May 27, 2013

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Balsamorhiza sagittata
Asteraceae (Sunflower family)

Quick ID
In late spring, arrowleaf balsamroot covers open hillsides in an unmistakable blanket of golden, sunflower-like flowers.  The fuzzy, silvery-green leaves can be 6" wide and over 12" long, arising from from the base of the plant in tufts like bunchgrasses.  Flowers bloom May-July, and are borne singly on stalks that can get 3' tall.
Flowers like these are known as "composites" and are actually made up of two different types of inflorescence.  Tiny tubular disc flowers cluster together to form the central eye, while the "petals" are actually a ring of ray flowers.  Some species in the Asteraceae family have only ray flowers (like dandelion), some have only disc flowers (like rabbitbrush) and some have both together!
Native to western North America, you can find arrowleaf balsamroot growing in meadows, sagebrush steppe and conifer forest openings at low elevations (most commonly 3500-7000') as far east as the Dakotas, south to Arizona and north at least to BC and Alberta.

What's in a Name?
Nice and straightforward.  The leaves are shaped like arrows.  Sagittata comes from the Latin word for arrow, "sagitta".  Balsamorhiza is named for the large woody taproot, which produces a thick sap that smells like balsam fir.  "Balsam" basically indicates any nice-smelling plant, and rhiza is the Latin word for root.

Did you know that arrowleaf balsamroot, with its cheery flowers up to 4" wide, is our biggest wildflower here in Montana?  And such an important species in western landscapes.  Balsamroot is rich in protein, providing excellent graze for deer, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn.  The nutritious oily seeds are important to birds and rodents, and the open-faced flowers are perfect for native pollinators.  Every part of the balsamroot plant is edible, and has been used as food and medicine across its native range for thousands of years.  The massive taproot, which can be eight feet deep and as wide as your hand, makes it especially well-equipped to withstand fire, grazing, weeds and drought.  I love looking up at a hillside blooming in full force, picturing the massive roots drilling into the earth deeper than I am tall, opening tunnels for underground excavators, lending a foothold to the sloping soil, casting about for that fleeting sip of moisture.  If I had x-ray eyes, I have a feeling I'd keep them trained downward.
Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery collected arrowleaf balsamroot near present-day Lincoln, MT, in July 1806.  Their specimen sheets, prepared by the fascinating botanist Frederick Pursh, are still housed at the Lewis & Clark herbarium in Philadelphia.

Wild Gardening
As a tremendously showy, long-lived specimen plant that can withstand nature's brutality with the best of us, arrowleaf balsamroot should be a wild gardener's dream.  This is not, however, a species for the weak-willed or fickle-hearted.  Balsamroot requires steadfast determination and cooperation.  The massive taproot makes transplanting nearly impossible.  They can be grown from seed, but like many of our native wildflowers, they need to go through cold stratification.  No worries though; this isn't as technical as it sounds.
My personal wild gardening strategy is based on equal parts logic and ease: just watch what the wildflowers are doing, and copy them.  If the balsamroot at my elevation is dropping seed in mid-July, my own planting won't be far behind.  I'll put extra seed down, figuring some will get carried off by insects and other critters, and many just won't take at all.  The winter weather will naturally take care of the required cold stratification, and when temperatures warm up, the seeds will sprout when they're good and ready.  I'll be patient, knowing that even in perfect conditions, it will take five years for my seedlings to flower.  But when they do...ohhh baby.  My happy little bees are bound to buzz right up and kiss me on the nose.

May 23, 2013

Wild House of Bees FAQs

Wild House of Bees
Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What kind of bees live in a house like this?
A.  NOT honeybees!  These houses are for native solitary bees.  There are thousands of species of bees native to North America.  About 70% nest in tunnels dug in the ground, and the rest prefer hollow stemmed plants or other holes found in nature.  The most common "cavity nesters" in Montana are mason bees (Osmia spp.), leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), yellow-faced or masked bees (Hylaeus spp.) and cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.)  Many wild bees don't look like "typical" bees at all, but rather resemble ants, flies, hornets...or even little flying metallic robots!

Q.  How do you get the honey out?
A.  You don't!  Native bees don't make honey.  Instead, they provide pollen reserves to feed their young.

Q.  Will my bee house attract wasps?

A.  No!  Aggressive paper wasps are no more likely to take up residence in your bee house than in any other cranny they find.  They nest communally in paper combs, and won't move into your bee tubes.  There are, however, native solitary wasps!  Like our native bees, these wasps are non-aggressive and fascinating to observe.  Read more...

Q.  Do these bees sting?
A.  Rarely.  Without a hive or honey to defend, native bees are extremely docile.  Many don't have stingers at all, and those that do will only sting if severely threatened.  The stings are relatively painless...more like a mosquito bite than a bee sting, really.  Even if you're allergic to honey bee stings, there's little cause for concern.  There have been no recorded cases of people going into anaphylactic shock from native bee stings.  Read more...

Q.  Do I have to order bees?
A.  You can, but it's not necessary.  Unlike European honey bees, solitary bees occur naturally in the environment, and are actively searching for cavities to nest in.  It might take a little while for the wild bees to find your nesting box, but once they do they'll come back year after year.

Q.  How long will my bees live?
A.  Native bees have a pretty short life span.  Using mason bees as an example, the cycle goes like this:  in the spring, as soon as temperatures are warm enough, females will emerge and start looking for flowering plants to collect pollen from.  Back at the home tube, they'll stash a little pollen bundle along with a freshly laid egg, pack in some mud, and start again.  Pollen, egg, mud...pollen, egg, mud...until the tube is full of about 8 cells.  The two or three cells closest to the tube opening contain unfertilized eggs which will result in male bees, and the inner eggs will hatch females.  Mama bee will continue filling up tubes until her life span is reached, around 6 weeks.  When the eggs hatch, the bee larvae eat the little pollen reserve and spin a little cocoon to begin the metamorphosis process.  The larvae pupate into young bees, which wait out the winter inside their nesting tube.  In spring, as soon as temperatures are warm enough, the fresh crop of bees will emerge.  Males come out first, mate with the females and die.  And the whole cycle starts again!

Q.  Do native bees compete with honey bees, or vice versa?
A.  Yes and no.  Yes, wild bees and honeybees are after the same resources; nectar and pollen.  But in many ways, they go about gathering these resources very differently.  Honeybees are great pollinators of farm crops.  They bounce down field rows from one flower to the next, returning to a hive that can be conveniently moved anywhere in the country that has warm weather and a flowering crop.  Commercial agriculture as we know it is entirely dependent on honeybees this way.  But remember, honeybees are native to Europe.  They didn't evolve alongside the plants that grow naturally here, and as such, are terrible pollinators of native plants.  They can only operate in a narrow range of temperatures and dates, and aren't adapted to the myriad of flower shapes and sizes found in the wild.  There are thousands of species of native bees, each born to fill a special little niche in nature.  And in fact, native bees actually help honeybees become better pollinators themselves (read more on this UC Berkeley study).
The best way to ensure there's enough food for everybody is to grow a variety of bee-friendly plants that flower throughout the season.

Q.  When should I hang my bee house up?
A.  As soon as the weather warms up to the mid-50s, wild bees will be out foraging and looking for a place to nest.  Around here that usually starts around March, and ideally your bee house should be up before then to provide a warm welcome!

Q.  Does it need to hang in a special place?
A.  Since bees can't fly when it's too cold, they like their nests to face the warm morning sun (south or east).  But super duper hot midsummer sun could cook them, so a little shelter is nice.  Maybe on a tree that lets in spring sunlight, and provides some shade when it leafs out in the summer.  They should be about 5-10' off the ground, in a stable place that doesn't get too jostled around, and be near a source of mud and flowering plants.  That said, you can hang your bee house pretty much anywhere!  They're perfect for small yards or porches, in the city or country, in any type of ecosystem where they can find food.  Providing a little more habitat for the bees can never hurt.

Q.  What are they built out of?
A.  I use a variety of recycled materials, depending on what's available.  This is a great way to use misshapen, warped or otherwise "imperfect" reclaimed lumber that isn't fit for more precise building projects...the bees don't care about wonky angles or bent boards!  I also try to find blue-stained lumber cut from trees killed by bark beetles.  Might as well make something beautiful out of that ecological mess.  Each house is coated with an inert mineral oil for a little extra protection from the weather.  For the tubes, I try to use invasive species, making a nice combination project of weed eradication and pollinator conservation.  I've experimented with Fuller's teasel, water hemlock, elderberry, sunflowers, milkweed, corn stalks, raspberry canes and some others.  

Q.  How long does a Wild House of Bees last?  
A.  With a little upkeep, you can use your Wild House of Bees for many, many years.  Since the smell of varnish repels bees, the wooden frame is coated in non-toxic mineral oil to prevent rotting.  If you wish, you can paint on a new coat every few years to keep the wood nice and sealed.  You can find it at any drug store for pretty cheap.  The only other thing that may need upkeep is the nesting tubes that fill in the frame.  Replacing these tubes every few years will help discourage pests and parasites from taking up residence inside, and get rid of any tubes that begin to rot...they are, after all, just hollow plant stems and sticks!  The back of your nesting box can be easily removed for cleaning out and replacing tubes.  You can cut new ones of your own if you have a source, or order them here.  

Q.  I don't live in Montana...will it still work?
A.  Absolutely!  Wild bees are looking for nesting places all over the country and indeed, all over the world! The nesting tubes in the Wild House of Bees will attract the native species found in your area.  Most of the info found here is specific to Montana but still applies to other areas.  If you have any questions about wild beekeeping in a different region, let me know and I'll point you in the right direction.

Q.  Where can I buy one?
A.  Each Wild House of Bees is made to order by hand, so no two are exactly alike.  They generally measure 9-18" tall by 9-12" wide, with prices ranging from $25-80 + S&H, depending on work and materials involved.  Custom orders are always welcome!  Check out upcoming Events & Exhibitions, or visit Flora montana on Etsy to order one today.

Visit the An Introduction to Wild Bees for more information, or dig a little deeper with this compilation of Resources for the Wild Beekeeper.  Good luck on your wild beekeeping adventure!  

~Happy Bees, Happy World~

May 12, 2013

Dwarf Mistletoe

Dwarf Mistletoe
Arceuthobium spp.
Viscaceae (Mistletoe Family)
What's in a Name? 
Viscaceae has the same root as "viscus," and refers to mistletoe's sticky berries, which were historically used to make birdlime. Handfuls of ripe berries were chewed or boiled, formed into long strands and coiled around tree branches. A bird lands on the sticky branch and there he stays, until the bird-eating hunter returns to pluck him off. This is illegal in many countries now, by the way. Birdlime was also used to manufacture British sticky bombs in WWII.

According to some accounts, "mistletoe," originally mistelta in Saxon, comes from three Sanskrit words: Mas (the Messiah), tal (the womb), and tu (motion to or from). This is the first clue to the enormous cultural power Mistletoe has held throughout history. Read on.

Quick ID:   
In Montana, you'll find Dwarf Mistletoe, which looks a bit like coral, clinging to branches of Ponderosa, Lodgepole and Limber Pine, Douglas Fir and Western Larch. It's a hemiparasite, relying on its host conifer for most of its water and nutrients. There are 42 species of Arceuthobium worldwide (21 endemic to the US) that prey on members of the Pine and Cypress families. All have greatly reduced leaves (just scales, really) with the bulk of the plant living inside the host. Here's how it works:

Remember those sticky berries? Well, they're not just built to help ancient bird-eaters trap their dinner, oh no. As the berries ripen, they swell with hydrostatic pressure, which builds and builds until POW! The fruits burst open, sending seeds flying through the air at 50 mph. If they're lucky, these sticky little seeds land on a suitable host plant and get to work. Their root-like "haustoria" grow into the xylem (water pipes) and phloem (food pipes) of the host, thus beginning its slow decline and eventual death.
Sometimes the best way to spot Dwarf Mistletoe is to look for the peculiar "witch's broom" growths it creates on trees. These dense masses of branches could be mistaken for bird's nests, but they're actually just a bunch of branches growing out from a single point, and can be caused by fungi, insects, mites, nematodes, viruses, frost, forest thinning . . . and, of course, mistletoe.

Folklore and Fables... Dwarf Mistletoe is cousin to the American Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens), the leafy plant we all know from the holidays. The mythology of mistletoe goes back thousands of years, far beyond that quick kiss at Christmas.  Perhaps it's because mistletoe's evergreen leaves seem a symbol of everlasting life (ironic, since it's also known as the "Vampire Plant" that sucks the life out of its host).

Throughout history and worldwide, mistletoe is considered a bestower of fortune, aphrodesiac, antidote to poison and curer of ills. In the Christian faith, mistletoe (mistelta) represented the time between the conception and birth of Jesus, and was supposedly "applied" to him as an infant...whatever that means. Mistletoe was considered sacred long before that, however.
Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) wrote of the Druids' relationship with the plant, which they held to be the most sacred of all living things save oaks (the Gaelic word druidh means "oak-knower"). European Mistletoe figured prominently in Greek mythology, and Romanians still use the plant for its magical and medicinal properties. The use of mistletoe at Christmas dates back to the 18th century, but kissing under the mistletoe comes from a Norse myth. The story, basically, is this:

Baldr, god of vegetation, was killed by a spear made of mistletoe. His death brought winter to the world (no good!) so the gods restored him. His mom Frigga declared mistletoe sacred, a bringer of love rather than death. To celebrate Baldr's happy return, any two people passing under the plant now must make the obligatory smooch.

In Scandinavia, it's still considered a plant of peace, under which enemies can declare a truce or quarreling lovers make up.

Medicine... The plant has been purported to cure cancer and epilepsy, among other things. Suzanne Sommers made headlines when she opted for a mistletoe extract (Iscador) in lieu of chemotherapy following her treatment for breast cancer. There are several accounts, however, of mistletoe's poisonous properties that should not be taken lightly!

Ecology... Many Dwarf Mistletoe species are considered to be serious threats to forest health. Severe infection can lead to reduced growth, seed and cone development, poor wood quality, increased susceptibility to disease and insect attacks, and premature death. Most of western North America's commercially important conifers are hosts to at least one Dwarf Mistletoe species.  Interestingly, higher rates of mistletoe infestation have been linked with higher numbers and greater diversity of birds and other animals, perhaps by creating more nesting sites within the tell-tale witch's broom.

May 11, 2013

Boxelder Maple

Boxelder Maple
Acer negundo
Aceraceae (Maple Family)
Quick ID:  
A relatively short (~30-50') tree, usually with multiple trunks, growing in moist woods and along streambanks.  The Boxelder is the only maple in North America whose leaves are compound (divided into parts - in this case usually 3). 
Acer negundo is dioecious (from the Latin "two houses") meaning the individual trees are distinctly male or female.  This is easy to distinguish in early spring when they're flowering:
                                                          Female pistillate flowers

Male staminate flowers

Only the female trees make the "helicopter" fruits common to maples (technically known as samaras, also called keys), and only if there is a male nearby. 
In winter, they're easy to recognize by their chubby, opposite buds; the twigs are fresh looking, green or purple, and covered with a fine fuzz that's easy to rub off.
The wood is abnormally soft for a Maple, and branches tend to break off easily, making this a somewhat scraggly tree.
The most widespread maple in the world, stretching from Ontario south to Guatemala, with a native range that covers a wide swath of North America.  In many parts of the US, especially eastern states,  it's considered a pesky tree at best; in Australia it's officially considered an invasive species.
What's in a Name?  
Acer means "sharp", in reference to the normally hard wood of maples, which the Romans used for spear shafts.  Negundo is a Sanskrit word referencing the resemblance to Chastetree (Vitex negundo).  The name Boxelder (or Box Elder) comes from the leaves' similarity to Sambucus (Elder) and the white wood's likeness to Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens).  A few sources say it's named for the fact that people make boxes from its soft wood, but I'm not buying it.  
This is also commonly known as Manitoba or Ash-leaf Maple.  In Spanish it's Fresno de Guajuco.   
Tidbits:  Acer negundo is most famous for its relationship to the Boxelder bug (Boisea trivitattus).  There are many myths and misconceptions floating around about these little critters, so let's break it down.
1.  Boxelder bugs are found on all kinds of maple and ash trees, but greatly prefer Acer negundo.  Only the female trees are hosts to the bugs.  They feed on low vegetation in spring, lay eggs all over the tree in mid-July, and start to move toward overwintering sites in fall.
2.  These overwintering sites may very well be your warm, cozy house!  Some buildings are more susceptible to the invasion- namely, the sunniest ones (tall, good southern exposure).  Adults can travel up to two miles in search of a winter home, so chopping down the Boxelder tree in the front yard might not save you (although it may help).
3.  They don't bite.
4.  They don't cause any noticeable injury to their host trees.
5.  It's highly unlikely they'll gobble up your house plants.
6.  They might leave streaks of poo on your walls and curtains.  This is probably their greatest fault.
7.  The best defense is offense.  For a great reference on what you can do to seal up your home, see this U-MN Extension publication.
8.  You can find piles of the bright red nymphs throughout the summer.  They're harmless, fascinating insects to observe.
Boxelder is highly sensitive to 2,4-D (a common herbicide), and is susceptible to fire and mechanical damage due to its thin bark.
The wood is used for fiberboard, cheap furniture, pulp and fuel.  You can tap these trees in spring to produce maple syrup.
Seedlings and young saplings look a lot like Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).  The top photo here is a boxelder.  Notice the bottom poison ivy has really shiny leaves.  Not a perfect identifying feature, but a decent starting point.

Wild gardening:
This is a fast growing, short-lived tree (avg. 60 yrs) that's hardy to Zone 2 and highly drought tolerant.  With it's prolific seeds and ready establishment, it has a tendency to become weedy or invasive.  It also suckers like crazy where branches have been cut or broken.  Maybe not the best choice for a tidy lawn, but fine for naturalized areas in the west.  In fact, it provides essential habitat factors for backyard wildlife.  Besides Boxelder bugs, it's a larval host to Cecropia Silkmoths (Hyalophora cecropia-mostly found in the east).  It's wind-pollinated but also visited by bees.  Squirrels and many birds, particularly the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustus vespertinus), feed on the seeds.

May 5, 2013

Resources for the Wild Beekeeper

So...I'm not coming up with any new content in this post, I know.  But I've found myself in a little bit of a...situation...lately...
"Yawwwn...bedtime, hooray!  I'll just buzz through my Facebook feed real qui--hey lookie!  A neat little article about bee lifespans by Crown Bees!  Click click, oop, what's this?  An insect hotel photo gallery from all over the world?  Sweet sweet swee-oh my gosh I've been looking for some research on the evolution of bees and wasps! click click. Fascinating.  That reminds me, I need to find good instructions on insect collection techniques...and where to buy pins click click..."
Boom.  It's three in the morning, I'm wide awake with 15 browser windows open, and up to my ears in totally awesome resources for someone who can't get enough of native bees and other busy little pollinators.  Too much information and you just get lost down the rabbit hole.
So I've been wanting to pull together a compendium of sorts; a handy dandy list of what I've found to be the most complete, compelling, entertaining and useful tools available to all us budding apiologists.  These are the movers and shakers in the world of bees, with a special focus on western Montana's native species.  If you think of any I've left out, just give me a hoot!

*One quick note.  Sometimes it seems there's a savage war raging between the "native bee" people and the"honeybee" people.  I'm not going to get into honeybees much at all with this resource guide.  No time, no space!  But I highly encourage you to read this intriguing article on how native bees and honeybees interact and compliment each other's work.  I can't stop talking about it.

Helpful Organizations, Projects and Tools for the Wild Beekeepers of Western Montana

What IS that?!  Identification and Classification Tools
Insect identification can drive you bonkers!  I remember my first entomology class all too well.  The textbooks seemed to be written in a different language.  SO much new terminology, so many nit-picky little parts to learn, sooooo many insects species in the world!  We have thousands of native bee species in North America, and if you want to know which ones are buzzing around your garden, you have to learn to key them out.  This guide to bee families is a good place to start.  It gets easier, once you get the lingo down.  I promise.  For a refreshing, colorful, very readable guide to a few of Montana's poster-child bees, check out MT Bee ID.  This MSU extension guide gets a little more in depth, still specific to Montana.  For an all-around excellent insect ID tool, check out Bug Guide.  And if you really want to get into it, Discover Life lets you key out pretty much any living thing on earth using simple Q&As and lots of pictures.  Also check out Nico's photos...he's based in Belgium, but the photo sets are well put together and very helpful.

Burrowing in a little deeper...
Pete Hillman did a nice readable overview of the biology of bees-a perfect intro to what bees are all about.
Some of the best collaborative research and outreach in the country is being done at the University of MN Bee Lab--which is nice, because the majority of resources you find on native bees are coming out of western Europe (BWARS is worth peeking at, as is Hymettus.  Both excellent programs from the UK, with plenty of applicable info for the US.)
My favorite source of casual info on North American native bees is Our Native Bees.  This is the site that keeps me up till dawn.  It's filled with endlessly fascinating articles, tidbits and photos that I just can't get enough of.  You can buy bee supplies here, and learn so much about wild beekeeping,'ll love it.

You can spend countless hours toodling around on the computer, soaking up wild bee facts like a sponge, but eventually you're gonna wanna DO something!  You could build a simple nesting box--Montana Wildlife Gardener put together some handy instructions.  If you want to take on a slightly bigger project, visit my tutorial on building Pollinator Hotel installations in your garden.
Once you've got your habitat set up, you can Map Your Nest!  I really believe that citizen science projects like this are the key to building engaged communities and cultivating the collective knowledge base we need to save the world.  Just sayin'.
To see citizen science in action, check out the Yatton Area Bee Project--a collaborative, community-based approach to protecting local bee populations.  Models like these are totally applicable to any city or town...even yours!  Dooooo it...
I also love Resonating Bodies, which celebrates pollinator biodiversity through media installations and community outreach projects.  Very inclusive, very cool.

Pollinators in the Garden
The Pollinator Garden is great.  My particular brand of geekery has led me to become pretty well versed in the topic of gardening for wildlife and sustainability, and I still managed to learn a whole lot from this UK-based site.  Good pleasure reading, if you're anything like me.
If you're planning a pollinator garden, use this Pollinator Syndromes chart.  It tells you what types of flowers attract what types of pollinators, basically, and is super handy.  It's buried in the depths of the Pollinator Partnership, which, along with The Xerces Society, is without a doubt the go-to for everything you ever wanted to know about insects and pollinator conservation.
Be sure to check out the LA Times' take on why you need to get in on backyard wildlife habitat conservation...featuring Flora montana's Wild House of Bees!
I put together a nice compilation of wildlife gardening and native plant resources specific to western Montana, as well.  Here you go.  Visit the Wild House of Bees Frequently Asked Questions page to dig deeper.
Still need more?  Beautiful Wildlife Garden put together an Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees that will definitely keep you busy.  Click click click...

Fuller's Teasel

Fuller's Teasel
Dipsacus fullonum
Dipsacaceae (Teasel Family)

Quick ID
Prickly thistle-like plants that are generally about five feet tall, although I've seen plenty reach the ten foot mark.  They're biennials, forming a rosette of leaves the first year and flowering the second season.  Flowers are light purple little tubes tucked into a spiny seedhead that perches atop the bristly stem like a pinecone.
Fuller's teasel is native to Europe, and was first cultivated in the US in the 1800s.  It naturalized quickly and is now found growing wild all over the country, except in the northern Great Plains and some states in the southeast.  Look for big patches in moist areas by roadsides and other places where the soil has been disturbed.

What's in a Name?
The genus Dipsacus comes from the Greek "dipsa," meaning thirst.  This is in reference to the leaves, which close around the stem to make a little cup where water collects. Studies have shown that the more insects that land in these cups, the more seeds a teasel plant will form, which implies that Dipsacus is at least partially carnivorous.  Rawrrr!
The species name is fullonum, pertaining to fullers (people who cleanse and process wool into cloth).  Traditionally, dried heads of teasel were used for this purpose, attached to spindles and "teased" through wool to clean out dirt and raise the nap of the fabric.
Nowadays the industry uses wool cards (which look like a brush for a kitty), but some purists use the pointy, hooked seed heads still today.  Apparently, when there's a lot of resistance in the fabric, the easily-replaced teasel head just breaks, whereas metal cards will rip the cloth.
The stems of teasel are hollow, making them perfect for building a Wild House of Bees!  In spring, solitary cavity-nesting bees will fill these tubes with a row of eggs, which will hatch and pupate over the summer.  The young bees spend the winter in the stems, and emerge in spring to begin the process anew.  They survive by feeding on a little pollen reserve (or in the case of wasps, a meaty little insect body) left by the mother in the nest cells.  Did you know that insects in the order Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) are the only insects in the world that provide food for their offspring?  Awesome.  
Wild Gardening
By most accounts, you probably shouldn't grow teasel in the garden.  It's at least some level of noxious weed in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico, and has invasive tendencies wherever it gets established.  That said, the spiny seed heads are awfully pretty, and especially nice for dried flower arrangements.  But remember that human dispersal is the number one way teasel seeds are spread, and once it gets out into the environment, it can quickly crowd out native plants.  Using dried seed heads in floral arrangements that are going to leave your house is probably not a good idea.  Better idea--find a wild patch, pull up the stalks, trash the seed heads, and use the stems to build little native pollinator habitats.  Everybody wins!