The “Work Bees” contributed to the 80+ solitary bee houses monitored in Yukon this past growing season. Forty were equally divided among five local farms. Citizen scientists and I installed the remaining ones around the territory, with the greatest concentration close to Whitehorse, and the northernmost sites along the Dempster Highway.
To collect data on the use of these bee houses, half of the 60 holes in each bee house were lined with removable nesting straws for the duration of the growing season. Then, just before the accumulation of snow asserted the arrival of winter, we collected the nesting straws. Insects and spiders living in the remaining 30 holes were left in situ to perpetuate local populations.
I candled the collected straws over an old salvaged scanner repurposed as a light box. The penetrating light enabled detection of occupants in the nesting straws. Occupants included spiders, moths, flies, and egg sacs as well as bees and wasps. Aphid wasps were among the most common inhabitants, a minute insect that provisions each larva with a stockpile of aphids.
The straws containing nests of bees and wasps have now gone to University of Ottawa where they are being reared in a controlled lab environment. We will be learning what species we have, what plants the bees gather pollen from, and who the parasites are. For some species, it may take two years before fully developed adults emerge. Nature instills patience.
Thanks again to all who contributed and the Environmental Awareness Fund for sponsoring the “Work Bees”.