Category Archives: Food

Welcoming native bees

I gave a Zoom lecture last night on why people should care about native bees, and promised the audience (friends of Belmont Hills Library, in Bala Cynwyd, PA) that I’d share some links, photographs, and answers to some of the questions at the end. If you have any lingering questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck attracting bees, and thanks again for the invitation.

My blog posts I referenced

Links of interest

Articles

Bee books

Answers to questions

  • Good native ground cover to replace English ivy? A: golden groundsel (Packera aurea).
  • Honey from any native bees? A: yes, from stingless bees. I have a few photographs from Costa Rica and Mexico. It’s more liquidy than European honey bee honey.
  • Are yellow jackets wasps or bees? A: wasps
  • How deep do ground-nesting bees dig? A: I looked up the record and in some species the tunnels can extend down 10 feet or more. But 12 to 18″ is more typical.
  • Do figs actually eat wasps? A: Figs in the wild are pollinated by wasps, but as I mentioned, the varieties we grow in the United States don’t require pollination, so the crunch is not due to wasps within. Fig and biology fans should read Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers: the Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees.
  • Is it worth keeping hostas in pots for leafcutter bees A: It is never worth keeping hostas alive for any reason. But leafcutter bees will use them, I’ve read.

Photographs I showed or meant to show

For more photographs of bees (and wasps), my full collection is on SmugMug.

#BeeBest

Distinguishing tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars have stripes (seven of them), so remember that by thinking of Lucky Strikes cigarettes (seven is a lucky number; stripes sort of rhymes with strikes). Plus the horn on a tobacco hornworm is usually red or red-tipped, like a cigarette. Tobacco hornworms also have black shadows on their stripes, and and tobacco gives you dark teeth and lungs.

Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) have eight chevrons (Vs), which you can remember by thinking of V8 juice, which is primarily tomato juice.

Here’s a graphic that summarizes the above:

Photographs of tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

Here’s a larger photograph of a tobacco hornworm (7 stripes, red-tipped horn) covered with Cotesia congregata pupae.

Manduca sexta

Teaching kids about sugar content of beverages

Teaching kids about the sugar content of common drinks should be a requirement in kindergarten or first grade. Here’s one way: have the class construct a display for the hallway or classroom wall that visually shows how much sugar is hidden in common beverages. Like this:

Ideally, also include sweetened milk, apple juice, orange juice, and Gatorade.

Poster titles matter, too. “Rethink your drink” is a popular title (it rhymes) but is bland and doesn’t suggest that drinking less sugar is the ideal. “Avoid cavities by avoiding sugary drinks” or “Don’t drink dessert all day” might be more engaging and informative.

This project would fit in perfectly with most state standards (for example, see page 10 in Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools). And because it includes numbers (of teaspoons), teachers can use the poster content to visually drive discussions about addition and subtraction. If this poster was done in a fun way, the experience might vaccinate kids against over-consumption of sugary drinks for the remainder of their lives.

If you want some background information relevant to lesson plans on sugar for K-3 levels, here are some resources from BrainPOP. You can pitch the poster completely in terms of dental health. If you are brave and tenured, make the point that drinking sugary beverages causes kids to consume more calories than they expend.

Here are some examples I’ve collected onto a Pinterest board:

Pinterest board Educating kindergartners about sugary drinks on Pinterest.