Sunday, April 8, 2007

On to Nevada

I'll be traveling to Nevada for the next fews days, out in the boonies- Lovelock, to be exact. While I'm there I might look for signs of the native bees, the Alkali bee and the Leaf-cutter bee.

From History of Lovelock, NV
"Lovelock boasts some 40,000 acres under irrigation in Upper and Lower valleys, most of it devoted to grain for feeding livestock, and to the alfalfa seed for which Lovelock is known around the world.
You may not think there is much romance or fascination in alfalfa, but that's only because you haven't met the bees. Alfalfa is not a cross-pollinator, and so its flowers must be tripped by insects in order to propagate. A special strain of bees was developed locally to perform this essential task. Called the leaf-cutter bee, this industrious insect does not live in hives like honey bees do, but in individual nests. Seeking to build these little pellet-shaped nests, the female bees eagerly occupy any pre-existing hole of the appropriate size and shape. Thus soda straws left unattended when the females are feeling the mating urge, will be filled with nest and eggs. So will the corrugations in a piece of cardboard, and so will empty nailholes in a fencepost. One local man had to give up on his outdoor barbecue when the leaf-cutters insisted on nesting in the gas jets of the burner.
Even more wonderful are the alkali bees, which also participate in the pollination of alfalfa. These bees are hiveless too, nesting in little burrows in the ground. They prosper in the alkaline soil of the ancient sea beds. But the alkali bee has a deadly enemy, the bomber fly. This aerial marauder comes whirring out over the desert floor after the alkali bee has laid its eggs, and searches for the little nests. When it finds one, it hovers in the air about a foot above the ground, and with the most amazing and deadly accuracy flips its own eggs into the hole as well. When the fly egg hatches, the larva instinctively digs down and devours the helpless bee larva. The full-grown fly emerges in the spring to begin the cycle again. But when the bomber fly emerges, it is as a wingless adult, and during the 20 or 30 minutes needed to shed its skin, and to dry and activate its wings, the fly is defenseless.

This accounts for one of the most unexpected (and ridiculous) rituals conducted anywhere in the Wild West: Fly stomping.
It hasn't been done in recent years, but not so long ago, over three or four weeks in late May and early June, seed company employees made a huge grid across the desert floor with stakes and string. They hired every able-bodied 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grader in Lovelock, outfitted them with fly swatters and gave each one a patch of desert to patrol.
At the twitch of an emerging fly, the kids pounced and swatted. The sight of all these youngsters, prowling their sections of desert, yelping with excitement and lunging on the attack, is unforgettable. And fly-stomping was one of the growing up experiences that Lovelock kids carried with them to the grave. Regrettably, it was discovered that the trampling of the soil caused more damage to the alkali bees than the bomber flies, and fly-stomping came to an end."

Heh heh, so ends an inspired, but misguided attempt at IPM. :-p

1 comment:

Slogiant said...

I've been waiting patiently for a followup on the Nevada adventures of Anile.

What happens to the bees of 2007?