EVERYONE's been busy with nests in our back garden. First, we noticed two little piles of sawdust underneath Emma's balance beam. When we flipped it over, we found two neatly carved holes, about 1/2" in diameter. A stick gently poked in the hole disappeared about 10". After watching the holes for several days, we finally saw the inhabitants, and have identified them as carpenter bees. While I can see how they could wreak havoc on a nice pine deck, fortunately they are not doing any harm where they are so we are free to observe their activity. The bees are large and furry, like bumble bees, and sit guarding their holes, which are used as nest chambers. The eggs are laid at the end, with food placed next to them. Sometimes the mama bees are out looking for food, but most often we see them lurking just inside their holes.
More exciting discoveries were made in our insect box. Here, some kind of solitary wasp is hard at work building a paper nest. It is suspended from the ceiling and is about 2" long. It's tucked right into the back corner and we've not been able to get a close enough look at the builder to identify it, though it is there perched on the outside of the nest most of the time.
In the centre of the box, an egg mass sits in the middle of a feathery web. It was only when I gently blew on the web to try to get the spider to move that we realised the eggs had already hatched. Hundreds - really hundreds - of tiny transluscent spiders began their hurricane evacuation drill and scuttled out of harm's way in a matter of minutes. Now a week later, all the babies have flown the nest, presumably off to make their mark on the world.