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July 4, 2017

Dear Skyliners,

 

We've had another two good workdays over in the Bay Grove.  We're making steady progress on the Scattergrass.  We'll be doing that for awhile longer; let's hear it for 'the work of the ants."  It's really a magical place.

 

We'll have regular workdays this week: Wednesday at 4 pm and Sunday at 9:30 am.  The Sticky Monkey and Farewell to Spring are still blooming their hearts out; and the hike is wonderful.

 

Please let me know if you can make it.

 

As to news, the big Yellowjacket aerial nest that had been breached last week is now all shredded to smithereens.  There's no nest at all, just shreds and tatters.  Here's a piece of it:

This is definitely a kind of paper; it has the feel and flexibility of soft cardboard.  If you look closely, you can see that it is made of many variously colored stripes of fiber, each a thin band an inch or so long.  The wasps gather bits of soft wood and other material, mix it with their saliva, and return to the outside of the next to lay down a small stretch - or stitch - of material.  I would guess that the different colors are due to the different kinds of source materials collected by each worker.  Wouldn't it be great to know the source of each of these stripes?   These  really are marvels of construction.  If you want to see a bit up close, there are pieces trailside near the yellow marking flag.

 

Some of you have asked why we suspect skunks as the nest raiders.  Meredith did some digging, and found this wonderful Youtube video of a skunk in action.  Here's the link:

 

https://youtu.be/2PV5pJCl-3s

 

The skunks eat the larvae in the nest.  It is amazing that the skunk does not seem to get stung; just another night out foraging.  

 

And here's an article that goes in to more detail:

 

https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article-abstract/16/2/118/870779/Bee-Eating-Proclivities-of-the-Striped-Skunk?redirectedFrom=PDF

 

Thanks, Meredith, for finding both of these.

 

Those of us out in the afternoon have marveled at the bumblebees on the fresh-opened Soap Root Flowers.  Sheehan managed to film one in action.  I've attached the 30 second video, which is in slow motion, so it's really worth watching. Thanks for this, Sheehan.

 

The video features one of our Yellow-faced Bumblebees (Bombus vosnesenskii).  You may notice the sizeable golden spheres on her back legs.  These are known as 'pollen baskets.'  Each hind leg has a widened, flat section, and the bee gathers pollen, mixes it with saliva, and pastes it on to the pollen baskets.  Pollen is full of protein.  

 

The other part of the bees diet is nectar.  In this case, the nectar is at the base of the flower petals, and towards the end of the video, you can see the bee spending quite a bit of time there.  The bees use their long tongue to suck up the nectar into a special 'nectar crop' and then regurgitate this back into special honey pots (or combs) back in the hive.  That's the quick story of honey.

 

So there you have it, pollen and honey; the diet of bees.  Pretty nifty, wouldn't you say?  

 

Happy Fourth of July - and Happy Trails,

 

Glen