Monday, May 15, 2017

Prairie (etc.) Appreciation Day

The prairies at Glacial Heritage Preserve, Thurston County, May 2017
Saturday May 13 was a cool rainy Prairie Appreciation Day. Janet and I were grateful for the canopy that sheltered us and our visitors during several impressive showers. At rather the last minute we were filling in as the main instructors at a booth on indigenous uses of prairie plants, training ourselves more deeply in everything from herbal remedies to camas harvest to making cordage from plants. Each of those topics could be a blog in itself.
Bud at Mima Mounds, spring 2014

This is the first time we’d been at P.A.D. since we lost Janet and Nancy’s father this year, two months shy of his 99th birthday. While we miss him a lot, it does free us up for more extended periods of nature exploration, not having to sort out our elder care assignments.

With this in mind we were confident that at some point Nancy would join us, and were delighted when several hours into our shift, Nancy strolled into our booth, camera in hand and bubbling over in the joy of the beauty of the prairies.

It was a break in both weather and visitors and so she was able (rather easily) to distract me with a “Glen, what do you think this bee is?”,  just a few yards outside.  She led me through some rain-soaked camas to one flower being visited by a rain-chilled bee.  At first glance it was a small bumble bee she had in her sights (and lens).  The bee had lots of fur and at first look seemed big enough to be a first generation bumble worker.  But as she and I studied it, other things were not right, starting with its “fur” coat.

Bombus fervidus (B. californicus)
Andrena transnigra? A wider face than Bombus

From the photos you can see that while on the thorax of this bee there is a dense pile, the pile on the abdomen is sparse, almost bare. Another thing that distinguishes her from a bumble bee is her face which is as wide as it is long; compare her face to the bumble bee Bombus fervidus (aka B. californicus). Finally, one can also see that on her hind leg is a great bristle of hairs, (scopa) designed to collect pollen.

It is because of her very furry legs that we also know that we are looking at a female, for only females are so well coiffed with pollen collecting leg fur.  We believe that this charming little bee is one of many mining bee who make a home on the Puget Sound Prairies, in this case probably (at least until corrected) Andrena transnigra -- who we know to reside here.  Here is a link to a few photos in BugGuide: Bugguide: Andrena transnigra .

If, by the way you have a different i.d. for this bee, please let us hear your thoughts.

- - - - - 
I close with a couple more thoughts about my father-in-law.  Bud was a man whose interests never really extended to watching birds, chasing insects or gardens and botanizing.  Flight was marvelous if it included an engine and stick he could control.  He loved a good meal as long as it wasn't messed up with too many vegetables, and a good conversation as long as it circled around family, friends, flight, or Hawaii.

Up until the last few weeks he was tolerant of excursions as long as a meal -- or at least a chocolate chip cookie or ice cream bar -- was part of the mission.  We had little else in common except family and just showing up. But that was enough to become good friends.  Towards the end being earthbound was not fun and certainly not easy.  But he kept a firm handshake, a sharp wit, and mostly a good sense of humor.  I miss that.

For Bud.
We went places.
Pau hana.

All photos, © Nancy Partlow

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