Bees and trees

First-ever ‘Gathering of the North’ planned

Ryan Iacovacci, coordinator of the upcoming “The Gathering of the North,” looks at fennel, a good pollinator plant that grows at MooseWood. The “skill share” event will take place Sept. 1 at MooseWood Nature Center. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The mission is simple: Save the bees by saving the trees.

There are many ways to do that and learn about the outdoors at the same time.

To further that mission, MooseWood Nature Center is hosting the first family-friendly “skill share” event Sept. 1, which is entitled “The Gathering in the North.”

MooseWood, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Northern Michigan University’s Center for Native American Studies and others are teaming up for the effort.

Ryan Iacovacci of Big Bay, a local mushroom expert, is the event coordinator.

“The Gathering in the North” will take place Sept. 1 at MooseWood Nature Center. (Artwork courtesy of Ryan Iacovacci)

He’s familiar with such skill share events, which can be on a larger scale.

“A lot of folks are saying, ‘We just need to learn hands on,'” Iacovacci said. “There’s a bunch of great doers and skilled people in the area that, if we get into one space, we can do this is a more efficient, kind of celebratory, manner.”

The focus at The Gathering will be on education, particularly with bees.

Honeybees are important pollinators that have been threatened with colony collapse disorder, which according to U.S. Department of Agriculture is a syndrome defined as a dead colony with no adult bees and no dead bee bodies, but with a live queen — and usually honey and immature bees — still present.

Bumblebees, mason bees and other bee species are pollinators as well.

In fact, proceeds from The Gathering will go toward a bee project, facilitated by local beekeeper Joel Lantz. That project will involve simple installations that people can mimic on their own property to support bees, Iacovacci said.

The “storytellers” at The Gathering will discuss a variety of conservation-related topics, but there’s a main theme.

“We’re all kind of coming together on the awareness about bees, specifically pollinators,” Iacovacci said. “This is a big issue.”

What science now is understanding, he said, is that bees “bioaccumulate” toxins, such as pesticides, the same way as humans absorb them.

What is being observed is that bees drink certain substances that come out of mushroom roots and uses them to detoxify, he said.

“What timber folks would see, a damaged tree — maybe a bear scratched or woodpeckers or what have you –, these are actually entry wounds for specific mushrooms to colonize that tree to decompose it to feed the rest of the forest, but in colonizing and fruiting, bees will find and sniff out, smell out, those mushrooms and will drink from it to detox,” said Iacovacci said, who pointed out that trials have shown this could benefit humans.

He called this type of benefit the impetus for The Gathering, especially since the area has an abundance of natural land.

“We’re encouraging alternative economies, and we’re encouraging people to gain skills and work through these transitions,” Iacovacci said.

Various tents will be set up at The Gathering to house a wide variety of workshops, including those relating to medicinal bee propelis and pollen, Upper Peninsula beekeeping and wax candle making, botanical therapy, brewing kombucha, Finnish woodworking and burning, and others.

Adam Berger, fundraising chairman of the Marquette Regional History Center, will lead a history walk about Presque Isle, sharing stories that revolve around the park and its Black Rocks.

For “Growing Mushrooms on the Cheap,” certified Michigan mushroom forager Joe Lane will show people how to use common household items such as bags, rubber bands and stuffed animal filling to grow mushrooms. Mushroom spawn and substrate will be brought for attendees to use.

Participants in the “Rocket Mass Heater” workshop will gain hands-on experience building these heaters, which are built on site and use only a tenth the firewood of a traditional wood stove. They also operate using small sticks and limbs that naturally fall from trees.

“Healing tents” will feature singing bowls, yoga meditation, massage and Thai yoga massage.

One of the reasons The Gathering is family-friendly is that it will feature a “Honeycomb Hideout” — a nature-focused space for children ages 3 to 12 to take part in activities such as games, crafting, hikes in the woods and and an appearance from guest author David Marshall, who will read from his book he co-authored with Paul Stamets, “From Bears and Trees to Mushrooms and Bees.”

Volunteer instructor Jill Economides will be part of the Honeycomb Hideout experience. She is a wilderness first responder and a former water safety instructor, and is certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“I love sharing nature with children,” Economides said in a news release. “To join children on their level as they discover and connect to what I feel is the key to our humanness. Mother Earth is one of life’s greatest gifts.”

The Marquette Food Co-op will provide healthy snacks.

MooseWood will be a good venue in regard to entertaining and educating children, Iacovacci said.

“We can be creative and engage kids in activities,” he said.

At the same time, their parents can learn about resilience.

“We’ve seen economic booms and busts,” Iacovacci said. “The more skilled a community is, the more resilient a community is, the better they are to then be able to withstand these, whatever’s to come.”

Tickets for The Gathering of the North are $55 online and $65 at the door. For a limited time, people may receive $15 off their online purchase by using the promo code MOOSE.

For more information, visit

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is