Well, thought I’d just say that I am safely back in Washington after a nice long drive. We were slowed down by a flat from a nail and a screw stuck in my tire, at least one of which was probably picked up in Minnesota. Other than that, thanks for the great summer and good luck in school or whatever else you may be doing. Jennifer and I finally got to talk to one of the naked Finnish men on Lake Isaac and we obtained a few words of wisdom. The most important piece, which I think I ought to share, is that “taking a sauna with a swimsuit on is like kissing through a screen door.” That explains so much.


I finally got around to completely updating my pictures on photobucket, so I thought I should post the link to the site on the blog. It’s a mix of work pictures and others, or simply pictures from times I have my camera.

Rained out

There may be a sudden influx of blog entries very soon because when we don’t work, we get to flog. I was out at Hegg Lake when the storm rolled in today around 11. Jennifer heard the thunder and told us to finish our row and then we would consider our options. Before we could finish our rows, Jennifer looked up, noticed the clouds and thunder were almost overhead and said we should go back to the farmhouse. Everyone else was already in the farmhouse at that point because it was pouring and there was lightning, so they decided to scamper inside. Some pictures from today:

Wasp Video

For my most recent blog entry I’ve made a video. It is what I believe to be a Bembix wasp digging a nest. I filmed it on the backside of the Andes hill in a really dry and sandy area. I edited it down a lot. Originally there were about 24 minutes of video, but I cut a lot of the digging out as well as time in which the bee was not visible. The link for the video is . Make sure to have speakers on for it, but if the music isn’t your thing and you simply want to bask in the quiet glory of the wasp, watch it without sound.

Bee Painting Protocol

Our initial protocol for painting bees called for painting bees as they were collecting pollen on the flower heads using a small paintbrush. Before starting painting, we had created “paint bandoliers” that consisted of microfuge tubes filled with different colors of paint and then taped in a line with duct tape to keep them together. We ordered the colors according to the rainbow to make it easier to keep track of the colors. Each color was given a three letter abbreviation. Painting the bees with paint brushes was fairly easy, but the shape and thickness of the dot had the possibility of being very variable. After researching bee painting, in particular queen honeybee marking, it appeared that the ideal dot that would last the longest amount of time is circular and uniformly thin. To obtain this ideal dot, it was suggested that a piece of wire whose diameter was the size of the desired dot be used.

We made new painting implements based on this information. We cut the wire on flags into about 15 cm sections, sanded one end flat, and then made handles for them from sticks and tape. We bent the sanded end about 45 degrees roughly 2.5 cm from the end so that we would be able to more easily paint the bees. At this point we were only marking Agapostemon virescens. It proved to be harder to paint them with the new tools as they were collecting pollen from the flowers. We had problems both getting a good dot on their thorax and also avoiding painting any other part of the bees, which would then decrease their survivability. We eventually planned on painting Melissodes. If we started painting them as well as A. virescens, we anticipated more problems with painting them on the flower heads because it appeared that they spent less time on the flower heads and moved faster and more jerkily while on the heads than A. virescens.
After a few poor painting jobs, we decided to chill the bees. The new protocol which proved effective was to catch 2-3 bees as we walked the random rows and then place them in labeled vials. These vials were placed in small lunchbox coolers that had ice packs in them. At first we used both glass and plastic vials, but we found that the glass vials worked better because the glass got cold while the plastic did not. We initially had 1 ice pack in each cooler and this worked fine for a little while, but once the ice pack was no longer very cold, we had problems with bees simply flying away before they could be painted or moving around too much for an easy paint job. To remedy this problem we started using two ice packs per cooler, which helped.
I found that the best way to continue to keep the bees cold was to paint the bees while they were still sitting on the ice pack. I left the ice pack in the cooler and placed a plastic bag on top of it. I did this so that the bee would not get wet from the condensation on the ice. This method worked rather well and the bees were usually very sedated and easy to paint. Working with the bees in the cooler also shielded them from the sun, keeping them cooler. One difficulty was making sure that the bees did not simply roll over on their backs in their stupor and smear the paint spot. Painting the bee on ice worked very well, but it also caused the ice packs to not last quite as long. It would be a good idea to have several other ice packs on hand in a larger cooler for when the first ones lost their coldness.
After painting a bee, we gently removed it from the cooler while it was on the plastic bag and allowed it to warm up in the sun, at which point it flew away. We released all of the bees within a few meters of where they were captured.

Pictures of equipment and painting will be posted once Andes has internet

Marking bees

Several pictures of the Bee Team marking bees.



No more binoculars

The team formally called “Team Binocular” has now been christened “Bee Team” because of our apparent lack of need for binoculars. We found after some preliminary observations that watching bees with binoculars is pretty much impossible. There is simply too much swaying of brome to be able to track a small darkly covered bee. The wind also picks up too quickly in the morning, making the bees’ flights very erratic and difficult to follow. We tried to follow the bees as they flew off the Echinacea heads, but they would usually catch in the wind and then disappear from our field of view. We also used a step ladder to see if increased height above the garden would help us, but it did not. This stage of the project was a tad disheartening and we began to doubt the feasibility of our project.
We did make some positive progress however, and found that we could often follow the bees with the naked eye. Many times we could actually follow the bee with our eyes as it flew to the next flower, although these flights were typically very short, often just to one of the closest flowers a few meters away or to another flower head on the same plant. The uncertainty of whether that bee is actually the same one led us to devise strategies for distinguishing this fact. People mark honeybees, so we figured that marking our bees the same way with a bit of paint on the thorax would be a feasible option. To determine the feasibility, I “pet” the bee with a bit of brome grass to see if we could mark the bees while they were on the flower heads. In most cases, as long as you moved slowly, the bees were not in the least bit disturbed and continued to explore the flower heads. We put small paint dots on several small non-metallic halictids that we figured we were not going to track due to the difficulty in identifying them on the fly. What was amazing was that we saw some of these bees again as we walked around the common garden not only about 5 minutes after we had marked them, but also almost an hour later when we returned to the common garden.
The most common bee species we saw was Agapostemon virescens, which is a Halictid with a metallic green head and thorax. This bee is fairly large and is also readily identifiable. We also saw another bee fairly fre quently, another halictid Halictis rubicundus. While this bee is also large and even easier to track as it flies because it is slower moving, it would also be harder to paint because it is somewhat more skittish and moves quicker and more erratically on the flower heads. Because of this, we have chosen to focus on Agapostemon virescens first and then maybe expand to other species.
Anyways, that is enough observations for now, but the opportunities for this project are exciting and seem very promising. Several things seem possible with this project (according to Stuart), including determination of home ranges, estimation of population size, and flight patterns.

Bugs and plants

It was a good day around Andes Tower Hill and the study sites. I think one of the top experiences was when Colin assembled the shower caddy the kind folks from the Andes gave to us and I am guessing that it will vastly improve our showering experience. We also got wireless after some skillful negoitiating by Andy. Working was good today, although it appeared that Echinacea was avoiding our study plots today and we only found two plants on one entire side of the whole plot and also found very few seedlings when doing the seedling counts. There were plenty of seedlings at the other group’s sites however. Once back at Andes, Jameson broke ground on his garden and proceeded to work the dirt into something that would be palatable to his plants. We debated tilling the bunny hill and turning it into a large garden, but then decided it was too much work. I chased butterflies around the condos, and Jameson promptly laughed at me when I took a spill in my quest to capture the flitting, defenseless insects. Six of us went looking for some poor, orphaned furry creatures, namely baby raccoons, that Amy had found, but we were unable to locate them and instead picked up roadkill dragonflies. It wasn’t quite the excitement we were looking for, but it was still good. Jameson’s tick count for today was 5 and currently I do not have the expertise to comment on whether this is above or below his average.