British Columbia's Oldest Known Bee Fossil


This short account helps to illustrate how amateur collectors can make significant contributions to British Columbia’s paleontological knowledge. They should make their collections known to professional paleontologists, universities, museums or

Simply collecting without proper documentation and communication can keep scientifically important specimens hidden away on shelves or in drawers.

Over the last several years, I have been able to pursue one of my hobbies, namely, paleontology, the study of fossils. Particularly good sites occur in the BC interior, and on several occasions I have been able to visit a site near Merritt. Her

On August 27, 1995, just as I was about to leave the site, I found a rather stout-looking insect body fossil. It was not quite complete but I decided to wrap it up and take it along. Once home, a careful look made me think it was a bee, but wit

Once at SFU, the fossil was confirmed as a bee. It consists of the body, a partial leg, and part of the fore and hind wings. The body is robust, with a relatively wide head, thorax and abdomen for a bee; however, the wing venation is consistent

This is the first bee body-fossil known from the Eocene Okanagan Highlands and one of the few bee fossils known from before the Middle Eocene. It may even turn out to be the third oldest bee known in the fossil record. The specimen has now been on display


Archibald, B. & R. W. Mathewes. 2000. “Early Eocene Insects from Quilchena, BC, and their Paleoclimatic Implications.” Canadian Journal of Zoology, Volume 78, Number 6: pp 1441-1462.

Grimaldi, D. 1999. “The Co-radiations of Pollinating Insects and Angiosperms in the Cretaceous.” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 86: 373-406.

Rene Savenye is past president of White Rock and Surrey Naturalists Society, where he has been a member for 26 years.

Incredible Edible Fungi

By Rene Savenye

“Is it edible” It’s one of the first questions asked about a mushroom when leading a mushroom foray. Right after “What is this one ” The quick answer is that any mushroom is edible – ONCE! It usually gets a laugh but it leads into a discussion

Any mushroom is edible – ONCE!

With the eating of wild mushrooms becoming more popular, anyone thinking of eating wild mushrooms should not only know the edibles, but should also make themselves familiar with the poisonous ones. The latter would include the various species o

Although the mushrooms must be fresh, it is also wise to never eat mushrooms raw. Raw mushrooms may contain toxins that are destroyed by the heat of cooking. They should be prepared properly.

Never eat your mushrooms raw - they may contain toxins that are destroyed by the heat of cooking.

Parboiling some species will remove toxins, making them good edibles. Some mushrooms have toxins so powerful, that when they are being prepared the volatile compounds they release can make the cook ill especially when working in an enclosed, po

Most people collect and consume mushrooms for their flavor. Although mostly water, there is some nutritional value to mushrooms. They are fairly rich in a number of the B complex vitamins such as riboflavin and nicotinic acid, as well as contai

When collecting specimens for the table, take only fresh specimens, cutting them off at the base with a knife. Always leave some in their natural habitat to drop their spores. This will ensure there will be a fresh, healthy population for futur

Having collected the mushrooms, they must also be cleaned. Mushrooms will lose considerable flavor if they are washed with water. Peeling the skin also carries off much of the taste. The solution is to wipe each mushroom with a fine brush or a

Having said all this, there are many more species of fungi that are not poisonous than there are species that are seriously poisonous, and relatively few that are fatal. There are a number of species that are easy to recognize and that are incr

Springtime is the morel season. As a group, the true morels are amongst the most prized and sought after edibles. These spring morsels are recognized by their pitted or honeycombed caps, and hollow stalks. The cap is usually attached to the sta

Often seen growing on the ends of cut tree trunks along hiking trails during the fall season is a fungus called corraloid hericium, Hericium abietis. When fresh it is pure white, slowly turning brownish as it ages. They can form quite a large m

Another one that is not likely to be confused with others is the cauliflower fungus, Sparassis crispa. It usually forms a large, white growth at the base of Douglas-fir trees where it causes root rot, eventually killing the tree. Some grow to r

A species that many people find growing in their own lawn, in pastures, or along the edges of gravel roads is one that goes by several common names such as shaggy mane and lawyer’s wig, both equally descriptive of its appearance. Technically it

One last point. As naturalists we should collect mushrooms in an environmentally sensitive way. This has become particularly important recently where some commercial mushroom collectors, foraging for the prized pine mushrooms, Tricholoma magniv

By Marianne Meadahl
A bee fossil dating back more than 50 million years is taking on new meaning for SFU biology professor Rolf Mathewes (right).

His former high school biology teacher, Rene Savenye, gave the fossil to him.

Savenye, a well-known B.C. naturalist, was killed July 28 after he was struck by lightning while searching for fossils near Lake Louise.

Savenye gained notoriety when he found the bee fossil in 1995 at Quilchena, in southwestern B.C., near Merritt. The Quilchena fossil site has been researched by Mathewes and his students for more than three decades.

“He knew the specimen was scientifically important, and that it would mean a lot to me,” says Mathewes, adding Savenye helped shape his love of science. Savenye formerly taught at Princess Margaret secondary school in Surrey and was one of B.C.

Mathewes began his work at Quilchena as an SFU biology undergraduate student in 1969. His many visits to the area as both student and professor have resulted in more than 1,000 fossil specimens of plants, fish and insects, including several new

A paper describing many fossil insects, including Savenyes’s bee, was published in 2000 in the Canadian Journal of Zoology by Mathewes and former SFU biology student Bruce Archibald.

Mathewes says the fossil’s age is still being studied, though it is estimated to be between 50 and 54 million years old.

The bee is a previously undescribed species, and will ultimately be named using a Latinized version of Rene Savenye’s name, in honour of its collector.

A paper detailing the new species and its significance is currently being revised by a Russian scientist and Archibald, now a PhD student at Harvard, who knew Savenye well.