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A late Season here for Mason Bees

It has been so cool in the last month here in Metchosin that my mason bees have almost missed the peach and nectarine blooming time.

A peach tree on the left with blossoms deteriorating, and a nectarine on the right at the south side of my barn. Three Mason bee houses are in the centre.

Update–April 15: Today they were the most active i have seen them . I started putting a few cocoons out a week ago, and have warmed up some indoors by just removing their containers  from the fridge and then setting the jar out in the daytime when the sun is on them.  Anyway a very unusual cold start for the spring.

I have several kinds of houses placed on the South East corner of our house.


Sandhill Crane Migration

Single sandhill crane being trailed by a raven above the farm in Metchosin. We saw this on two different days.

Each year at this time of year we get a small number of sandhill cranes migrating over Southern Vancouver Island. Having grown up in Saskatchewan I was familiar with the migrating flocks with their characteristic warbling call.  I was surprized to find that they also nested up the coast of British Columbia.


Today at noon we saw a pair  right down in front of our house in the sheep pasture. Got a few hasty pictures:

This presentation by Krista Roessingh  tells the story about one of their their nesting sites.


Fall Colours in Metchosin

Not your usual tree colours. This sugar maple from Eastern Canada does well here in our yard providing an excellent fall display
Pyracantha before the robins feasted.

Pond Lily identity a confusion-Schizostylis or Hesperantha ?

2011-09-03 17.44.08
Schizostylis coccinea or Hesperantha coccinea

For several years now I have been growing a very successful and  attractive lily in the pond which I originally bought from a local plant store as a reddish-orange kaffir Lily,  Schizostylis coccinea. 

Hesperantha coccinea a pink variety from the red-flowered parents.

The interesting thing is that it reproduces from seeds very well –and last year a pale pink variety came from a seedling. I kept these plants in the same pot and overwintered in the greenhouse. Normally the red flowers appear in August, but when I set it back in the pond in March, after continuing to bloom most of the winter, it flowered again for a month. Then in early June the pink-flowered plant came into bloom and is still flowering in July.   All the other “scarlet river lilies” (see political correctness comment below”)  that were left in the pond over winter will bloom again in late summer.

A number of interesting points come up when researching this plant:

2015-08-06pinklily copy
The pink version came out in bloom again in early August , 2015

1. The “pink” variety I have does not correspond to either of the pink varieties mentioned in this reference .  “Schizostylis coccinea ‘Mrs Hegarty’ was named by Sir Frederick Moore, the Director of Glasnevin Botanic Garden, after the lady who discovered a chance pink seedling in her garden in County Galway in 1914. She was persuaded to show her plant at the RHS show in London in 1919. It was immediately successful and was given an Award of Merit. Schizostylis coccinea ‘Mrs Hegarty’ has deep rose-pink flowers and yellow anthers and has been rather superceded by the cultivar ‘Sunrise’ which is also pink. Schizostylis coccinea ‘Viscountess Byng’ has pale pink petals and the anthers are purple brown. This cultivar is later flowering and is named after the dedicated rock gardener of the 1920’s. Her flower beds were sometimes temporarily covered in water.”
Reference: St. Andrews Botanic Garden Flower of the Month”However the anthers of the pink variety I have are pink!

2. A Scientific name change: Schizostylis  spp. came to be seen as distinct from Hesperantha  spp. whereas in almost every detail, Schizostylis is identical to Hesperantha. Most Hesperantha species have pink flowers, while Schizostylis is bright red. Since forms of Schizostylis with pink flowers are found in cultivation and in the wild, however, that doesn’t seem to count for much. The final proof is  that Schizostylis and Hesperantha is the DNA data, which confirms that the two genera cannot be separated.

3. Political Correctness has influenced the common name . For years it was known as the Kaffir Lily. As the Ken Thompson points out in this 2012 Telegraph article:
“–Kaffir is an offensive term for black South Africans. I suspect no one outside South Africa is likely to consider “kaffir lily” a racial slur, but nevertheless I sense a campaign is afoot to find something less offensive. Crimson flag lily, Cape lily and river lily, or scarlet river lily, all appear to be in circulation. ”

Reference Botanical Identity crisis solved

The Drakensberg mountains in South Africa are  where most of these lilies come from.
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Genus: Hesperantha
Species: H. coccinea
Binomial name Hesperantha coccinea (Backh. & Harv.) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning



Western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus) abundant this week.

I can’t recall seeing so many Tiger swallowtails around the yard in other years as we are seeing this year.
Our non-invasive but introduced butterfly bush Bidulphia sp. is particularly attractive to them.

Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)


  • Of particular interest is the backward flying mating dance– one individual 25 cm above and ahead of the other… Several times I have watched these displays go on for up to 10 minutes.
  • The other interesting observation was the speed which they insert the proboscis into florets repetitively. You can see that by clicking on the following short video clip:
    • The only competition for nectar appears to be the Anna’s Hummingbird.


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Papilionidae
Genus: Papilio
Species: P. rutulus

Papilio rutulus Lucas, 1852

Mason Bees Pollination for Blueberries, Apples and Cherries

Or rather –What’s Blooming this week? (April 15)

Freshly emerged mason bee
Freshly emerged mason bee

I have been releasing more Mason Bees this week from refrigerator storage so that they are available to fertilize the fruit trees below that are just now coming into bloom.