Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mason Bees emerging! (includes video)

Finally! The mason bees are emerging from their house!

This morning dawned cloudless and cold (heavy frost last night), but the sun immediately started warming the mason bee house and the bees started emerging.

The video (bottom) shows 3 bees emerging from one cell.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Release the Bees! -or- How to Build a Bee House (in less than 3 hours)

Last year our apple and pear harvest was ridiculously small;
the year before we made a huge batch of cider (hard and soft ;) , apple and pear pies for everyone, apple butter, preserved pears, and apple mint jelly... so, we really missed all of that with our small harvest! We also noticed very few bees last spring. We garden organically, and we aren't sure of the cause, but we're not taking unnecessary chances with our harvest so we've bought some mason bees to boost our crops!

(follow this link to a post about the wonderful mason bee!)

We're also setting up different types of housing for the bees, so the females can pick and choose where they want to lay their eggs (every mason bee female is a *queen*, lays eggs). This post covers how to build a bee house that is easy to clean (a clean house helps keep the bees healthy!) and reuse from year to year. The instructions include videos and photos.

Materials (for exact house), metric sizes given are close approximates:
  • 1"x6" x ~ 8' (closest metric standard to ~2.54cm x 15.24cm x 2.44m) for cell trays, house sides and house bottom (do NOT use cedar or treated wood for the wooden trays/cells); cut to
    • (10) cell trays- 1"x6" (closest metric standard to ~2.54cm x 15.24cm) each at 5 1/2" (13.9cm) long (fir, pine, hemlock, etc)
    • (2) side pieces- 1"x6" (closest metric standard to ~2.54cm x 15.24cm) each at 8 3/4" (22.26cm) long (adjust length if needed, but the pieces should equal the height of your stacked cell trays and the spacer pieces)
    • (1) bottom piece- 1"x6" (closest metric standard to ~2.54cm x 15.24cm) at 6" (15.24cm) long
  • 1"x8" x ~18" (closest metric standard to ~2.54cm x 20.32cm x 45.72cm) for roof (cedar may be used, but do NOT use treated wood); cut the (2) roof pieces by cutting board exactly in half with a 45 degree angle (which creates the roof peak joint)
  • (2) ~ 1/2"x3"x 5 1/2" (1.2cm x 7.62 x 13.97cm) spacer pieces (clean scrap wood)
  • 1/8" or narrower (.32 cm) x ~2' (60.96cm) long  metal rod (non-corrosive e.g. stainless steel) for stabilizing rod; cut in half or cut in place to correct length 
  • screws
    • (8) #8 1 1/4" deck screws (or similar)
    • (5) #6 x 1 5/8" trim screws (or similar)
  • picture hanging wire and (2) screws
  • wall hook
  • silicone caulk 
  • glue (non-toxic) or small nails/brads/screws ~3/4" (used to attach 2 spacer pieces)
  • optional:
    • roofing metal/adornments ;) - copper, plexi, etc.
    • stain/ sealant/ permanent marker
    • wood and/or wire trim
  • clamps (can use elastic/ bungee cords or ...)
  • saw
  • drill 
    • 5/16" to 3/8" drill bit (~8.5mm to 9.5mm)
    • 1/8" drill bit (size slightly larger than stabilizing rod) (3.17)
    • driver bits or screw drivers (to fit screw heads) 
  • clamps 8"/ bungees (2) that will hold the blocks tight while you work with them

Finally! Here we are, finally getting to the "how to"! No worries, this is pretty easy... and if you have any questions post them to me and I'll help you sort it out :) . If you aren't used to woodworking these directions will walk you through making the bee house pictured above (and then add your own unique detail touches if you want); if you have some experience with woodworking you can just riff off of the techniques used here to create your own unique style of bee house!
  • Assemble all of the materials and equipment
  • Measure and mark 1"x6" board at 5 1/2" length each for 10 cell tray pieces
  • Cut 10 cell trays
  • Stack the 10 cut cell trays together, cut side down, and prepare to clamp them together
  • Clamp together and prepare cell trays for drilling and then number the boards on the side, in order, 1-10 (this will be important later)
  • Set up to drill holes in to the cell tray boards. You want the cell holes to each end up 5 to 5 1/2" (~14cm) deep, this may take a couple steps to achieve. First I drilled the holes using a drill press to about 4 inches deep (I was in a hurry to do this and didn't want to wait to buy a longer drill bit ;) , which created a very straight start, then followed that up with a regular drill to get the depth to 5" to 5 1/2".
  • I spaced the holes about an inch apart. You can mark them if that helps you keep track.
  • Drill the holes! Drill holes directly into the joints between the boards. You are creating the bee cells where the boards join so you can easily take the cells apart to clean and care for your bees and bee house.
  • Drill the holes between 5" and 5 1/2" deep (note the numbered boards ;) . I followed up the drill press, which gave me a nice straight 4" deep cell hole to start, with a handheld drill to drill the holes to 5 1/2"
  • Note the numbers (1-10) on the side of the cell trays
  • Drill a hole (using a bit slightly larger than your stabilizing rod) through all of the cell trays in each of the rear corners, for 2 stabilizing rods that will keep the cell trays from slipping. My drill bit was NOT long enough to drill through all of the cell trays at once so I drilled through four at a time and kept removing the top two cell tray boards to drill down through two more cell tray levels until I went through all of the cell tray boards in the stack
  • Build the house walls for the cell trays by pre-drilling the holes, then using the deck screws to attach the the side walls to the bottom of the house, making the internal width of the house the same as the width of the cell trays. Make sure to line up the back edges of all pieces evenly so the extra lip of the bottom piece sticks out the front of the house. Silicone the joining edges of the wall and bottom on the inside

  • Drill stabilizing rod holes in to house bottom/base, use bottom 2 cell trays as a drilling template to line up the holes for the bottom insert. Do NOT drill all the way through the bottom/base! You want the bottom to hold the rod in place.
  • Temper the insides of each cell with a propane torch. This will help clean up any bits and darken the inside of the cell
  • Affix the 2 spacer pieces, one to the center of the bottom of the bottom cell tray and one to the center of the top of the top cell tray. Set the stack of cell trays in the housing... it should be a snug fit. 
  • Put the stabilizing rods through the cell trays and push firmly in to the bottom/base piece. 
  • Use 2 deck screws (pre-drill!) to attach the top edge of the house walls to the top spacer Be careful not to over-tighten as you will seasonally remove these screws, and these screws are just there to give extra (probably unneeded) stability

  • The back of the bee house, with picture hanging wire. Roof is only set in place at this point to make sure the stabilizing rods are cut to the right length. Cut the stabilizing rods!!! Put silicone between the 45 angle of the roof and join the 2 pieces. If needed, use a box to square up the roof corner, pre-drill, and use three trim screws to screw the two halves of the roof together. Silicone the roof joint. I also sealed the top and sides of the roof, because I wanted to keep the color of the roof light and watertight. Line up the roof so about 1/4" of the roof overlaps to the back of the house, which gives the front a large overlap. Center, pre-drill, and attach the roof to the sides of the bee house using the 2 remaining trim screws, silicone over screw heads.
and from the front......
  • Location! location! location!  The bee house should be mounted in a sunny south-facing area where it also gets early sun, preferably on a wall or solid fence of some sort. We mounted ours on the wall next to our garden area. We pre-drilled the hole since the wall is cement board. Make sure to mount it sturdily.
  • The bee house ready for the bees!
  • The bees in the house. The top spacer piece is a perfect place to set out the bees as they are getting ready to come out of their cocoons.

Coming Soon!
  • More about mason bees (link)
  • More about North American native bees (link)
  • More about honey bees (link)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Brief List of Women Scientists through Time (The Middle Ages a.k.a. ~500-1500 CE)

Again, I start this blog with a caveat, throughout history there has been a tendency to under-report on women participating in the sciences... what follows is definitely not a comprehensive list. Please add your finds to the following list:

  • Empress Theodora (500–545), Byzantine philosopher and mathematician
  • Anna Komnene (1083-1153), Byzantine princess who was a scholar trained in all of the sciences, physician/hospital administrator, and historian. She was the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I and his wife Irene Doukaina, writing the Alexiad which is an account of her father’s reign.
  • Hildegard of Bingen (1099–1179), German abbess who is considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.
  •  Trota of Salerno (12th century), Italian physician and writer, she was one of the Ladies of Salerno who practiced medicine. It is somewhat controversial, but there is strong evidence that she wrote the Trotula Treatises.
  • Herrad of Landsberg (c.1130–1195), German/French nun, and subsequently abbess, she was a natural philosopher who authored the pictorial encyclopedia "Hortus deliciarum" or "The Garden of Delights".
  • Heloise (12th century), French scholar, mathematician, and physician
  • Dame Péronelle (1292-1319), French herbalist and physician
  • Magistra Hersend (13 century CE) French Royal Physician and Surgeon, she accompanied King Louis IX of France on the Seventh Crusade, 1249.
  • Alessandra Giliani (1307-1326), Italian, she was the first known female anatomist and surgical assistant to the father of modern anatomy, Mondino de'Liuzzi, at the University of Bologna. She died at 19 and is known primarily from a memorial plaque from Otto Angenius (a fellow student of Mondino, and likely her fiance) which describes her work. Alessandra was apparently a brilliant prosector (preparer of corpses for anatomical study) and known for developing a method to replace the blood drained from a corpse with a colored hardening dye.
  • Dorotea Bucca (14th century CE), Italian physician and professor of medicine, she held a chair of medicine and philosophy at the University of Bologna for 40+ years.
  • Abella (14th century), Italian physician and writer and lecturer at Salerno School of Medicine
  • Jacobina Félicie (14th century CE), Italian physician licensed and practiced in France (only 1 of 8 at the time in Paris, 1322). She was accused and found guilty of unlawful practice in Paris. Despite positive testimony she was banned from practicing medicine and threatened with excommunication. The court determined that, due to gender, a man could understand the subject of medicine better than a woman. This decision is considered the critical point, beginning the ban on women studying and being licensed in medicine in France until the 1800s, about 500 years.
  • Constance Calenda (15th century), Italian surgeon specializing in diseases of the eye.
During this time, while it wasn't common, Italian schools never barred women and allowed them to study and teach alongside men.

A Brief List of Women Scientists through Time (Antiquity a.k.a. pre-5th century CE)

I start this blog with a caveat, throughout history there has been a tendency to under-report on women participating in the sciences... what follows is definitely not a comprehensive list. Please add your finds to the following list:

  •  Merit Ptah, (2700 BCE) the world's first, currently known, female physician. 
  • Enheduanna (c. 2285–2250 BCE), Sumerian (Akkadian) astronomer and poet, daughter of King Sargon of Akkad.
  • Tapputi-Belatekallim  (~1200 BCE mentioned in a clay tablet dated), considered the first chemist. She was a Babylonian perfumer, the first person in history recorded as using a chemical process, the first referenced still.
  • Theano (6th century BCE), philosopher, mathematician and physician
  •  Perictione (5th century BCE), Greek philosopher, mother of Plato
  •  Arete of Cyrene (5th–4th centuries BCE), natural and moral philosopher, North Africa
  •  Pythias of Assos (4th century BCE), Greek biologist and embryologist with a special interest in marine zoology.
  •  Agnodice (4th century BCE), potentially the first woman physician to practice legally in Athens. The story goes that she hid her gender except to her female patients, so she would be able to practice medicine, especially gynecology. When many women quit going to the the male doctors they brought Agnodice before the court and accused Agnodice of seducing "his" female patients. Agnodice then, graphically, exposed that she was a female. The response was to then  condemn her for violating the law by studying medicine. A crowd of women arrived to praise her medical successes. The result, the laws of Athens were changed and women physicians were allowed to treat women.
  • Hypatia (370–415), Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher.
  • Aemilia (300-363 BCE), Gallo-Roman physician
  • Favilla (2nd century), Roman physician.
  • Aglaonice (1st or 2nd c. BCE), astronomer Greece, regarded as a sorceress for her ability to make the moon disappear, in other words she could predict the time and ~area where a lunar eclipse would occur. One of a group considered the "witches of Thessaly", that were active from the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE.
  •  Maria Prophetissa (b/n 1st and 3rd c. CE), considered first western alchemist, developed several pieces of chemical apparatus.
  •  Metrodora (ca. 200-400 AD), Greek physician and author
  • Leoparda (4th century AD), physician and gynecologist
  • Macrina (4th century AD), Greek physician and nun