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.
Hey honey-bunny! Let me say that I no long regard any stinging insect with innocence. I have been stung down here in AL more times than ever in my entire life. In fact, I can’t recall ever being stung un till I moved here. The first was from an enormous bee I took for a carpenter type. They appeared at the rear of the house, going into the attic. I paid them no mind, thinking they were busy about their life, and i had never been stung, as i said. Unfortunately, they took great offense at me sitting around the corner on the porch and attacked. Stung once, just minding my own business. Son thought me crazy, did not move when one came actually staring him down, until it dive bombed him. Learned since that there has been reports of aggressive bees crossbreading, bees moving up from South America.. I have been stung so often that I am now having serious reactions, and have an epi-pen. I stay far, far away from any type of stingers.
I’ve always, always wanted to be the kind of person who stands and thinks and is silent and, when she eventually speaks, says something profound. Instead, I rattle on and spout lots of opinionated twaddle and, whenever I manage to be quiet for a bit, simply look sullen.
I too have wondered if solitary bees get lonely.
Esther, I think you are one of the most profound people I know. Often, your photos speak loudest of all.~~Dee
Thanks for sharing some seeds of knowledge with me, too, Dee. I wasn’t aware of the fungus affecting bumblebees. My young granddaughter gets a little freaked out when she sees the bumbles in my garden, but I’ve tried to explain to her, too, that she doesn’t need to be afraid of them–they’re too busy to worry about her.
Hi Rose, I’d heard about it, but getting to read more in depth helped me understand it better. Thanks for stopping by.
Hi Dee! As a mother of three grown girls and a fellow gardener, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You have to make the most of the growing moments in the garden. Great job!
Carolyn, I do my best, but I often wonder with teens if my information falls on deaf ears. Only time will tell. Thanks for commenting.
Oh my dear Dee,
You lost your calling as a script writer. It’s so refreshing just to lay back and watch you weave a valuable lesson through sheer entertainment. Nice visiting with you again,,, my dee-r friend.
Thank you Patrick. I was actually trained as a fiction writer, and I wrote three bad books. 🙂
I enjoyed your story…and nice photos too!
Thank you so much. I do my best.
Wonderful teachable moment – and well taken!
Thank you. May we all scatter seeds today, and may they find a fruitful harvest.
Lisa at Greenbow
What a fortunate gathering of the minds. I bet they remember this for years. It will come to them when they are out puttering in their own gardens. 🙂
I hope so Lisa. I really do.
Gardener on Sherlock Street
What a great conversation. Maybe you could send some of those milk weed seeds on the wind north to me!!!!!
Consider it done. 🙂
Dee, What a delightful lesson! Talk about planting seeds! You’ve been doing a great job of seed planting with your three offspring. Someday, you’ll hear one of them tell your grandchild something very similar. Way to go! xoxogail
Thank you so much Gail. Your opinion is one I treasure.
What a perfectly charming post, dear Dee. I could picture the kids talking to you while you worked. A captive audience, since they were waiting for money, too. You are a good mom and great teacher, also a great mom and good teacher. They will thank you one day, as they remember your words as they pass them along to their own children.
Thank you Frances. It’s true, they were captive. I made the most of it. I hope I hear it echoed someday.
Sounds like a wonderful time in the garden, not just because you got some weeding done, but also because your kids were nearby learning from you. You are a great role model for them. They’ll treasure these casual conversations.
Well, I hope so Carol. You just never know.
The bat faced plant was my favourite.
Catherine, cupheas are among the best plants in my garden for summer color.