I was working in the garden last Saturday pulling out weedy grasses and deadheading annuals for a last show when the teens decided to come outside. My son, ASW, wanted to know if there was breakfast made. It was Noon.
Diva, home from college, looked like a princess awakened from a long slumber.
My youngest, Bear, stood at the edge of the garden staring at me as she often does. It could be disconcerting, but I know she is just thinking. Bear thinks a long time before she speaks, but when she does, it’s usually profound.
Diva and Bear were set to attend the state fair and wanted money among other things.They also awaited their friend while she got permission from her parents.
I stood in the middle of the side bed hip deep in weeds. I fielded everyone’s questions, and ASW went back inside while Diva and Bear remained out on the deck and stairs next to me.
While they waited, we fell into conversation.
“Mom, watch out for that bumblebee,” said Bear.
“That bumble won’t hurt me. She is working and can hardly be disturbed.” The bumble bee flew from flower to flower gathering nectar and also pollen on her large legs.
“Where is her hive,” asked Diva.
That finally got my attention and stopped me from weeding.
“Hive? Really? How long have you two lived with me?” I pointed a hand weeder at each of them. “Eighteen years, twelve years??”
They shrugged and smiled.
“What?” they said in unison.
“Good grief. Bumblebees don’t make honey for humans. The do make a small amount of honey for themselves, but European honeybees make honey. Bumblebees don’t have hives. They nest in the ground.”
Bear jumped back just a bit. Nests make her think of wasps, and wasps sting her a lot so she is shy of anything with a stinger.
“Bear, they are not aggressive. You would have to locate a nest and threaten it it to get their attention. Plus, some live solitary lives.” I deadheaded another flower as I spoke.
“Oh, that’s sad,” said Diva, who is all about romance these days.
“Bumblebees are our native bees. Honeybees are native to Europe.”
“I like honey,” said Diva.
“I like honey too, Honey,” I said, smiling, “but there are so many more pollinators than simply honeybees–although we have to care for them too.”
As we talked, I picked up a dried, milkweed pod and split it in two. Seeds began to fly away upon the wind. I took more out and threw them into the other beds.
“Mom! You’re scattering seeds everywhere,” said Diva.
I smiled. “Yes, I know. Then, while I had a captive audience away from their computers and other electronics, I explained about the Monarch caterpillar who only has a taste for milkweeds.
So, let’s all scatter seeds wherever we can today. Spread seeds of knowledge and good will, and let me know what you reap.
According to the National Geographic article, Bumblebees Taking a Nosedive in North America , four species of American bumblebees are in decline. “Bombus occidentalis, B. affinis, B. pensylvanicus, and B. terricola have plummeted by up to 96 percent.” They may be infected by the Nosema bombi fungus, and there is a possible link between the fungus and the sharing of queen bees with Europe in the early 1990s. However, that has not yet been proven.
Luckily, there are fifty known species of bumblebee in North America, and many are affected by the fungus. In spite of our affection for the honeybee, bumblebees are much more efficient at pollinating certain flowers and crops like tomatoes because they use vibration which shakes the pollen more freely and dusts them with gold. You can help our bumbles by planting more flowers suited to their taste. Also, remember to plant early, mid-season and late flowers so they have food throughout the entire growing season. Notice the Asteraceae family is at the top of the list and not just because it’s alphabetical. Flowers in this family are favorites of most pollinators.
Many thanks to the bumblebee.org site for their info too.