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Planters Do Their Bit to Solve the Plight of the Bumblebee
Thursday, June 14, 2018


Dr. Cameron Cartiere had scarcely begun constructing the bee condos, or apiaries, when the bees started arriving.

It was as if someone had sent out an invitation and the bees wanted to check out the three new luxury high-rise vacation homes artfully made of firewood, aspen branches, sticks, pinecones, and paper straws.

As the bees began moving in, about 50 adults and children were abuzz planting sunflowers, zinnias, blanket flowers,  Lewis flax, gold, yarrow, penstemon, basket-of-gold and other flowers in specified patterns on either side of the apiaries.

The pollinator patch and apiaries, located on the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ lot across from the Ketchum post office, are part of The Center’s BIG IDEA project “Bees.” You can learn more at a free exhibition tour at The Center at Fifth and Washington streets at 5:30 tonight—Thursday, June 14. Wine will be served.

The 25-by-250-foot pollinator pasture created with sheets of seed paper and plant starts should resemble a quilt of many colors as it blooms this summer. Next year and the year after it will likely blend together into one big wildflower mishmash.

The flowers were considered not only with color in mind but shape, as some bees are attracted to umbrella-shaped flowers and others to daisy-like flowers.

“They have wood and twigs and stems,” said Roger Gould as he took a break from raking a wood chip  border around the garden. “This is one cool exhibit and I think it will really help the town.”

“It’s an interesting project and it’s going to be beautiful,” said Melanie Paisley, as she watered the new plants with a water can.

As the gardeners worked, Hannah Lynch and Joyce Patricelli, who just moved to Ketchum from Seattle, worked in what resembled a Cuban cigar factory, rolling brown paper into straws.

“It’s hard,” said Lynch. “You have to be very precise to get the size of the straw about the size of a pencil. And you have to make sure the duct tape you use to hold it is in just the right place so the bees will accept it.”

Cartiere and Sarah Stavros carefully fed six paper straws into PVC pipes.

Queen bees will lay female eggs on the back half of each straw and male eggs on the front half, Cartiere explained. Holes drilled into the logs in the apiaries will provide nesting sites for solitary bees like the metallic sweat bee. And the twigs and sticks will provide nesting sites for lady bugs.

Caging over the apiaries will protect the bees from magpies and crows.

This is the fifth Border Free Bees pollinator patch and apiary project that Cartiere has designed to call attention to the plight of the bumblebee whose numbers of been on a downward spiral due to disease, parasites, pesticides and loss of habitat.

“The amount of bees that have shown up at these projects is demonstrable,” she said. “We’ve also seen more diversity with them than we might have found in the areas before. Different types of bees pollinate different plants so when you plant different pollinator plants you get more diversity.”

Already, Cartiere said, she has spotted a Nevada bumblebee, a bumblebee with a long tongue and short dense fur which likes to dine on milkvetch, thistle, penstemon and salvia. The queen, Cartiere said, is big--the size of her thumb.

“We’ve never seen this bee in Vancouver, although we have seen it in Kelowna, B.C.,” she said.

Other bees that have moved in include the hairy belly bees, which move collect and carry pollen on the hairy underside of their abdomen, and honey bees, which store it in pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Courtney Gilbert, who curated the “Bees” exhibition, said she was overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who have come out to participate in the project. A few dozen helped create homemade paper embedded with Lewis flax seeds in February. And more than 200 turned out to cut 3,333 paper bees out of the homemade paper and pin them on the wall of The Center.

“Personally, I’ve learned so much,” said Kristin Poole, artistic director for The Center. “It’s been so much fun to check the bees every day in the observation hive that Steve Hobbs built for us. When we got baby bees we were googling all the videos about baby bees. And when they started bringing in pollen, it was bright yellow. Now there’s starting to be a little more red in their pollen as they’re feeding on different flowers.”

The exhibition will run through June 22. People are welcome to take some of the paper bees from The Center to plant in their own gardens when the exhibit comes down.

“They’ll be like pollinator plants for your garden,” Cartiere said.

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