Please note that this is a past issue of the URBAN FARMER and some information and prices may be out dated.



DECEMBER 1997 - VOLUME 6

INCLUDED IN THIS ISSUE:
*The Grapevine *Letters From Customers
*Master Gardener International Conference *Holes In Nesting Block Plugs
*Slaughter Of The Innocents *Humblebee Bumblebee
*Observation House *Be A Bee Watcher
*New Style Ceretina Hanging Nest *The System
*Peace Of Mind *Forgotten Pollinators, Paperback Edition
*Bee Watchers Field Notebook *Northwest Flower & Garden Show
 
*The Grapevine

We have been hard at work perfecting several new bee products for you In this issue we are delighted to introduce them to you just in time for your Christmas shopping. Any of our products would make great gifts for that gardener-naturalist in your life.

The big news is that Brian's new book Humblebee Bumblebee is ready at last. We are delighted with it and think you will be too. Order one for yourself and one for a friend.

This was a super nesting year for Orchard Mason Bees. We have lots of them. In addition to our traditional "Pollinator" nesting house we are offering bees in tubes. These tubes were set out this spring as part of The System. In September the liners, filled with bees were slipped out of the heavy guard tubes of The System and kept in cold storage awaiting shipment to you.

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*Letter From Our Customers

Howard Holman writes: We purchased your pollinator last fall at some fair. In early spring, we set it out and marveled at the exit of all the bees. Eventually they filled all of the holes. We also have a great apple crop this year in our urban garden-three colonnade trees in pots and two three-way dwarfs in raised boxes.

Mel Freeman writes: a couple years ago I ordered three boxes and the mason bee book. I didn't do well the first year, six females filled thirty holes. We had terrible cold weather that year. There were 25 females this year. 250 holes filled. Should be much fun this Spring.

Our favorite is from the Tarbell family. We bought "The Gift of Pollination" last summer. Devoured the book until our bees arrived (during the winter), and then anxiously awaited spring. We had a blast, bee watching this spring and summer. My wife and I and our four boys (twins, age 4 an 8 year old, and a 10-year old) spent many hours going out and observing "our" bees. Having started with three "plugged" holes (the bees that you sent us), we ended the season with 18 "plugged" holes. This seemed more productive than we anticipated. Thank you again for this delightful experience. We are looking forward with great anticipation to next year.

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*Master Gardener International Conference

This every other year meeting was a huge success. Brian's presentation entitled "Native Bees, Pollinators for Your Backyard" was taped and we are able to offer you that audio tape of his presentation. Order it for your own Christmas stocking. It is 70 minutes long and contains lots of great information about Orchard Masons, Bumblebees and others. Only $6.00

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*Holes In Nesting Block Plugs

Many of you ask us about those mysterious small holes that sometimes appear in the thick plug that the mason bee builds at the entrance of her nesting hole. The usual story is that the holes appear about a month after the bee has completed the plug. Here are some possible answers. Perhaps the "holed"" plugs were really made by one of several species of vespid wasps which make a mud plug very similar to the mason bee's. They have multiple generations in a summer. Their eggs hatch, mature and emerge in a month's time. These wasps are beneficial in that they catch caterpillars which they sting to paralyze, not kill, take them to the nest and lay an egg on them. They then wall them into a cell and depart. Watch for their smooth surfaced mud plugs. Orchard Masons plugs are rough. The holes might also be caused by emerging Monodontomerus wasps who developed in the Orchard Mason cell after their parent laid her egg on the larva of the Orchard Mason. The wasp larva would have devoured the bee larva before maturing and digging its way out. Or they could be entrance holes made by young larva of a predatory beetle (Trichodes). There are many other possibilities. Phil Torchio, several years ago told me he had compiled a list of 32 insect species that associate themselves with the nest of the Orchard Mason Bee. It is a tough life in the insect world. That's why bugs are great at procreation I guess.

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*Slaughter Of The Innocents

We trap our Orchard Mason Bees in many locations in Northwest Washington. This year at one our very best locations the willing bees had filled and plugged twenty two seventy -five hole nesting traps. That's 1650 filled holes. In August we got a phone call. Several downy woodpeckers had invaded and every one of the plugs had been pecked from the holes. A disaster to say the least. Perhaps there were still plenty of bees in those holes. Heartsick we collected the nesting traps and stacked them in the garage with the rest of the harvest. Just yesterday I put one of the violated traps under my chop saw and sliced it into three hole slices. I began to split open holes to examine the carnage. To my amazement and delight the holes are full of large robust looking cocoons. I think that the woodpeckers were completely thwarted in their search for a free lunch. they no doubt landed on the traps and were able to hear the larva moving around inside the holes. I suspect that made them very hungry and they pecked out each mud plug only to find the empty space of the "vestibule" which is built into every nesting hole. The diminutive downy woodpecker just doesn't have a long enough beak to get to the bees. We don't think people will want to buy nesting holes without the plug, but we are going to have a heck of a lot of brood stock for next spring.

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*Humblebee Bumblebee

Brian's bumblebee book is ready at last. We think it is a true winner, written in the same easy reading style as The Orchard Mason Bee, this book tells about the life of the bumblebees, relates some of the amazing facts of their biology, and then describes how you can attract them to your garden or get them to nest in your own bumblebee box. It even describes how your can observe their life style in an observation box. The book includes a full color field guide to bumblebee species, Brian will launch the book at a book reading at the Village Book Store in old Fairhaven, Bellingham Washington. The reading will be at 11:00 AM, Saturday, December 13th. If you are anywhere nearby stop in and say hello. If you can't make it, order your books now. We will get a first edition to you before Christmas with a personalized Christmas greeting from Brian on the title page.

Humblebee Bumblebee ISBN: 0-9635841-3-8, 128 page, paperback, field guide included: Price $12.00 S&H $2.50

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*Observation House

Different Holes for Different Bees. That's the principle at work with these wonderful educational nesting traps. Each observation house has three sets of different sized holes. A different species of bee uses each of the hole sizes, and because of the ingenious slide out center section which opens like a book, you can observe the bee nesting activities. the center section holes are covered with a heavy and transparent layer of mylar so that you can watch the bee at work. See the larva eating and spinning its cocoon and in the spring, watch the bees emerging. Fascinating stuff and a great stocking stuffer for that nature lover in your family. Observation House $20.00 S&H $5.00

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*Be A Bee Watcher

I was sitting on the lawn beside our new perennial flower bed intrigues with the numbers and varieties of bees when suddenly the idea struck. Why not start a Bee-Watching movement? This is every bit as interesting as bird watching and a person has over four thousand bees to look for and identify in North America alone. It has all the same opportunities as photography and life time sighting lists. It's perfect. And so I included the bumblebee field guide in my new book. Further thought mad me realize that thumbing the pages of a field guide while watching a fast flying bee might make identification pretty difficult. Perhaps it made sense to record observation notes in a field notebook and then study the field guide at leisure to make the identification. A quick practice run proved the theory. A field notebook complete with outlines of bees and spaces for noting date, time, location etc. quickly resulted. Knox Cellars now offers The Bee Watcher's Field Notebook for $4.50 plus $1.00 S&H No shipping charge if included with any other purchase.

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*New Style Ceretina Hanging Nest

This is indeed a charmer. A roofed shelter protecting a handful of elderberry cuttings from the weather. Hang it in a garden tree and watch the tiny Ceretina bees tunnel their way into the soft pith centers to make their nests.

Ceretina Hanging Nest $12.00 S&H $4.50

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*The System

The entomologists way of trapping Orchard Mason Bees. This three part system is low in cost, but extremely efficient in bee propagation. The system consists of (1) a heavy cardboard guard tube heavy enough to repel the advances of predatory wasps., (2) a thin white paper liner tube that slips in and out of the guard tube easily and is transparent enough to see the bee cocoons through when held up to a bright light... and (3) a durable cast plug which, because it is tapered, both seals the back of the tube and locks the liner into the guard tube. You simply assemble the nesting system by inserting the liner into the guard tube and then insert the plug into one end. If you stack a number of these six inch long tubes into a tin can you have a very effective all weather nesting habitat for the bees. When the season is over you can slip the liners out of the guard tubes by first pulling the plug. The liners now filled with hibernating cocoons can be easily stored, refrigerated, shipped or slipped into a partially filled nesting device to provide brood stock or a starter for a new nesting.

The System $21.00 for set of 100 tubes liners, and plugs. S&H $ 5.00

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*Peace Of Mind

Master Gardener Dot Maley told me a heart-warming story this summer in Sacramento. She lost her eighty-seven year old father in the spring. She told me that he spent his last days sitting in the San Jose spring sunshine watching with wonder the mating and nesting Orchard Masons that Dot had bought for him. Dot said that his sense of wonder added greatly to his peace of mind as life ebbed.

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*Forgotten Pollinators, Paperback Edition

Many of you bought the hardbound edition of this important book about our pollination crisis. If you were waiting for the paperback edition it is now available at $16.95. S&H $2.50 Remember Christmas is coming.

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*Bee Watchers Field Notebook

Be a Bee Watcher with our 48 page field notebook. It enables you to accurately note the features of any bee you observe. Once you have properly noted your observation you have the time to carefully research the identification in our publications, libraries, university insect collections, and field guides. You will have collected your observation for all time. Start a lifetime bee identification list as the birders do. There are something like 12,000 bee species on this earth. To get Bee Watching started we will include a Bee Watchers Field Notebook at half price with every copy of Humblebee Bumblebee that you order in the remaining days of 1997.

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*Northwest Flower & Garden Show

For gardeners of the Pacific Northwest the great spring event is this huge garden show in Seattle's convention center. This year Knox Cellars has a new and choice booth location right at the entrance to the "marketplace". Be sure to come and see us at booth #109. We will have all our new products on display. Brian is a speaker again this year. His subject is the Ornamental Orchard all about the art of Espaliering fruit trees. The show runs Feb. 4-9.

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