Yes, you read that right. I have an irritating dog. I mean, he doesn’t think he’s irritating, but I certainly do. Yesterday, I had just planted a new bush, raked smooth the adjoining soil, and put away the tools. When I came back, the dog was standing on my work and peeing on the pristine bush. When he walked off, he left a two-inch deep footprint in the soft soil.
Not five minutes later I saw something moving inside the footprint—something shiny, glinting in the morning sun. At first I thought it was one of those metallic flies, but what I found was a busy little mason bee, scrabbling away at a new-found treasure: wet dirt.
The work of the mason bee
She worked hard at balling up the mud, but it didn’t take her long, and soon she was off with a wad of it secured between her mandibles. I went for my camera and only had to wait for about three minutes before she came back to do it all over again.
It amazes me how fast she learned where the footprint was because it wasn’t there at all until the dog peed. She found it within five minutes while it was still wet inside, and then made repeated trips back and forth between her nesting tube and the footprint.
The colors of mud
I never think of my soil as being that different from one spot to the next, but after all the mason bee tubes are filled, they display a kaliedoscope of brown, yellow, and red mud plugs. I often wonder if mud selection is more complicated than we think. Instead of just consistency, perhaps certain soils have microbes or nutrients that aid the overwintering process in some way. Like the honey bee’s selection of propolis, perhaps mud selection is a survival skill. I don’t know, but I wonder. It seems that bees seldom do anything by accident.
Honey Bee Suite