Bees were the theme for the final Boston Public Library Author Talk of the spring, with guests Olivia Messigner Carril, co-author of The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees, and Thomas Seeley, author of Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. The bee experts provided the audience with an overview of the different ways to observe and track the wild bees that live around us.
Seeley led off with an exploration of the art of bee hunting, which involves tracking bees to their nest through a process of luring and following them. To begin, a hunter catches a bee in a box designed specifically for bee hunting that contains a sugar water comb. When the bee is released it will return with its nest mates, allowing the bee hunter to see the “beeline,” or the direction in which the bees are flying. The hunter then moves further down the beeline with the box of bees, following the bees’ path as they again are released and return to the box with the food source. Eventually, the hunter will be able to follow them home to their nest. Seeley says the joy of bee hunting lies in observing the bees and locating their home. A bee hunter doesn’t have to be immersed in nature to go on a bee hunt; Seeley has conducted bee hunts everywhere from Harvard Yard to Central Park in New York City.
Messinger Carril followed with an overview of the wide variety of bee species – four thousand in the United States and Canada alone – and how to find and identify them. The solitary bee can make its home in everything from sand to pine cones and snail shells. Some bees even build beautiful nests out of flower petals. When encountering a wild bee, she said, an observer can use a camera phone to take pictures from a few different angles in order to identify the species later. To help illustrate the wide diversity of bees, she brought along a box of bee samples that showcased a range of bee types and sizes.
The authors concluded by taking questions from the engaged audience members who were eager to know more about bee populations and species. In response to one attendee’s question on how to support wild bees, Messinger Carril emphasized that it’s important to provide them with an undisturbed place to nest and to grow native plants that are not highly cultivated.
Thank you to all who attended our spring Author Talks. Boston Public Library’s Author Talks Series will return in the fall.