I am in Missoula visiting my daughter who goes to the University of Montana. My great publicist at Timber Press arranged a radio interview (daunting) with Sarah Aronson at MT Public Radio. She hosts The Write Question that features western authors and you can find podcasts of old episodes online. I’ve been listening to some and thoroughly enjoying them. My interview should come out at the end of March or beginning of April and I am preparing to gird my loins (ha! how often does one get to use that idiom?) and listen. The problem with speaking rather than writing is you don’t get to go back and edit.
I also gave my first true book talk at Fact and Fiction, which was an absolute pleasure. It was a full house on a cold and snowy Friday evening. A couple of my geology professors and an old friend from my grad school days at MT 30 years ago showed up –as well as my daughter and a few of her friends. Life was looking pretty good except that I would like to go out there and say that I will not be renting a Hyundai Sonata again in a place where there might be even a dusting of snow. My poor rental car seemed very unhappy with the smattering of snow on the roads and so I took the little beast back to the airport to exchange it for something more winter hardy. I felt obliged to sweet-talk the Hyundai the whole way, hoping it would help it manage the journey. I think it prefers the beach.
Lastly, as part of the great Missoula welcome, Chris La Tray wrote a great review of the book for the local paper the Missoulian. You can find it here.
Megachile (Xanthosaurus) fortis from Badlands National Park, SD. Photo courtesy of the USGS Flckr stream
When I was writing the book I spent a few days with Jerry Rozen, the curator for bees from the American Museum of Natural History. Jerry is the guy to talk to about the life of solitary bees in the nest, he’s been studying them for 60 year–maybe more. When I asked Jerry how many species he’d found nests for, he picked up the Bee Genera of North and Central America by Michener, McGinley and Danforth (which sadly and oddly seems to be out of print, they start at $379 on Amazon), opened it up and started listing bees and I frantically started writing. When I looked at my notes later, I saw that I had written Heterosaurus. Heterosaurus? Sounds like a dinosaur–did I have some sort of brain warp back to my days as a geologist? I couldn’t find any such bee so I let it go. But I was just looking through a list of the bees of Colorado (because that’s the kind of thing I do on what is probably one of the last sunny days to be seen in Seattle for months) and what did I see? Not a Heterosaurus but a Xanthosaurus!! Ha. I was only half wrong. It appears that the dinosaur-sounding bee is a sub-genus of the Megachile.
Rose Eveleth wondered, “What would happen if the bees all disappeared?” Then, she got in touch with folks, including me, and asked that question. The answer is that it wouldn’t be the end of food as we know it. Very few food plants absolutely HAVE to have an animal pollinator to procreate. Of course, if you are trying to grow food to sell, it’s not just about getting enough pollination to procreate. It’s about optimizing yields, fruit size, and fruit shape so you can make a living. Without pollinators, we’d still get most of our foods but it might be more expensive and growers would have to devote more land to growing food to make up the difference. Check out her podcast. It is fun and informative.
A male orchid bee from Guiana, courtesy of the USGS Flickr stream. This photo has nothing to do with the post. I include it only because it is glorious.
A science writer who is interested in pitching a review of the Our Native Bees asked me for a synopsis since advance reading copies aren’t available. No problem, I thought, I can whip that out over the weekend.
Three weeks later, it’s finally done. I admit that life got in the way for part of that time but I found writing a synopsis was much harder than I thought. Partly, because a synopsis seems like writing a book report. How many plodding versions of those did I write during my school years? Then to add to the agony, it’s about my book so I occasionally had to write about myself in the third person. Ick. Continue reading
Don’t know where to start? Take a class.
I’m going to some posts about what it’s been like to write a book and get it published. It’s a world that I never thought I’d visit.
I’d always thought it would be nice to write a book–hasn’t most everyone?–but I never thought that I would actually do it. I didn’t think that I had the imagination to write fiction. Plus, I thought I was too nuts and bolts to get all lyrical about scenery and the like. I’d done some garden blogging over the years but those are short, and often right to the point. I didn’t really think about writing a whole book of nonfiction until I fell in love with bees. Continue reading
Melissodes communis female–note the amazing legwarmers. From the USGS Flickr website.
Here’s a few places (blogs/twitter/websites) to check out if you want to know more about bees of all sorts. I’ll add to this as I think of/run across other websites.
Diadasia: The Lives of Other Bees
The Bees in Your Backyard (twitter feed, also a great book worth looking at)
USGS Bee Lab Flickr page–home to fabulous bee pics
Rollin Coville’s webpage has photos of bees and other insects
Clay Bolt’s webpage
Honey Bee Suite often has blog posts about other bees too
The Encyclopedia of Life has a great set of informational cards with nice photos.
The Urban Bee Lab website at UC Berkeley has a list of the best bee plants for CA. Not only does it tell you what plants the bees’ like, it tells you which bees like the plants. The folks there have been gathering data on this for years and if you live elsewhere in the west, some of the plant may be useful to you as well.
Colletes willistoni male from Badlands National Park. Photo courtesy of USGS Bee Inventory website
Check out my Colletes post at my old A Year in Seattle Gardens blog.