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Female mason bee (copy)

Female mason bees, like this one, use thick, sticky mud to build a wall. She collects pollen to make a pollen ball on which she lays her egg. Then she closes the cell with another mud wall and repeats the process.

After unsuccessful attempts to establish mason bees in my garden, I took advantage of two workshops to learn more. One covered fall cleaning of the cocoons for winter storage and the most recent covered how to establish mason bees in the spring. Both were offered through the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District.

Native bee populations have been severely reduced by industrial farming and pesticides since the 1950s. More recently the advent of neonicotinoids, a group of insecticides used widely in farms, landscapes and on nursery plants are either killing bees or affecting their behavior. These insecticides are absorbed by plants and can be in the pollen and nectar.

Workshop leader and native bee enthusiast Jerry Paul showed us an organic apple from a local grocery store. Slicing it in half to show the “star” center, he asked us to count the seeds. We saw two. There should be at least two for every point of the star, which showed that pollination is sparse.

Native plants are suffering from reduced pollination. It takes time to become noticeable but eventually plants will die off if not adequately pollinated.

Paul noted that it takes 545 honeybees to pollinate a single cherry tree but only seven mason bees. The mason bees carry more pollen because of their hairy bodies and they fly to many flowers spreading the pollen. Honeybees focus on a single flower until it is depleted and often have to fly back to the hive, which can be up to four miles away, to take their pollen and then return to the same flower to finish the job. Mason bees forage up to 200 feet from their nests.

The good news is that there are 860 species of native bees in Oregon. We can create an environment to help them flourish on our farms and in our gardens. Learn more by taking a workshop or joining the Bee Buddies program. Check out the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District’s website at

In the meantime, here are other February activities to consider:

• Wildlife Rangers Day Camp – Nature Science: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 2, Chintimini Wildlife Center, 311 NW Lewisburg Ave., Corvallis. Children can attend on this no-school day. Open to grades K-5, registration at Cost is $50 per child. For more information contact

• 14th Annual Eco-Film Festival: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., program begins at 7 p.m., Feb. 9 and 16, Odd Fellows Hall, 223 SW 2nd Street, Corvallis. Two films remain in the series: On Feb. 9, "Stink: Removing Hidden Chemicals from Your Life," and on Feb. 16, "Wasted!" about the real cost of wasted food. Suggested donation $5 per person, $10 fo a family. For more information contact, 541-230-1237.

• "Five Remarkable Women, Four Pacific Northwest Gardens," 6:45-8 p.m., Feb. 5, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 2650 N.W. Highland Drive, enter through side entrance off parking lot. Presenter is Donald Olsen, author of two garden touring books. Admission by donation.

• "Bedrock Lectures on Human Rights and Climate Change," 20-minute lectures on Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28, Bexell Hall, Room 415, 2215 SW Campus Way, Oregon State University or watch online at Spring Creek Project’s Facebook page. A free online series with Jacqueline Patterson, Rev. Fletcher Harper, Robin Bronen and Julia Olson. For the full schedule, visit the website

• "Tend, Mend and Mingle in Lincoln Garden," 8-10 a.m., Feb. 8, Lincoln School, 110 SE Alexander Road, Corvallis. . Monthly work parties at Lincoln Garden. Free. For more information, email or go to the website:

• Household Hazardous Waste Take-Back and Reuse Table:  9 a.m.-2 p.m., Feb. 10, Republic Services, 110 NE Walnut Boulevard, Corvallis (enter from Belvue Street). Safely dispose of small, household quantities of material and visit the Reuse Table for usable products sorted from the event. Free. For information contact

• Youth Climate Action Now Orientation: 1-2 p.m., Feb. 10, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library (Board Room, downstairs,) 645 NW Monroe Ave. Youths from grade school to high school can join in first general meeting of the Corvallis Youth Climate Action NOW chapter. For information, email

• Oregon Season Tracker Introduction: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 12, Cordley Hall, Room 2087, 2701 SW Campus Way, Oregon State University. Jody Einerson, natural resource educator for the OSU Extension Service of Benton County, will introduce Oregon Season Tracker, a citizen scientist program that tracks wildlife life cycles in Oregon. Free. For information, contact,

Tend, Mend and Mingle at the Linus Pauling School Garden: 9-11 a.m., Feb. 15, Linus Pauling Middle School, 111 Cleveland Ave. Monthly work parties at Linus Pauling Middle School garden. For information contact or check the website

• Repair Fair: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Feb. 15, OSUsed Store, 644 SW 13th Street. Bring broken items and learn how to fix them for free; attend demos to learn do-it-yourself skills. See website for a list of what’s offered. Free. For information, access, email, or call 541-737-5398.

"Master Chefs Begins," 4-6 p.m., Feb. 20, Linus Pauling Middle School, 111 Cleveland Ave., Corvallis. A five-week cooking class for youth grades 6-8 hosted by the Healthy Youth Program. Registration required. Scholarships available. Cost is $72.50. For information contact or check the website

• Civil Liberties Defense Center House Party: 5:30 p.m., Feb. 20, Corvallis, details given with RSVP. The Civil Liberties Defense Center works to protect the rights of those working for environmental and social justice, including the Valve Turners and Corvallis' own Leonard Higgins. Fundraiser with finger foods and beverages. Admission by donation. For information, contact Martha at

• Greenbelt Land Trust Annual Meeting: 6:00-8:30 p.m., Feb. 22, First Presbyterian Church, Dennis Hall, 114 SW Eighth St. The meeting will review 2017's activities and look ahead to 2018's projects. Keynote presentation from the award-winning Oregon author and poet Henry Hughes. Free. For information contact; 541-752-9609.

• Fresh Grown Cooking for Kids/Spring Fling Begins: 4-6 p.m., register by Feb. 22. Corvallis High School, Room H3, 1400 NW Buchanan St. This is a two-week cooking class Thursdays, March 1 – March 8,, for youth ages 6-8 hosted by the Healthy Youth Program. Cost is $29; scholarships available. For information contact or check the website:

"Exploring the Oregon Coastal Trail," 6:30 p.m., Feb. 22, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 NW Monroe Ave. Connie Soper, author of the book, “Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail," will speak and will sign and sell copies of her book. Free. For information contact Dave Eckert at or (541) 230-1237.

• "Spirit of Justice – A Conversation Between Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein," 7-8:30 p.m., Feb. 22, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2945 NW Circle Boulevard. A community forum hosted by Corvallis Interfaith Climate Justice Committee and A free presentation featuring a streamed dialogue with journalist and author Naomi Klein and Union Theological Seminary visiting professor Michelle Alexander. For more information contact or call Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 541-753-5218.

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