flutter

Sorting through piles and piles of old work, more precisely the cast off sheets of imagery on gampi from the large bee-themed work from 2015, I started to play with the materials; exploring, in a sketchbook, the idea of collections, of possessing nature. Specimens, both botanical and entomological, are instrinsic parts of my new work, and I am reflecting upon my own need to see nature as a collectible entity.

 

a tiny life, a tiny death

 

Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus. Asteraceae. 17″x 22” Archival print on gampi, beeswax. 2017 jasna guy

Recently I attended a native bee identification workshop at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island given by the wonderful entomologist and bee specialist, Lincoln Best. (Instagram: @beesofcanada). Just close by our classroom, there were gardens, hedges and some wild areas. In the wild part, there was a small bush of Lesser Burdock–a new plant to me–which my bee-buddy, Lori (Madame Beespeaker) said was Burdock. Sadly, Burdock is an invasive plant, but that negative aspect notwithstanding, Burdock is very generous in the pollen and nectar it offers its visitors, and that plant was buzzing with activity.

Every day of our workshop was a fantastic learning experience, but if I had to choose one experience only, I think it would be the delight, awe, sadness and beauty in the intense observation and exploration of a tiny black bee, a Dianthidium species, and the life and death that I witnessed on one of its floral resources, this very same Burdock, Arctium minus.

Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus. Asteraceae.

 

Dianthidium foraging on Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus.

Note the frayed edges of this little bee’s wing. She must have been working very hard provisioning and building her nest. Bees in your Backyard states that Dianthidium collect various materials for their nests, including pebbles, soil and resin, and that it might take up to 1000 trips for a female to build, provision and conceal one nest. No wonder her wings are in tatters!

Male Dianthidium circling a female on Lesser Burdock

The females do not lose their attractiveness to males after mating, rather, the male continues to pursue the female because he wants to be the last male to mate with her before she lays an egg, to increase the likelihood that his genes will get passed on to the next generation.

Dianthidium mating pair

Working on the next generation: The female just goes on with her foraging and nest building after her encounters with the male. Note in the photo above, the female has very light-coloured pollen on her head, probably the pollen from these disc florets she was foraging on before the male accosted her. Dianthidium belong to the Megachilidae family of bees, which means that the female carries her load of collected pollen on special hairs under her belly.

Lori and I did not manage to find any of the Dianthidium nests, sadly. That would have been fantastic!

Dianthidium male caught in the web of a tiny spider. Burdock leaf.

And finally, the same plant that offers food and a mating-bed also brings death with it! The cycle of life.

 

 

 

on the road

Part of the thrilling process of learning about native pollinators and their relationship to flowers is moving beyond my immediate surroundings and exploring environments that are further afield. One of my most favorite parts of this province is the Okanagan-Similkamen region with its fragrant desert hillsides, the Ponderosa Pine forests, the orchards and of course, the wineries.  But even getting there is a rich experience as roadsides are often full of wildflowers that color the dusty banks with splotches of red, blue, purple and yellow and white. Some of those colors come from native plants, like the lupins, yarrow and Indian Paint brush, but sadly, some also come from invasive species like some thistles and knapweeds, Dalmation toadflax, sulphur cinquefoil and oxeye daisies.

Indian Paint Brish and Lupins

 

Thimble Berry and Lupins

Bumblebee alighting onto a native rose.

A feast of lupins!

Lupins of different tonalities and Indian Paint Brush

It’s interesting to observe the communities of plants. Where they grow and how they grow. Indian Paint Brush is semiparasitic. It needs to rely on neighbors for survival. Is it the lupins that provide the help, the tree or some other plant?

Bird’s Foot Trefoil, yarrow and wild roses. This was such a fragrant place to be! The roses were amazing.

Process 2: flubs

A print of an enlarged dissection of a Cranesbill Geranium blossom.  One of the tricky aspects of printing on this thin gampi paper is that the printer does not like it, and the inkheads of the printer tend to clog and splotch, often resulting in a totally messed up and unusable print. You can see the bottom edge of the image has black spotches.

Cranesbill Geranium,  in process, 34

Cranesbill Geranium, in process, printed on gampi, 34″x 22″.

Close up detail of the bottom left section of the larger print (above). I’ve tried to rescue the print by creating little drawings around the ink splotches. Not sure if this is successful, but I am going to use the image anyway as evidence of this inevitable part of the printing process.

bottom edge of the  print, Cranesbill Geranium

bottom edge of the print, Cranesbill Geranium

process

I’ve been working on my new series for a long time now, and I realize that I haven’t documented the process much, or at all. So, here’s the first installment.

This is one of the walls of my studio space–with images waiting, drying, some on the floor and others hung up.  I print my own work on a lovely, slightly translucent gampi paper. The process is time-consuming because the thin gampi won’t go through the printer on its own; it has to be lightly and temporarily glued onto another surface. Once printed, the image is immediately and gingerly removed from the backing. If I’ve added too much spray adhesive, the paper tears when I try to remove it, so that becomes a lost print! The good prints are left to dry for several days. The pigments are archival quality and killer expensive, but at least I am bound only by the limits of my printer’s dimensions (and my credit card limit for that month).

studio wall with prints hung up to dry

studio wall with prints hung up to dry

The small colored rectangles you see in the image are pollen color samples. They are done on little wooden panels and painted with acrylic. Some will be dipped in beeswax, others finished with an acrylic resin.

for this one seed, Persephone

 

A little more than a week is left of this year–the end of one–the beginning of another.  Perhaps now, in the midst of cold winter when the queen bees are sleeping, it is the time to sit and reflect upon these months of silence and stillness.

The ancient Greeks have a touching myth to explain the changing seasons, the tale of Demeter, the earth-mother goddess and her daughter Persephone. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, and doomed to spend her entire life underground, in darkness with her captor. Demeter raged against her loss, and in her grief  plunged the entire earth into cold winter. Demeter demanded that Hades return her daughter to the world of sunlight, but alas, Hades had enticed Persephone into eating the seed of a pomegranate and for this act, she was destined to live a third of the year in the frigid darkness of Hades’ realm, and the earth doomed to remain cold and empty of flowers. (To read further, see the Homeric Hymn to Demeter: earlywomenmasters.net).

I’ll start with a flower that Demeter missed, apparently, and left on the earth despite the cold, the dark and the snow. This is the Winter Rose, or Christmas Rose, appropriately called thus for the season, although it does not belong to the rose family at all, but the Ranunculaceae.

The Hellebore has super cool petals that are tubular shaped, and which are actually nectar-holding structures, ie nectaries. The large colored structures that we think are petals, are not petals at all, but sepals.

None of the native bees are awake and out when most of the Hellebores bloom, but I’ve seen honeybees on them on warm sunny days in early spring. The amazing, complex structure of the blossom with its strange petal-nectaries, the multiply-pronged stigmas and abundant stamens absolutely enchant me!

Hellebore  10x15" archival print on gampi, beeswax

Hellebore 10×15″ archival print on gampi, beeswax

 

native bees 101

Glorious wildflower meadow - a real field day!

Glorious wildflower meadow – a real field day!

Just returned from a fantastic week of bees and flowers and study and wine touring in the stunning interior of B.C. What an enriching experience it was to peer at bees in the lab, to learn more about our native bee species and then to go out into the field (literally) amidst the flowers that are the nutritional resources for the bees. (Ahem, the wine touring was not part of the course).

Our native bee ID course was led by super-star bee expert, Lincoln Best. We were at Thompson River University in sunny Kamloops; hosted by the Master Gardener’s Association and organized by master gardener and artist, Elaine Sedgmen.

Our instructor, Lincoln Best demonstrating how to "tumble dry" bees

Our instructor, Lincoln Best, demonstrating how to “tumble dry” bees

I must say that one of the funniest highlights of our course was watching our fearless instructor, Lincoln Best, demonstrate how to “tumble dry” bees in preparation for pinning. Fluffing up wet bee fuzz is hard work! And listening to him describe how he had to shave the hair off a tiny bee’s face in order to find those oh-so-important identifiers, the “subantennal sutures,” was hilarious! Yup, that must have been one tiny razor!

Just a few of the stars I had the pleasure of photographing:

Andrena-on-gumweed

A bee from the Andrenidae family (I think) with a super load of golden pollen she collected from gumweed (Grindelia).

Andrena-on-gumweed-2

The thrill for me is always seeing how different bees collect pollen. This little bee has pollen right up into her armpits, all along her hind legs and even some on her abdomen.

Lori-at-the-Knudsford-Meadow-copy

Madame Beespeaker aka Lori Weidenhammer of “Victory Gardens for Bees” fame, glorying in the bee search amidst the vast, stunningingly beautiful meadow  near Kamloops. The afternoon was astounding – payne’s grey menacing clouds and gold and siena fields. Unforgettable!

male-megachididae-on-Mariposa-lilly

A very wet male bee from the Megachilidae family, waiting to dry out on the lovely petals of a Mariposa Lily. He’s got highly specialized front legs that he uses to cover the female bee’s eyes during mating. Kinky, blind-folded sex; who would have thought it?

Melissodes-and-aphid-Copperhead

A long-horned male bee (a Melissodes from the Apidae family, I think), and an aphid in discussion on a gumweed blossom. Hmmm, was the topic climate change or the vintage of nectar?

Bombus-huntii-on-gumweed

Perched on its forelegs and midlegs, a brilliantly striped bombus huntii (again, I think) purveys the surrounding territory.

Bombus-huntii-on-Melilotis

Another bombus huntii foraging on Melilotis. Look at those beautiful orange pollen loads!

bombus-on-chicory-2-at-Old-Grist-Mill

Bumblebee (possibly bombus bifarius?) deep into the nectar of chicory, and already powdered with the off-white pollen from the anthers.

Andrena-sp-on-cinquefoil-at-Old-Grist

A mining bee busily foraging on potentilla.

bombus-and-mining-bee-on-veronica-at-Summerland

The Veronica buffet – speedwell is a favorite of many different types of bees. Here, a large bumble bee and a smaller mining bee enjoy the sweet nectar.

Leaf-cutter-on-Trefoil

A leaf-cutter bee with some orange pollen on her abdomen sinks her head into the throat of a Trefoil blossom.

honey-bee-on-chicory-at-Old-Grist-Mill

Honey bee with amazing pollen loads she collected from chicory blossoms. How can she fly with such a heavy weight to carry?

Mystery-bombus-on-solidago-2

A rather blurry shot of a mystery bumble bee on solidago. More bee ID work needed here!

Bombus-on-spirea-with-rainbow-pollen-loads

This bumble bee foraging on spirea has a stunning two-toned pollen load

bombus-on-vetch-with-rainbow-pollen-load

Look at this amazing multicolored pollen load on this Bombus vosnesenskii! She’s got her head deep into a vetch blossom.

 

 

Nevadensis-queen-butt

My all-time favorite newly recognized bee was this stunningly gorgeous bombus nevadensis queen I discovered foraging on thistle. She was huge!  I’ve used an image of her as the header to my blog site.




 

a beeessential plant

I’m loving the pollen collecting and because the season is short and there are a lot of flowers in bloom almost at the same time, my days quite literally fly by.  250,000 flowering plant species on this planet, and with only about 150 samples of pollen collected to date, that’s a miniscule dent in the grander scheme of pollen, eh? In all earnestness, my goal is not the 250,000, but the exploration of the flowers that are/might be useful forage resources for our native bee species.

Basically, each flower/plant requires some research – information about its flowering period, what pollinators visit, the structure of the flower; its pollen grain form and color; the food resources the plant offers: pollen, nectar, floral oils, wax, nest-building material etc.; and what the experts say about the plant.

Here’s a page of rough sketches and info. on Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). I learn something new with each plant that I collect and dissect. Sneezeweed is in the Aster family. The blossom is actually composed of two kinds of  flowers called florets: the larger, outer ring of flowers, called ray florets, and the inner head, composed of fertile, bisexual (containing both male and female parts) disc florets The pollen grain (bottom right of page) is very cool – it’s covered in spikes, like a burred seed pod, and perhaps the spikes help the pollen to stick to the body of a pollinator, just like a spiky seed does?

Sneezeweed offers both pollen and nectar to visiting bees, and it also provides a good landing platform for pollinators to stand on as they work their way through the numerous, closely packed tiny disc florets. Lori Weidenhammer, in her new book, Victory Gardens for Bees, considers it a bee-garden essential plant not only because it offers good resources for bees during the high season, but more importantly, it is a much-needed pollen and nectar source later on when resources are scarce. A bee-utiful flower with beautiful golden orange pollen!

sneezeweed234-copy

I’ll either photograph or scan the flower that I’m working on, as a further means of documentation. Below is one of my new “try-outs” in terms of producing a body of work based upon the flower/pollen research I’m engaged in presently. In this case, I’ve scanned the sneezeweed blossom. I love the way the petals look like wings, or a flouncy skirt. I’ve printed this on a translucent gampi paper, in archival pigment ink. I’ve also added the pollen color in a band, to the bottom of the image. The medium is powdery soft pastel, the same medium I’ve been using to document pollen colors these past 3 years. I like the thinness and delicate quality of the gampi – it feels ephemeral, like the flower that sit on its surface.

Sneezeweed-with-pollen-tryout-copy

Helenium autumnale, archival pigment ink on gampi. Total dimension: 34″ x 22″ jasna guy 2016

Victory for Queen Lori and the bees

Wow, it’s mid June and I haven’t posted anything since April!  I’m deep into pollen collecting; it’s taking all my time and energy right now. Everything is early this year!

But now to other great news–my bee-buddy, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker, Queen Lori), has been on a grand tour, promoting her new, fabulous and informative book on bees, Victory Gardens for Bees. Check out her super blogsite for postings of her experiences. This is a great time of the year to be reading and learning about pollinators since many of the plants mentioned in Lori’s book are blooming right now. I find it such a delight  to read about a bee or a blossom and then actually see one in the flesh!  There is so much useful, practical information in this book–about our native bee species, about native and near-native plants, about gardens and garden design, about natural ways of controlling pests, about easy ways for all of us to help pollinators–and, it’s Canadian! Yay, Lori!!! Need a good summer read? This is it. Completely enjoyable and yet so informative!

Lori-Weidenhammer-book

All in the family: 2 cherries, a plum, a pear and a quince

As March progressed and passed, and April followed–our city in full bloom with the flowers of thousands of ornamental trees– already tiny white and pink petals swirl in the wind and gather in the gutters–still a delight.

I’ve selected a few samples from those multitudes of glamorous, ephemeral blooms to peer at and study: 2 cherries, an ornamental plum, a pear (I believe) and a Japanese flowering quince. These plants all belong to the Rosaceae family which has more than 3,000 species under its wing, including representatives from some of our favorite food crops, like pears, apples, peaches, almonds and strawberries.

Kirk & Howes in their book, Plants for Bees, state that cherry is considered second only to apple trees as a nectar producer, and as such, is an important food resource for pollinators. The authors are, of course, speaking of the fruit-producing orchard trees. However, they state that even the ornamental trees are of similar value as bee plants, both for their nectar and for pollen.

Ornamental-cherry

Ornamental cherry. This particular cherry has a delicious sweet nectar in the cup of each blossom. The tiny drops taste almost of cherry liqueur. Quite amazing!

 

This sample below is from a wild cherry from my neighborhood. The leaves of the cherry have tiny red extra-floral nectaries on their stems that look like little bugs at first glance, but they are not, and their purpose has to do with defense against the plant’s enemies, herbivores. Apparently this sweet substance attracts ants, and they in turn, protect the plant from other insects in return for the sweet payment. An interesting symbiotic relationship!

cherry

Wild cherry (Prunus avium) The leaves have tiny extra-floral nectaries on the petioles.

 

The blossoms of this tree are very fragrant. I think it’s a plum tree – the leaves are coppery purple, and there are no horizontal lines on the trunk, like cherry trees have.  Kirk and Howes state that bumblebees, honey bees and mason bees gather the plum’s nectar and pollen.

plum

Very fragrant blossoms. Ornamental plum, I think!

The white blossoms of this tree are pungent indeed, and not favorably. Quite smelly actually. I think this might be a Pyrus calleryana? The anthers are a beautiful magenta/purple, but as they mature and dehisce their pale golden pollen, the anthers become dark little ragged ends.

pear-blossoms

Strong smell, described by one author as akin to rotting fish, but I didn’t find it quite that obnoxious.

 

Gorgeous red/salmon tones of Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica). Apparently bumblebees, honey bees and early solitary bees harvest pollen and some nectar from this shrub.

quince-blossoms

Amazing number of stamens: 40-60 stamens in each flower, and 5 partially fused styles with 5 stigmas.