Since I began working on this project over two months ago, there have obviously been countless moments that I was not able to document. So, I thought I’d do a quick gloss over of some of the memories that stand out most clearly in my mind.
- In my first week and a half of work, I spent a lot of time inputting the wasps that had just been identified by Dr. Bill Stubblefield of the Fresh Pond Research Institute into the Boston Harbor Islands Insect Database, as well as creating species labels. Although the work was long and somewhat tedious, I learned a lot about what it takes to keep a collection organized, and subsequently had much less trouble setting up my own database for the Arnold Arboretum.
- My first field trip was very successful! I was accompanied (and taught) by Steve C. and Erika D., who have worked in the Farrell Lab for the last few summers. They taught me what I needed to know about catching insects with aerial nets, sweep nets, beating sheets, and aspirators. We also set up FOUR transects of bee bowls, which proved to be WAY too many for one trip. Lessons learned: never set up more than two transects, wear sunscreen, mosquitoes love me, stinging nettle really hurts, and bring a frozen Powerade. Pictures of our adventures are at the bottom of this post.
- On one of my earlier trips, and elderly man on a bicycle saw me with my nets and asked what I was doing. When I told him I was catching bees, he told me how he and his father used to collect wasps when he was a child, and how sad he was that people didn’t appreciate insects (particularly wasps and bees) more. It was a really nice conversation that made my day.
- Another random conversation, this time on the Red Line back to Harvard Square, actually led to the creation of this blog! Thanks to Mark Who Frequently Rides The Red Line for the idea and the title! (He misheard “research on bees” as “bee-search”, which we both thought was pretty brilliant.)
- Taking weekly trips to the Arboretum gives me a fantastic chance to see the changes that happen throughout the summer. I always enter the park through the Forest Hills Gate next to the Bradley Rose Garden, and about three weeks ago, I saw a swarm of huge wasps I had never seen before flying above the grass next to the road. It turns out they were cicada killers (genus Sphecius), and they’ve been coming out at that time of year in the same place for the last four years.
- The same day I saw the cicada killers for the first time, we got to a high temperature of 102 degrees. Now, I grew up in Oklahoma, so it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, but I’m out of practice with that sort of heat! Plus, the bees were more intelligent than I was and stayed out of the heat that day, so the catch was disappointingly small.
- In the lab, I’ve had the chance to see how beautiful bees are close-up. I’ll post high-resolution pictures once I’ve imaged some of the specimens.
- I have done seven field trips so far, and the collection has been simply astounding! In the slideshow below is a picture of all the pinned specimen I had six field trips in, with more since, and more to come!
All in all, these last two months have been incredibly successful and educational, and I can’t wait to find out just how many species I’ve collected in this short time! I’ll be doing my last field trip of the summer tomorrow, with one more this fall as the marigolds start blooming, then it’ll be hours in the lab identifying, labeling, and organizing!