Sunday, October 10, 2010

Full House

This is kind of a book review, but with the slight twist that it is meant to highlight the functions of a book. Here, 'book as weight', enlisted to pin down some unruly (salvaged) pallet straps being made into a basket for the bike.

The reason the book was at hand, of course, is because it was in the midst of its first reading when the basket was under construction. And I couldn't put it down, except to go and peer at the Bee House we put up last summer. Book, thus, as constant inspiration.

The reason I couldn't put the book down is that it is absolutely engaging- each chapter is a trip through some specific aspect of bee life, and how that life is conducted given the challenges wrought by humans, all told through the eyes of a humble human (or rather a human who is seemingly humbled by being a student of wild bees).

And so the book teaches you about bees. Who 'they' are, how their social interactions work amongst themselves, how they cope with disturbance, how they get food, and how Bees collectively make up an almost boundless net of activity that is all around, wherever there is something to eat. The book left me in fresh awe of how big ecosystems are, and gave me new reason to marvel at the sheer volume of bees and bee-like things that come around here now.

Most of all, however, and even more important for me is that the book also reveals an awful lot about the astounding discoveries about the web of life out there created through basic scientific research (ie: actually just watching bees in their habitat). The book is not a 'bee research methods manual' or a memoir by a scientist, no. But Packer's tack here is to often explain how insights about Bee Life have been made, and how often that has meant simple (!) field work armed with a willingness to defy conventional scientific belief about bees. To put it more simply, Packer makes clear how very little we actually know about bees, and what a crisis that is at a time when they are clearly and objectively more at risk than ever before.

It is these two qualities together- information and an understanding about the processes of learning- that make this book so useful. It is, then, I guess, kind of a manual, but a manual for how to engage with knowledge about the natural spaces around us, about how to be a humble student of these places.

Which leads back to the title of the post- the book is a 'full house' as in complete to bursting at the seams, like the house at Thanksgiving. But the title also eludes to the fact that our little bee house or Ontario Bee Roost was FULL this summer- each cell got cemented up with mud by some little bees we never managed to see close up. We also got no pictures because we can no longer actually get to the bee house without trampling towering meadow plants. So we don't know what happened in our Bee House, exactly, except that some kind of bees nested in there.

Which, in turn, leads to what binds the book and our bee house together, or what links processes of learning with action. This week we had a guest for supper who asked to photograph our bee house to pass on to the guy at the Farmer's Market who makes and sells bird and bat houses, while also educating his customers about creating habitat for said winged beasts. Well, our guest has convinced Bird House guy that he wants to start making bee houses. And so next week we will be delivering a huge package of information about bee habitat here in Ontario to this guy, plans for making bee houses and photographs. And so just maybe....


  1. i just wrote a really long was
    rejected for too many characters, so, i
    deleted a lot of it
    but not sure it posted.....

  2. i'm pretty sure it didn't make it so will
    just jump to the chase.
    what it boiled down to is that last summer
    it became clear that a LARGE number of bees
    were preparing a place UNDER my house, trailer house, to bring their queen. I paniced. they were going in and out at my
    front steps..not 2 ft from the dog door.
    i called many many people, pres. of beekeepers assoc. county extension agent.
    people who are committed to organic growing,
    beekeepers. all of whom said that at that
    point, in that place, there would be nothing
    to do but kill them with toxic stuff.
    so i don't disappear this message again by
    too many words, i tried one thing that
    WORKED. put old fashioned mothballs in a
    sock. tie with string and dangle sock over
    entry point. Unless the queen is already
    there, the bees will look for a less stinky
    place. if she is there, they will continue
    seeking other entries.
    dispose of sock/moth balls as hazardous
    material ie in sealed container. it is
    toxic in the ground.
    this is the greatest thing i learned last

  3. Brilliant Grace! In so many ways that is a story of awareness and considered engagement with the ecosystem. I'm sorry you're now stuck with stinky mothballs, but both your home and the bee's home was ultimately saved. I think it is quite remarkable they came to pick your house, too. Thanks, Grace.

  4. the mothballs don't stay. you can throw
    them away (care-full y) as soon as the bees
    "get the drift". it took only a few hours.
    I was 2 things: one incredibly relieved at
    having a solution that caused no harm and two, really shocked at how easily people
    who claim to care,
    didn't, if it took any effort of any kind and
    if the bees were "where they shouldn't be".
    was really an eye opener.

  5. Hi! Grace sent me over here to look at your blog. I like what you are doing a lot....

  6. Thanks Deb G! I follow your blog, and admire how freely you share all of your creativity- thanks for that.

  7. And Grace- about the expert advice you were given to murder the bees; you have reminded me that the words 'weeds' and 'pests' are closely related, they are not just 'in the eye of the beholder', but words from systems that alienate us from the world around us. It is heroic that you wouldn't let the bees be treated as pests, and all you had to do was notice that they weren't settled in yet and could be redirected. This is an awesome story Grace.

  8. "basic scientific research (ie: actually
    just watching bees....)"


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