My summer as a bee wrangler

I was corresponding with Jessica, who sends me great books on birds from Princeton Press (THE best ornithological publisher), when we strayed into bees. (She sent me this excellent book on North American bumblebees). It later occurred to me that my note to her might interest readers of the blog.

I spent a summer not long ago- 6 years past?– collecting native bee species at the Sevilleta reserve, hundreds if not thousands, and mounting and labelling them, for money.

The hardest part was mounting the microbees a quarter of an inch long– too small to pin. I would take them out of the freezer to “relax”, in this case thaw; determine sex (wing venation– if you look below the box in the pic you will see my “guide”); glue them to the side of a pin; then after the glue dried and before the bee did, expose the genitalia of the males, the only way to tell some species apart–! (If you don’t believe me read Nabokov on his butterflies). I sat in front of the air conditioner with a bottle of chilled Russian vodka, a stack of 35 mm film canisters full of frozen bees, and a sheet of labels, and just locked down until I had at least a full box.

It was interesting work in some of the best desert I know, for good money, work I can no longer do since Parkinsonism makes me too clumsy, but it sure made for some odd bar and party conversation!

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