Saturday, April 16, 2011

Update on Foraging-Scapes: Shelter

The cloth is now all mosaiced, and the next steps are more surface stitching and applique.

Since this cloth is about pollinators- bees, wasps, hornets- I am considering ways to represent the things they forage for. Food, water, shelter. The stuff they need.

I've started out by thinking about ways to represent shelter. Some of the dots are meant to represent the entrances to the little tunnels that pollinators use as shelter in our garden, and where they lay their eggs. Most wild pollinators are solitary- they don't live in hives or function in socially differentiated societies as honeybees so famously do. They use tunnels in wood, twigs, stems and the earth.

Within each tunnel a female wasp or solitary bee builds cells-with clay or paper dividers- that each contains an egg and some pollen. We keep dishes of wet clay and water in the meadow garden for them.

These stitches below are inspired by the cells that bald faced hornets make in their big paper nests.

They make their cells out of wood fibers- they chew up wood to make into the paper that is coiled up to make the wall of each cell. If you look closely, the paper in each cell is striped.

The bald faced hornets who built this do live in role-differentiated societies, with workers doing most of the foraging for food once the breeding female has established a colony. She raises this first generation of workers herself, from a small version of the shelter she builds in the spring when she hatches. She feeds them herself. These new workers then expand this nest over the summer, gathering wood fibers and food.

The complexity of all of this is a marvel; and I am amazed that it happens at all. And of course, it makes me acutely aware of what creatures like this need. Habitat. A landscape, a territory, a place to move around, to find what they need. I think we learned that such landscapes are in short supply around here, because almost as soon as we started planting native perennial plants, we started noticing new insects that we had never seen before. The bald faced hornets fed here all summer and built a nest in a new crabapple tree.

What amazes me most is the impact creatures like this have on those landscapes- as builders, but also as pollinators as they search for food. Which will be the subject of the next update.


  1. That is one beautiful piece of fabric! What a lovely way to celebrate such magnificent little creatures.
    I used to have bees that hibernated I think? in holes in the ground beneath my apple trees. I noticed the holes only after theyd emrged and were flying about!
    I have a dog now that lives to chase bees and wasps........well Im hoping he gets stung by a wasp which will serve him right, in the hope that stops him chasing the beautiful bees!
    He will learn but I suspect the hard way lol

  2. yes. bald faced hornets. and what i love about
    them here is that i can work directly beneath them, pulling weeds from tree wells and we
    are neighbors...they above me, me beneath them
    just working at living.
    the cloth, wendy, the cloth
    is really really beauty FULL....

  3. It makes me so happy to hear from you two living as neighbors with these things. So happy, thank you. And for the compliments on this nutty work...

  4. Thanks. Your blog is always so imformative. I live on a huge farm and know bees are needed for pollination of plants and a few years back "they" thought they'd become extinct. But I also know I tend to say "bee" when there are wasps etc. I have seen alot of what I call "mud huts" hanging around. But I tend to not get to close to distinguish the various kinds, so I find your sharing very interesting.
    The cloth,( as previously mentioned a bazillion times, I'm sure) is wonderful beyond words!

  5. this is so very cool, the fabric, the ideas behind it. studied bees for the first time last year teaching 2nd grade...what amazing creatures. i thought of their cells right away when looking at this. i also love the "dances" they do in communicating locations for pollen gathering, i wonder if those might find a place here?