer under the blueberry plant that I photographed yesterday, you can see the blossoms scattered.

This is not good for blueberry yield.  I hope at least some fruit has been set.  I can't tell if there are still flower buds on the plants that may bloom in a few days.  I hope so.  

So far today in Corbett the sun has been coming out intermittently and temperatures are in the 60oF range.  As soon as the sun came out, about 9:40am, the orchard bees, Osmia lignaria, poked their heads out of the nests, and soon were flying.  Hopefully they will replenish their nectar supplies at the black raspberries and start working on their nests again. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rainy Days in Corbett

Yesterday and today are rainy days in Corbett, with temperatures in the 50s to 60oF, so I haven't seen much bee activity other than a few O. lignaria females poking their heads out of their tunnels.  But since my last post, more tunnels have been plugged.  The photo shows the conditions of the Binderboard yesterday around noon.  On the left, the top Binderboard has about 73 filled tunnels out of 98, and on the bottom about 59 filled tunnels.  That's 13 - 16 new filled tunnels since my last post.  There are also new plugged tunnels in the O. aglaia Binderboard on the right.  The mud plugs belong to O. lignaria.
This is one of the ways that the webcam is proving very useful.  I called Rosie yesterday and suggested that she put another O. lignaria Binderboard in the shelter.   She should also remove the O. lignaria emergence containers from the shelter, since emergence for this bee seems to be over.  Rosie is headed out of town, but expects to take care of it later this week.  Without the webcam I would not be able to offer her that advice because I wold have no idea what is happening in the shelter.  

I haven't seen any O. aglaia activity since the day when their emergence containers were put in the shelter.  It's probably too cold.  Plus, the black raspberries seem to be just starting to bloom, and they are the earliest, or among the earliest, raspberries to bloom.  I'm pretty sure that the small white balls sticking up from the branch on the right and at the bottom are black raspberry blossoms.  This is as close as the camera gets to the raspberry bloom, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to see many bee visits.

I've been making 5 minute observations of this blueberry plant periodically to get counts of bee visitors.  Unfortunately, no bees have visited the blueberry flowers during my counts.  But here is a photo of a foraging bumblebee queen near the top of the branch on the right.  She visited on Sunday when I wasn't doing counts.   She is only the second bee that I have seen foraging on the blueberries.  

Rosie mentioned that there are honeybees in the fields now.  Maybe I'll start seeing them on the flowers when the weather warms up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

O. lignaria nests are filling.

I've been out of town without internet connectivity since last Saturday, so I haven't had a chance to look at the bee activity at the Sturm farm for almost a week.  The blue orchard bees seem to have been very busy.  They have plugged quite a few tunnels as of 9:45am this morning.  I count about 60 plugged tunnels in the upper, "KS" Binderboard, and about 43 plugged nests in the lower left Binderboard.  They are apparently also nesting in the O. aglaia boards with smaller tunnels; I count about 24 plugged tunnels in the bottom right board and 3 plugged tunnels in the top right board.   At that time of the morning it was overcast and 50oF, so the orchard bees were not very active.  Some are sitting at the nest entrance.  One female can be seen outside of a tunnel ("KS" Binderboard, third row down, 10th hole from the left), looking like she may be plugging a nest, so apparently it was warm enough for some activity.  I'm pleased to see that nests are filling well.  In fact, I think it's time to put out another empty nest.    

Overcast light makes it easier to see the condition of the plants.  I think that I'm seeing flower buds on the black raspberries.  Black raspberry flowers have small petals, so they may be hard to see at this distance.  For a close look at the flowers, see photos from June 2011, Part 2 of our visit to the Sturm farm. 

The blueberry flowers and buds are very clear on the plants in this light.  In the short time that I watched I didn't see any bees foraging.
I checked the temperature again at 1:47pm; it was sunny and 61oF.  At 5:48pm it was still sunny and up to 64oF.  With the sun out, the shadows make the flowers difficult to see.

I did not see any O. aglaia activity when I watched the nests today.   Probably temperatures in the 60s are a little cool for them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Osmia aglaia has started emerging

Osmia aglaia just emerged, upper right
I didn't get on to the webcam until about 1pm Corbett time, but I started noticing emerging O. aglaia right away (after noticing that the thermometer has fallen down again!)  Here's one bee just emerged sitting on the container on the right, just above the exit hole.  Probably a male. This image was taken at 1:07pm.


Here, for the record, is what the black raspberries look like today, and the blueberry. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oregon Berry Bees are in the field!

Blue orchard bee nests on the left, Oregon berry bee nests on the right

Berry bees will emerge from the cottage cheese containers
Rosie put the berry bee, Osmia aglaia, cocoons in the shelter today, along with three Binderboard nest blocks.   I haven't seen any berry bees flying around yet.  They need a few days to warm up before they start emerging.  In previous years we have found that they began to get active around the time that Himalayan blackberry starts to bloom.  In the last couple of years that hasn't happened until the black raspberry have been in bloom for several weeks.  But the last couple of seasons have been wetter, colder, cloudier and later than this season is proving to be.   With any luck, the berry bees will emerge and start to forage soon.

I can't see flower buds or bloom on the black raspberry near the webcam yet.  I'm not sure if the flowers will be visible.  I'll post photos of the state of the plants tomorrow. 

Although O. aglaia are not yet active, Osmia lignaria have been exploring the O. aglaia tunnels.  You can see one in the photo, below. 

Berry bee nest tunnels, orchard bee is exploring.
There have been several sunny days in Corbett, and I've been watching lots of orchard bee activity in front of the Binderboard nests.  Males are still active, but I've seen quite a few females as well.  However, it's not clear if they have been nesting.  So far, no tunnels have plugs.  That suggests that there isn't much pollen available near the nest yet. 

In case you missed the information about how to view our webcam:
Username: Guest
Password: b33s

Blueberry Pollinator

I've been periodically watching this blueberry plant through the webcam, hoping to see pollinator visits.  I finally saw a bumblebee yesterday, May 9, at 9:20am.  (Note the date and time stamp at the top of the webcam photos). 
The bumblebee is a big queen, hanging upside down on the far left upper inflorescence. Click on the photo to see a larger version.  Her leg is visible on the flowers.
No sign of blue orchard bees on the blueberry flowers in the times that I've watched.  In fact, I was beginning to wonder if the flowers are going to be pollinated.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mating orgy at the nests

Four mating couples

A male tries to mate with another male
Male orchard bees emerge first, and the females a few days later.  We seem to be in the midst of female emergence today.  The top photo shows four mating couples.  Three of them are on top of the blue emergence box in front of the upper cottage cheese container emergence box.  One couple is on top of the wood nest block.  I don't have time to watch, but if someone wanted to know how long matings last, you could get quantitative data today. 
The emergence containers are covered with bee meconia from the emerging bees.  That's a fancy name for bee poop.  The adults have been storing it in their bodies all winter, and only after they emerge in the spring do they relieve themselves.  If you look around the shelter you'll see meconia on the nest blocks and the bottom shelf that holds the nests as well. 
Both of the bees in the bottom photo have long antennae, and both have yellow faces (not seen in this photo), so they are both males.  The bottom male didn't do much to knock the top male off.  They stayed connected for more than 4 minutes with the top male trying repeatedly to mate with the bottom one. 
Bosch and Kemp's manual on orchard bee management has a concise passage about what's going on today at the bee nests:  "Emergence is timed so that males (located in the outermost cells) emerge one to three days before females.  Once out of the nest, newly emerged adults excrete their meconium as a few drops of whitish, quickly solidifying secretion evacuated from the anus.  The meconium contains metabolic waste products.  Adults then engage immediately in mating activities or fly to nearby flowers to take nectar."
Raspberries leafed out, flowering tree in distance
The raspberries are not yet blooming at Sturm Berry Farm, but I'm sure there are some weeds in bloom.  You can also see a large tree on a neighboring property that appears to have pink bloom. 
It looks like there may be a few blueberry flowers in bloom.  We'll see if there is enough bloom to keep the orchard bees nesting at our bee shelter by the number of nest tunnels that are completed over the next few weeks.  

Blueberry bush with buds
Buds are developing on the blueberry bushes.  Some of them may be open.  It will be interesting to see what visits the flowers, in particular can we see blue orchard bees visiting them.  This plant is visible from the preset location "blueberry closeup 2".