Competition for resources: what we learn at the Cosumnes that we can apply at home is that the conflict between the goals of “Tree Huggers” and the needs of the wild things that live around us all produces conflict. Is that a mouthful or what?
The following example of just two players’ roles in this interconnected puzzle illustrates how hard it can be for HRT to make things right:
Here at the Cosumnes, we erect Wood duck nest boxes along our sloughs and river banks. Volunteers inspect and clean these boxes periodically so that Wood ducks can occupy them when they need to. In the perfect world, the Riparian Forest would provide enough cavities for all the creatures that use cavities at the Preserve. In this imperfect world, HRT fills that need by providing the missing housing for the creatures at the greatest risk of becoming extinct at Cosumnes. It is a focused effort to help provide the things we know about that will strengthen this habitat.
THE CONFLICT:
As the volunteers climb the step ladders, to open the nest boxes and clean them out, they prepare themselves for anything. Frequently that “anything” is a beehive. The bees take over these nest boxes when they are empty because the natural cavities in the neighborhood are occupied. And now, the volunteer has to decide who gets the box. Restoration is never simple. We all need bees (think pollination and food supply). The bees worldwide are struggling because of pesticide poisoning, but they have a support system trying to help them out. The Wood ducks are struggling worldwide because of habitat loss and housing, and all they have is us.
So, the choice the volunteer on the step ladder has to make is:
1) Slowly walk away, or
2) Evict an angry swarm of bees.
Simple, right?
We choose option #2. It’s scary as hell, but we stay safe and we evict the bees.

What lessons can I bring home from The Preserve?
In my backyard in Martinez, I built an aviary to house injured and orphaned hummingbirds from the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital of Walnut Creek. Three years ago a colony of bees took up residence in the aviary’s attic. I have to walk through the “flight path” of the foraging bees to service the hummingbirds inside the aviary. It’s scary as hell but I do it. The Lindsay volunteers who bring us these “patients” for their final 3 days of rehabilitation worry that the Lindsay hummers won’t thrive in such a threatening environment. We desperately need bees, and even though I built the aviary for hummers, the bees stay. I compromised by installing another layer of screening on the aviary’s big window to blur the hummingbirds’ view of the bees and voila, the hummers, and their nurse maids from the wildlife hospital, are happy. But I can’t shake the nagging guilt that the “honeybee eviction” gave me. There had to be something to make it better.
Plowing through my HRT archives, I found it. In December of 2010 on an acorn planting day for the Cosumnes Visitor Center, Tom Johnson taught us how to make Brooding blocks for solitary bees from scrap two-by-fours. The native pollinators need a habitat boost, they help do the job that the European honeybees do for the farmers, and DOUBLY good, the native bees play a huge part in pollinating our native plant community after the European honeybees are moved to another farm. Now I don’t feel so guilty about evicting a non-native bees from our native Wood duck nest boxes. I do, however, still get anxious every time I walk through the bees’ “flight path” to my Hummer aviary.
Wood-duck Nest Box

Hummer Aviary

Bees Takeover Hummer Attic

Convalescent Hummer

Tom Demonstrates acorn planting

Tom Johnson Teaches Bee Brood-box Making

Solitary Bee Brood-Box Design
Conflicting Agendas