Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Learning about wasps and bees with Dr. Hook!

Dr. Alan Hook works at St. Edwards University and he offered to take us over to the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve and talk to us about wasps (his speciality) and other insects. We said Sure!
On his way walking over to meet us, he saw two carpenter bees and he captured them in these little containers so we could hold and observe them. How often do you get to get up close and personal with a bee? These ones were big, fat and black. Under other circumstances we might find them a little unnerving.
Yoli said you could feel the container vibrating when they were buzzing inside.
We found some oak leaves that were chockablock with gall wasps. Fun fact: did you know that Kinsey specialized in gall wasps before he went on to his more well-known work as a sexologist?
Checking out two bees in a cactus flower.

He found some cochineal, which is a tiny bug that nests and lives on cacti. It has been used as a red dye throughout the ages, and until very recently it was used as a red dye for sodas and juices. It is still used to color the soda Big Red! Gives new meaning to the term 'bug juice', eh....
You can see how he's crushing one and it's just filled to the brim with bright red juice. So wierdly gross and amazing! If you ever want a natural red dye you can find it around here in cactus patches by the thousands.

Texas used to be under one giant sea oh, 40 million years ago or so, and the hill which we hiked up used to be an adorable little volcano.
This little boy Henry was so excited that he discovered a bug for Dr. Hook to identify. These are some leaf-footed insects that sand wasps like to feed on.
Dr. Hook specializes in solitary wasps. They have homes in the ground by themselves rather than in nests with others. Obviously, solitary wasps are a lot less likely to give you trouble than those in a nest... you won't get attacked by angry hordes defending the nest.
They were doing a crackerjack job of getting rid of loads of invasive species of trees down in the nature preserve. This is stacks and stacks of privet. I want that wood so bad! I'm salivating to do another lashing event. And when I was in Northern California at Gever's house, we did some lashing with a whole bunch of eucalyptus trunks, which are an invasive species there and are incredibly long, straight and strong. Building with 15 foot trunks rather than four foot long sticks makes it possible to achieve incredible height and strength of a lashed structure in almost no time at all. I'm itchin' to make a real Swiss Family Robinson mansion of a treehouse. Who's with me?? I need some help hauling out this wood.
Another great morning with the Creek class thanks to Dr. Hook (who told us we could call him Dr. Hook, Mr. Hook, Captain Hook, or Fish Hook).


momof2under3 said...

I lead a homeschool group in southern Illinois and am so inspired by your field trips. How do you make such great contacts? It seems like everywhere you go, the hosts are very kid oriented and interested in letting the kids be very hands on. How did you get to know all these different craftsmen and experts and then get them to agree to host a field trip? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!


Lindsey said...

Oooh, if you're going to get your hands on some nice big branches then this might be useful for your builders to peruse...