IMG_4999We both like spending time at the McAbee Fossil Beds,……..except Bruce Archibald has contrived to turn that site, that provided the enormous joy of discovery for thousands of young and old amateur fossil-hunters,…….into his own private playground.

(The fossil with the # is the Archibald find, below, said to be 7 cm.  This fossil bee, showing part and counterpart is from my McAbee fossils and is about 1.5 cm.  

McAbee has billions of fossils.  The fish, the flowers, the feathers, the insects, the leaves and every other thing that once lived in the area caught up in the power and devastation of the global flood,……can be found in paper-thin layers, on the same plane, within inches of each other. Those bedding planes run for hundred of square miles, but valleys criss-cross them, and the elevation of the McAbee layers can be found intermittently.  There is a private ranch a few miles away that still has the same elevation and rich fossil beds.

 Note that Archibald admits his find is “so close to its modern relatives” – yet he arbitrarily gives it a name, “which he dubbed Ypresiosirex orthosemos”…… that name would never let you dream there actually are many closely related, similar insects.   53 million years of evolution passed, according to Archibald, but the little thing is virtually unchanged.  And all that other flora and fauna are virtually unchanged too. They are all highly recognizable.  Extinction has occurred but there is zero evidence of upward evolving life in the fossils.  Plant and animals found caught in the midst of vibrant life and slammed into layer upon layer of cementing matrix are often bigger than our present species.)

Horntail or wood wasp is the common name for any of the 150 non-social species of the family Siricidae, of the order Hymenoptera, a type of xylophagous sawfly. This family was, until recently, believed to be the sole living representative of the superfamily Siricoidea, a group well represented in Paleogene and Mesozoic times, but the family Anaxyelidae has recently been linked to this group. The last tergite of the abdomen has a strong, projecting spike, thus giving the group its common name (the ovipositor is typically longer and also projects posteriorly, but it is not the source of the name). A typical adult horntail is brown, blue, or black with yellow parts, and may often reach up to 4 cm long. The pigeon horntail (Tremex columba) can grow up to 5 cm long (not counting the ovipositor), among the longest of all Hymenoptera.

Female horntails lay their eggs in trees. The larvae bore into the wood and live in the tree for up to two years, possibly more. They typically migrate to just under the bark before pupation.

The spiral groove on the ovipositor is visible on the photograph but not easily to the naked eye.   FROM WIKIPEDIA

And from his lofty perch the great Dr. Archibald intones his profound insight into our evolutionary ascent.

Now I used to spend a lot of time up there, before Dr. Archibald and his learned peers decreed that we, the unwashed masses should be kept firmly away from messing with our evolutionary story.  Dr. Archibald KNOWS the hornet he just found is 53 million years old.  Wow, guess I never was lucky enough to find one with its age imprinted on it.  But then that’s the difference between those who have degrees and those who don’t.

Here’s a couple of letters I sent awhile ago, as I and rock-hounder clubs across BC fought to keep McAbee open for all of us.  First hear the voice of Dave Langevin, the man who opened McAbee to the world:

When Trudy Beyak asked why he placed his claim he said, “I didn’t want anyone to ever say to me that I couldn’t come here. So the only way to do that is just stake it!  And then no one could ever stop me from coming.  This is my love.”

Dave Langevin died, and some say it was because of the grief foisted on him by the pressure of university elites who wanted control of his beloved fossil beds.

From: Gerda Peachey <>

Date: Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Subject: Fwd: The McAbee Fossil Beds

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources:  c/o Evan Southern:

Dear Mr. Thomson:  Last week Mr. Evan Southern told me there would be a meeting about the McAbee Fossil beds that would be open to all interested stakeholders.

Our Abbotsford Rock and Gem club met last evening, and wants me to write on behalf of our club.  Other clubs around BC also want to have input into what happens at the McAbee Fossil beds.

What concerns me is that I see no mention of this subsequent meeting, one that was to be announced well in advance and open to all interested stakeholders.

In the communication between parties, I am seeing only references to comments, surveys, questionnaires, but no mention of the meeting that Evan Southern told me would happen.

Up to this point I feel a few university folk have had a rather exclusive influence on governing authorities, with a very decided exclusion being displayed in the small Kamloops meeting conducted by Elisabeth Eldridge last week.

I would like you and your department to consider the overall good that happens when the approach to fossil finds embraces the amateurs who comb inaccessible places, to find, and bring out to the rest of the world, the treasures they find hidden in the earth.

When there is mutual trust and consideration, people are almost always eager to share their finds.  They want to be part of the further journey of learning about the rocks and fossils they have unearthed.

But, when the response is like that of Bruce Archibald, that he, and his elitist fellows must be given control over what others have worked to give the rest of the world, most people will no longer share their riches.  So, in my opinion, we all lose out.

While McAbee is not hidden, indeed is highly visible, it is still detrimental to declare it a Heritage Site, that thereby shuts out the wonderful experience Dave Langevin provided for thousands of families and varied rock hound enthusiasts.  The learning experience has been profound, far, far greater than we would gain from the universities.

I’ve met over the years,  land-owners who upon finding fossilized animal remains on their property, have immediately taken a bulldozer and planted bushes to obscure the site, from the intrusive, hight-handed involvement they have come to expect from people who consider themselves the intellectual elite.

Then, please consider that 75% of the earth’s surface is sedimentary rock.  All such water deposition layers can and do contain fossils of plants, animals, fish and insects.  Some layers are richer than others in fossils.

All oil, gas and coal exploration destroys fossils by the billions. The Alberta government displays severe myopia.  No one is allowed to freely collect fossils or take any out of the province.  Yet untold billions of fossils are pulverized in energy extraction.  Why not allow everyone to have the thrill of fossil hunting, which would preserve those fossils for everyone to learn from and enjoy.

Here in BC,  Run of River projects carve out roads through fossil rich rock.  Pipe lines are laid down.  A lot of that  area, altered for our legitimate needs, is simply gone to everyone in terms of the fossils it held.

Many of those sites were known, but not shared with universities because of the well-founded fear of an officious response.  My point, I hope you will see, is that these natural treasures abound, but it is primarily amateurs who exert the blood, sweat and tears to bring them out for the rest of us to learn from, and to marvel at, and in some cases to put to really practical use.

So please treat all those interested in the ultimate decision on the McAbee Fossil beds with the respect due to them.

Both my MLA John Van Dongen, and your assistant Evan Southern told me there would be a meeting open to all of us who care about McAbee.

Could you have someone look into setting such a meeting up, and I will try to reach everyone with the date and location.

Sincerely, Gerda Peachey

President:   Abbotsford Rock and Gem Club

I think the heart of Dave Langevin must be heard in all of this, so I will forward my letter of March 14th to you as well.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Gerda Peachey <>
Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Subject: The McAbee Fossil Beds

Hi John: Thank you for speaking to the ministry staff at Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.

Evan Southern did get back to me, and asked that I write a letter, with some detail to help them understand the matter more fully.  So that is what I will attempt here.

Please understand that though I am the very new, and ‘green’ president of the Abbotsford Rock and Gem Club, I am in no way speaking on behalf of the membership, though I will forward this letter to all of them. There was no time to discuss the Kamloops stakeholder workshop that Elisabeth Eldridge is conducting tomorrow, because we only just got word of it.

The question of locking the gate of McAbee to us amateurs, and allowing only the ‘right’ people in to the site, would have evoked a response from me, even if I were not a member of any club.

I have been on that ridge six times over the past decade or so, and would gladly have spent many more wonderful days marvelling at that rich fossil bed.

The high-handed approach taken in conducting a workshop about making McAbee a heritage site that could potentially exclude thousands of British Columbians, was ill thought out.  Even when a number of people asked to attend, the door was firmly shut to us, the rock and gem clubs.  Surely we make up by far the largest stake-holder group, the rock and gem clubs.

On a very positive note however, Steve Thompson’s assistant, (or Deputy?) Evan Southern, agrees that there will now be a subsequent meeting. This time plenty of notice will be given, and all stake-holders will be invited to attend.

If people wish I will make up one list of interested parties and send the information as the date and location are set.

On August 4, 2010 my friend Trudy Beyak and I spent a wonderful few hours with Dave Langevin, the man who had the foresight to put the claim on the McAbee fossil beds some 20 years ago.  Dave passed away a year ago, so it is poignant to hear his voice in Trudy’s interview tape recording.

Perhaps hearing his words will enable the folk tasked with the protection of McAbee see the site through the eyes of the man who poured so much of his life into making this available to everyone.

Here are some quotes…. When Trudy asked Dave if he was a geologist he replied,  “This is my hobby gone crazy.”

Dave gave us a list of what we could expect to find in the sedimentary deposits, and spent a lot of time telling us what we were looking at.

When Trudy asked why he placed his claim he said, “I didn’t want anyone to ever say to me that I couln’t come here. So the only way to do that is just stake it!  And then no one could ever stop me from coming.  This is my love.”

When discussing the articles written by Stephen Hume, Dave said, “Protect it, I like that.  There’s lots of guys (speaking of the university profs he’d met) who know there’s room here for everybody.”

Discussing the value of keeping the site only for the use of academia, Dave had this to say, “Every university in Canada has huge amounts of this stuff already, and they simply don’t want any more fossils from McAbee.   Except for the significant ones.   They have no room.”

Dave Langevin befriended Bruce Archibald.  He gave him his best fossils, (and cold beer from his fridge).  He helped Mr. Archibald on his doctoral work.  In return Bruce Archibald tried to take McAbee away from Dave and from the huge numbers of amateurs who loved the place almost as much as Dave.  “Mr. Archibald just wants everybody gone.”

Mr. Archibald could have prevailed upon the government to purchase the adjacent property being ground up for kitty litter and feed-lot absorbent spread. Instead, he put incessant pressure on the government to take over the site that Dave had developed and opened up for the enjoyment and education of ‘the rest of us.’

Dave proudly talked to Trudy and me about his amazing finds, so available to a wondering world because of his efforts.  He talked about the 18 crayfish he’d found, all being studied at the University of Colorado.  “I’ve found lovely fish fossils that have the skin still on them.   Anywhere in these piles.”

“If people want to find stuff, the more rock you look at, the more chance you got,  — that’s what I tell em.”  

Mr. Archibald and a few ‘elites’ want the whole treasure for themselves.  No need to be so selfish.  Dave Langevin had already set aside a huge area for the universities.  I have heard this issue discussed on many occasions.  The great learned ones rarely bothered to come out there, I am told.  The vast bulk of fossils in universities have been donated by the amateurs who do the hard work of exploring and hauling and then generously share their finds with researchers.

Let McAbee be declared a heritage site alright, but also leave it open for the rest of the province to enjoy.  There was always someone at the site who gave direction to the public who came out.  Continue that practice.  Open it up for half the year, for set hours.  Reserve the biggest and best for the universities and let the common folk continue to marvel at this rich and plentiful world of fossils.

Dave Langevin was right, “There’s lots of room in it for everybody.”

Gerda Peachey

Fossil giant horntail wood-wasp discovered in B.C.

Paleontologist literally splits his pants after finding well-preserved specimen of new species

The Canadian Press Posted: Nov 18, 2015 11:37 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 18, 2015 1:52 PM ET

A fossilized giant horntail wood-wasp is shown in a rock discovered by Bruce Archibald.

A fossilized giant horntail wood-wasp is shown in a rock discovered by Bruce Archibald. (Royal B.C. Museum/Canadian Press)

It was literally a huge discovery.

Bruce Archibald was searching for fossilized insects in British Columbia’s southern Interior when he cracked open a rock and found a beautifully-preserved giant horntail wood-wasp.

“I immediately jumped up and split my pants,” he recalled with a laugh. “Probably, the species should have been named Latin for pants-splitter, but we went with something a little more technical.”

Archibald, a paleoentomologist with the Royal B.C. Museum and Simon Fraser University, had discovered a 53-million-year-old species of giant wasp, which he dubbed Ypresiosirex orthosemos.

The insect, seven centimetres in length, is one of three new wasp species that Archibald and Alexandr Rasnitsyn of the Russian Academy of Sciences identified in an article published online in The Canadian Entomologist.

Very different conditions

While most B.C. hikers would be somewhat alarmed to encounter a wasp of that size, the ancient wasp was actually only slightly larger than its modern descendants.

“They’re pretty big pests of forests today,” said Archibald. “The interesting part is that it’s so close to its modern relatives. So when you put it in a forest 53 million years ago with very different conditions … you can see how their community responds.”

Today, young horntail wood-wasps bore tunnels through wood to grow fungus that they eat. The fungus emits poisons while the wasps produce a secretion that weakens the tree’s immune system, eventually killing it.

Archibald discovered the ancient species in the McAbee Fossil Beds near Cache Creek. The other new species were also found at the site.

Archibald said the discovery gives researchers insight into how the modern world started to come together after the extinction of the dinosaurs. All the elements enjoyed by today’s giant horntail wood-wasps were in place 53 million years ago — including trees such as fir, pine, spruce, hemlock, sequoia and cedar.

Further, the species also tells researchers about what kinds of plants and animals live together when the climate is warmed up slightly. He described the winter weather at that time as similar to that of present-day Vancouver but with few — if any — days of frost.

That meant the horntail wood-wasp, which prefers a temperate climate, was living alongside creatures that prefer tropical weather, including a species of cockroach that is now only found in Fiji.

“People often ask me, ‘Why should I care what fly flew in the sky 53 million years ago?”‘ Archibald said.

“What I say is: the more that we understand about the origin of our modern forest ecosystems, and the more we understand about how plants and animals respond and how the communities changed in different climates, the better off we’re going to be as we move into the future.”