Very Tiny Bees
A very trending topic, as they say, at the moment is how to encourage pollinator species not to go extinct die to habitat loss, insecticidal sprays and climate change. This something we are hastily in favour of.
Trouble is, when we think about pollinators we usually think of honey bees (Apis mellifera), a non-native creature in this country, and assorted bumble bees (Bombus spp.) – all of which are indeed very important and in need os all the help we can give them … but they are the “charismatic megafauna” of the pollinator world and it is far too easy to overlook all the other toilers in the garden of Eden.
Let me introduce you to “Small Carpenter Bees“. I was vaguely aware that these creatures exists, and yes that is their official common name, the ‘small’ is not optional. They came to my attention one hot day this week when, photographing garden flowers I happened upon this truly tiny little black, rather nondescript insect that stayed still long enough for me to grab a photograph. As you can see, not many distinguishing features and very much the sort of insect you would not give a second glance too while worrying about the absence of bumble bees in your garden.
Well, turns out this site an important fellow – a member of the subgenus Zadomtomerus of the genus Ceratina. There are five species around here that it could be I am not able to go there, it requires a pinned specimen, a microscope and the willingness to examine microscopic structures on the hind legs to go taxonomically further. He, actually probably she, is truly tiny at under a half centimetres in length and an active little pollinator.
Most species of Ceratina bees live independently of others (i.e. they are solitary) but some species live in small colonies and a few appear to have nests with several adult females. They usually nest in woody materials in various locations mostly in shaded environments. This fact sheet provides information about these bees to encourage farmers to understand and protect them to help ensure that their crops are effectively pollinated. Different bee genera pollinate different plant species, although there is some overlap that acts as a buffer as bee populations wax and wane. For healthy ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems both diversity and abundance in the bee fauna is important.
So, we have them in the garden and they are very welcome to stay. the fact that they nest in woody materials lends support to our decision a few years ago to install a decaying “stumpers” of fallen logs in a back corner of the garden.
Fascinating chaps, you will agree. Please nurture the tiny creatures as well as the large and flashy one – they all have their parts to play in the important work of flower pollination.
Einkorn, a Truly Ancient Grain
A few days ago I went to a boulangerie not far away for bread (what else). This place makes only sourdough breads and all from ancient grains – this time I picked up a loaf made from Einkorn flour which, I was told, is the oldest wheat in the world and nearly went extinct.
It tastes superb – and so it should at $8.50 a moderate sized loaf. Buy yours from http://boulangeriedesrosiers.com
So, of course, I had to read up about Einkorn, also known as Emmer … as one does. Turns out this is the original wild wheat form the middle east. It is known the Neanderthals ate it 10,000 years ago … it has come a long way since. It was the first grain cultivated by humans when they stopped hunter-gathering. 5-6000 years ago on two separate, geographically distinct occasions it hybridized with “goat grass” (another wild grass of a very different genus) …. the descendants of one instance going on to eventually emerge as modern wheat awhile the other gave rise to spelt. I make a lot of bread from spelt – magnificent taste. If you have a gluten intolerence, these ancient grains have little gluten in them so you might want to try them out as they are much more easily digested.
The patron at the boulangerie runs an annual course (for a fee) on sourdough baking with ancient grains – I have signed up, hoping to pick up ideas to augment what I have learned in the past years simply by trial and error. Looking forward to November.