Melittosphex burmensis

Melittosphex burmensis

This morning I googled “list of extinct bees” because I have been interested in fossils lately, particularly of ancient bees. In the list of suggested search words at the bottom of my google results was “bees endangered snopes”.

Now, Snopes is a website where you go and double check whether something you’ve read on the internet is true or not. Whether a particular news article is a scam etc. I don’t know why I was surprised but it struck me as odd that people might think the current plight of the bees is an internet scam. It shouldn’t have surprised me.

The prefix “post–“ has been on my mind lately thanks to The Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016, post-truth. We use that prefix a lot in the academy … post-structuralism, postcolonial, postmodern …

After something.

Post-war, post-truth, post-apocalyptic, post-bees?

The thought that there are (quite likely) people out there thinking … I just bet you that whole endangered bees thing is just another internet scam … strikes me as ridiculous and funny. Sad and terrifying, yes. But people are still people. Human nature is what it is. there is something comforting about it because it means we don’t quite yet live in a post-human world. Well, not post-human yet.

That happens after post-bees …






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For Barbara

people locked in, locked out
all wearing
fancy uniforms
of some kind

framing themselves into folds of
environmentalist, enforcer
scientist or
something or other

damn liars
cheeseburger eaters
if it were possible
we’d all gorge ourselves
on processed food

today we ate five grilled cheese sandwiches
(white bread and processed cheese)
threw out two full containers of milk gone bad
a carton of eggs, some sour cream
and a block of real cheese
that was no longer recognizable.

we spent three hours
entering contests online

two of them were
for new fridges





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pasture site last fall

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging lately.

What does it mean to belong to a place? Physical places? The body, home, land … How does one go about creating a sense of belonging in a physical place? Do I belong to the prairies? Can I belong to this valley someday? How many places can we belong to? Does my body belong to me? Or do I belong to my body?

Last fall I would go out and walk around the pasture site weekly and take pictures of the plants that were there … trying to learn about them. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I thought the best place to start was to physically be there. How strange and lonely those weekly visits felt sometimes.

This fall is entirely different … I don’t feel strange or lonely at all when I’m alone on the site. Having spent so much time there getting the soil ready, planting, seeding, talking, laughing, hauling water and taking work-breaks in the rain.


a work break in the rain

So, I guess my conclusion this morning … sitting here flanked on either side by SAD lamps and armed with a rather disappointing cup of coffee (I tried a new brand of beans … they aren’t that great) … is that belonging does have something to do with relationship. Relationship with self, with the physical place, with others that you encounter through and in that space … and you, your physical self is right there … bobbing along …

I’m reading Paul Auster’s, Winter Journal at the moment and it is a memoir written through the experience of his body. It has also got me thinking about physical space and belonging …

a rainy day on-site

a rainy day on-site

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two garden gloves peak out
behind the rake
little plants grow
in the morning

the long green hose wraps around
my bare feet under the bench
at the side of the house

It rained last night
overflowing all the coffee cups
I’ve left out

mud colored water
the first insects of summer



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Childhood is for the Bees!


Last week we had some elementary school kids come out to the Pollinator Pasture in Kelowna to plant milkweed that they had started in their classrooms. The kids were so excited and serious about it. I had a conversation with one of the other adults about childhood and how great it is for kids to be able to get out into the natural world and learn about it. They had a blast learning how to plant their milkweed and are excited to come back and see how the plants grow.

Right now I’m visiting family and enjoying Spring in Saskatchewan (it snowed Thursday night!). After wandering around and visiting all my favourite spots on my parents’ land – the beavers have done a beautiful job of damming up the water on either side of the road … again – I was thinking about how great it was that I had this place to spend my summers at when I was a kid.

My nephews were very excited to tell me all about this new “magic” door that Grandpa had built. When I wandered out into the yard this morning and down the hill I found the “magic” door … a little gate with a round hole in it and the words Tir Na Nog written on it. Tir Na Nog is, in Irish mythology, the Land of Youth. The trees around the little gate create a little world when they leaf out … and the kids love to build little nests and forts underneath them. Now they will have a little gate, just their size, that they can go through into the land of youth.


I think it is so important that one of the things the Pollinator Pasture team does is get kids out to put up bee homes and help with the planting on site. It honours their right to learn and experience the natural world. Childhood is a precious time and it is fleeting. So are the wild spaces and creatures that dwell in them.


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The Public Art Pollinator Pasture is looking for your poetry!

We invite you to submit original poetry about pollinators, our relationship to wild pollinators, the plight of pollinators in the world, or any related tangent, subject, poetics, influence or inspiration.  Any style or aesthetic is acceptable, from experimental to formalist.

Chosen poems will be awarded $50 and displayed around Kelowna this summer in our Poetry Post.

Individual poems must fit onto one sheet of letter-sized paper and should be submitted to no later than June 21st 2016. Please submit no more than three poems per person. We will accept previously published poems as long as you provide copyright permission for us to publish.


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Being a ‘Citizen Scientist’ is exciting …

“In reality most humans are: (1) not just ignorant of but indifferent to almost all of the species on the planet; (2) ‘biophobic’, i.e. slightly to extremely negative towards the majority of species they encounter: and (3) extremely positive towards certain species they encounter that are valuable or simply have characteristics valued by the human psyche.” – Ernest Small, The New Noah’s Ark: beautiful and useful species only

I was reading through the introductory section of The Bees in Your Backyard: a guide to North America’s Bees and I realized that as I turned the pages that I was reacting with fear to some of the detailed (and beautiful) close-up photographs of insects! I avoided looking directly at them or I quickly turned the page. I am laughing at myself for doing so … but I’m also wondering why my reaction is so strong? It isn’t like they are live insects crawling on me – they’re just photographs!

A lot of kids start out being interested in insects, at least the ones I’ve met do … but give them a few years and they start being afraid of them. Maybe because they see how the adults around them react? I know people who are afraid of spiders, beetles, snakes and even ants. I used to eat ants when I was a kid because my brother told me if I needed to survive in the wilderness I could just pull off their heads and snack away. I thought this was great … my grade one classmates didn’t think it so cool.

Nancy Holmes and I went to the Pollination, Science & Stewardship conference in Penticton, BC at the end of March and there were some great talks about moths, flies and bees. Along with all the Pollinizing Sessions and the research I’ve been doing, Elizabeth Elle’s Bee ID workshop (we got to look at specimens under a microscope … the sheer variety of wild bees is amazing!) I’m really starting to feel like I know a bit more about wild bees, where to find them and how to identify them.

I was visiting my sister in Atlanta, GA over the Easter break and managed to identify an Eastern Carpenter Bee … not bad! Probably one of the easier ones to identify … but a year ago I definitely wouldn’t have been able to identify it –– I would have assumed it was a Bumblebee because of the size of it.

I don’t think I’ll start eating ants again … but I’ve made a conscious effort over the past few months to learn about the creepy crawlies along with the wild bees … and I find that knowing more about them goes a long way to help one feel more comfortable with them. And it is pretty gratifying to bee able to identify them!

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Winter Pasture Photos & Papermaking!

We had a wonderful day learning how to make the (Gaillardia) seed embedded paper that will eventually become 500o laser cut silhouettes of the Western Bumblebee! Part of the installation that will be at the Kelowna Art Gallery this summer. We’ll be doing paper making workshops in the community over the next few months to get ready for the show.

Jaymie Johnson from the Richmond team came out to train us and this afternoon I took her to visit the site for the Pollinator Pasture. Here are a few pics from the afternoon! Stay tuned for more pictures of the paper making process

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Some new thoughts …

Well … folks …

it has been a while since I’ve posted on here. I’ve had four or five posts that I’d written and planned out and thought about … but when it came to actually posting them … I couldn’t. They were all so wooden. It may be partly the anxiety of this being my first opportunity to be a ‘writer-in-residence’ … or the anxiety of writing my ‘unedited’ thoughts … and mostly, I’ll be honest, my insecurity over how little I know about bees, pollinators and plants. All the posts I have planned have been my own attempts to force something … almost like I was trying to find real-life examples and squeeze them into some sort of sermon about the natural world. I felt like I was ‘pretending’ that I knew what I was talking about. None of it felt right or comfortable or helpful.

I walked into this as someone who had no knowledge of what this project was trying to achieve, very little knowledge about bees … other than what I learned a few years ago when my sister and I planned on taking a course in Regina, SK on keeping honey bees & the stories my mother told me about Mr. Abrams … (her school teacher, who kept bees) … she worked for him at his apiary when she was a girl.

I keep trying to come up with concise, intelligent, enticing … or funny … well crafted & grammatically correct blog posts. I’ve felt out of my element because I usually write about human relationships and human psychology, spirituality, and often, I’ll admit, the dark and difficult experiences of the human heart. The joy though, too. The joy and beauty of human love and compassion and struggle. And now I come to this. This amazing opportunity to write about this seriously cool and important project. But I knew nothing of bees. All writers feel like frauds (about 90% of the time if their humble, 60-75% if they’re not). I’ve never felt so inadequate as a writer as I have in the past few months while trying to write something intelligent and well crafted on this blog.

So I’ve been reading and studying and thinking about bees, about conservation, about native plants and gardening … about the way the world is going … how my mother can walk down a grid road and name all the plants in the ditch … and how I can’t. How I have to look up what is recyclable and what isn’t online … what I should compost … what isn’t good for the soil etc. It is all daunting and overwhelming and I feel inadequate and embarrassed about how little I know. I’m supposedly ‘socially conscious’ (not that I really know what that means).

But I’m probably not alone in that … that feeling of inadequacy. That desire to do something, to help, to be in tune with the natural environment. To help.

So, I’ve decided that the best way I can write this blog is to do what I do best, to do what I do when I write poetry. To be brutally honest about things. About myself.

I knew almost nothing about bees or pollinators or conservation when I was asked to be a part of this project. I had an interest, sure. I have worked for non-profits, arts orgs & community outreach stuff since I was in my teens. My brother is a conservation officer, my mother grew up on the land, my family had/has gardens … I care about this stuff. I was obsessed with invasive species and the circumpolar north for most of my early twenties (just ask me about leafy spurge) … I’ve spent time living off-grid.

I thought I knew more than the average bear.

But the more I study bees and pollinators and native plants … I realize how little I know.

Some things I’ve learned:

  • flies have two wings, bees have four!
  • there are two species of bees in the arctic … one of them is a ‘social parasite’
  • not all bees are honey bees or social bees
  • wasps will eat flesh for protein & bees get their protein from pollen
  • there are an insane amount of bee species out there – and so many of them look nothing like what we think bees look like
  • it is incredibly hard to be a bee
  • the organisms that prey on bees … the mites & other things … yikes! they read like a horror story … can you imagine something burrowing into you & leaving larva inside you & eventally getting eaten from the inside out?
  • the tradition of “telling the bees” – you guys have to look it up, cause it is fascinating … traditionally, people used to ‘tell’ their bee colonies when a family member died … because it was believed that if they didn’t tell the bees the whole colony would up and leave! The bees would know!

The more I learn about bees … the more I fall in love with them & understand why so many poets have written about them.

Some of the books I have been reading:

Candace Savage’s Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders

(a fabulous little book – so comfortable to read & full of poems and art about bees … also, just FYI Candace is a wonderful gracious lady & you should also read her book, Geography of Blood)

The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North American Bees

(read the bit about ‘Bee predators’ … mother nature is anything but benign …)

Bees: And Up Close Look at Pollinators Around the World

(beautiful pictures of bee species from all over the world … like the title says!)

Now that I’ve been honest about my own inadequacy … I hope I won’t hesitate anymore about putting up my awkward thoughts & attempts to learn more about pollinators and the importance of this project.

Forgive my punctuation.


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Wild Bees

Great website with information on North American insects: Bug Guide

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