Bee watching

 

 

Mario my famous cat and gardening companion.
Mario my famous cat and gardening companion.

 

The miracle of life lies out there teeming in the dark rich earth. I can feel it.  I can sense it and it is a wondrous thing.  No matter how many times I see a tiny sprout emerge from the soil I  am awestruck at such beautiful complexity inhibiting such lovely simplicity. Everything has it’s place, it’s purpose. Exquisite harmony and balance reins supreme…or at least it used to.

I have spent much of my 44 summers enthralled in the wilds of an urban garden; laying in the grass staring up at the imaginative clouds, cavorting with the butterflies and communing with the bees. As a young girl I felt a kinship with nature that has only intensified with age.  I feel in tune with the earth and with all living things and I have always had a special affinity for the natural world and all the beautiful shapes and colors of life on our amazing planet. 

It has been only natural for me to embrace gardening as one of my passionate pastimes.

As an adult I have spent countless hours in glorious toil in the backyard sun, digging and planting and weeding and planning. I have transformed a weedy double lot into what I refer to as my sanctuary, my retreat from the artificial inside.  I feel safe there and so do many of the urban wildlife that visit.  The neighborhood cats especially like it here and it isn’t uncommon for me to have a clan of disinterested felines “cheering me on”.

I am a great observer. It is another one of my pastimes; watching and observing and drawing conclusions….and I am a great watcher of the earth and I don’t have to tell you how sick it is. 

How sick our mother is. Our planet Earth. Our only home is ill. She is dying. The signs are all around. Some people don’t want you to believe that because they are more interested in the status quo but if we don’t change our ways there will be no status at all. 

It seems so far away; all this unbalance, this poison that eats away.  It is all around us, in our plastics and pesticides, in our gas- guzzling machines and in our diet colas. It hasn’t hit most of us yet…not really, but can you hear the rumblings? I can. I do as I sit in my garden; my sanctuary.

California Poppy in June Credit: N.L. McKinley
California Poppy in June Credit: N.L. McKinley

I sit in a prime spot next to a huge swath of brightly colored California poppies. They are one of the stars of the garden at this time of year and a favorite among the bees, including my favorite, the honey bee. I remember a time when they would be in beautiful abundance; busily buzzing from one flower to the next. I have noticed them slowly start to vanish…little by little; just a trickle at first but now it grows more obvious every year. My eyes scan the flowers and I only see a clumsy black bumble. I patiently wait…I don’t see a honeybee. I scan the grass at the clover I allow to grow, still no honeybee. The sun is out on an 80 degree day in June and where are they?

 

 Ahhh there’s one.  One honeybee and two bumbles…

 

 

Honeybee in June by N.L McKinley
Honeybee in June by N.L McKinley

 

Bumble Bee in June accompanied by Orange Poppy. Credit: N.L. McKinley
Bumble Bee in June accompanied by Orange Poppy. Credit: N.L. McKinley

Perhaps it is still to early for them…perhaps I didn’t wait long enough…I will go out and look tomorrow for another one…

California Poppy in June Credit: N.L. McKinley
California Poppy in June Credit: N.L. McKinley

 

 

More stuff to ponder…

Just me Nancy reporting from the urban wilds of my backyard…SMILE!  Have a good one and remember what our friend Anne Frank said:

 

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” 
― Anne Frank

 

Sometimes that is all we can do…

(And one more thing: please no more pesticides. I know YOU don’t use them but for anyone who may. Please as a personal favor for me…stop.)

Nancy

 

“The natural world belongs to us all and it is vanishing at an alarming rate. We the people of this planet have a responsibility to the generations that come after us. I believe we gardeners have a special and vital role to play in the protection of our dwindling natural assets.”

 

~N.L.  McKinley

 

bee gif flying

 

 

 Related Sound and Natural Tunes

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Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy me
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Counting Crows – Big Yellow Taxi ft. Vanessa Carlton
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Blind Melon – No Rain
Optimistic Sunflower and Bee. Credit N.L McKinley
Optimistic Sunflower and Bee. Credit N.L McKinley

 

Related Articles and Items of interest

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SAVE THE BEES (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com)

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List of crop plants pollinated by bees (Wikipedia)

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Mass bee die-offs reported in Portland area (Statesmanjournal.com)

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A Disastrous Year for Bees: ‘We Can’t Keep Them Alive’ (New York Times on You Tube)

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Feds aim to save declining honeybee (pressherald.com)

 

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Save The Bees

Cute little fuzzy buzzy bees darting from flower to flower, devoted to their task. I am an avid bee watcher. They are fascinating creatures to observe, so active and alive.

I wasn’t always like this. For most of my life I never paid much attention to bees, only enough to get out of their way.  As a child I saw them as mysterious and dangerous. Now as an adult knowing their precarious position my heart soars every time I see one.

I no longer take these essential little dynamos for granted.  We owe much to bees and this goes far beyond honey.  It is the by-product of their “busyness” pollinating roughly three-fifths of the food plants in the United States that keeps us in groceries, so to speak.

One full third of our diet depends on bee pollination.

We can thank our helpers; the bees for many of our favorite foods including: strawberries, apples, apricots, blueberries, kiwi, almonds, coconuts, pomegranates, cherries, okra, onions, sunflowers, tangerines, oranges, hazelnuts, soybeans, cauliflower, avocado, cucumber and watermelon just to name a few.(See complete list)

The Disappearing Act

By now many of us have heard of the bees disappearing. Scientists, the media and people in the know have been all abuzz about this phenomena they named Colony Collapse Disorder. (CCD) It seemingly came out of nowhere and since its abrupt appearance in 2005, it has been affecting millions and millions of bees all over the world.  It is characterised by the disappearance of worker bees that leave behind a queen, a few attendants, and maybe a few drones. Basically abandoned, the infected are left to wither and die with a hive full of honey.

There have been many different theories floating around as to the cause of Colony Collapse and there has been much finger pointing.  Many of the fingers point to our reliance on the pesticides and chemical fertilizers essential to our large commercial food production and the increasing use of Genetically Modified crops.

There has been evidence to support tracheal mites and varroa mites, known threats to bees. Some have proposed Nosema; a fungus as the cause, while others suggest it may be a virus such as Israeli acute paralysis.

Some are even blaming the commercial bee industry itself. Saying that the stress the hives undergo during frequent moves on trucks – typical of the way large commercial farms operate are helping to cause CCD. It should be said that smaller bee operations and hobbyists have reported less occurrence of this devastating disorder, this is probably due to the genetic diversity that smaller hives tend to have.

I personally think it’s a combination of many different factors and it’s a sign of modern civilization’s thirst for utter dominance over nature. Our total disharmony with our wild roots is catching up to us. Our disregard is showing and the signs are everywhere, not just in bees. We are being given a rather stern warning that we should heed.

An inspirational Sunflower

Save the Bees

And how do we save the bees? I’m no scientist. I am just a backyard gardener with a yen for the planet. Yes, I care but what can I really do personally? What can we all do?

The best action you can take to benefit honey bees is to not use pesticides and if you must use pesticides try not to use them at mid-day when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar. Try to use natural fertilizers instead of chemical ones.

Plant a large number of native nectar producing plants particularly in the colors pink, purple, and blue. Some plants to consider are red clover, alfalfa, foxglove, bee balm, and joe-pye weed. ( See complete list of plants)

And put in a good word for our friend the bee. They get bad press. At the very least people just don’t care about bees. Some people hate bees and others are afraid and justifiably so, in some cases. (See Africanized bees) 

But for the most part most of us will never encounter any killer bees. Just the garden variety, the cute fuzzy buzzy bees busy with helping transform our world into a garden; one flower at a time. Leave them to their important task.  They mean no harm to you and will only use their stinger in self-defense.  They are gentle creatures. If you encounter a hive in a natural area, leave it alone. We are meant to coexist with bees and we can as long as we learn to respect them for what they are and what they do.

We must change our attitudes about bees if they are to survive. The facts remain that while the number of bee keepers have been decreasing, the number of companies specializing in the removal of unwanted hives is on the rise.

Love them, hate them or fear them… we need them.

As the world population swells over the coming decades demand for food will surely increase.  We will need not only the bees to help feed us but we will need to rethink our role on the planet. We’ll have to realise that we need to foster a cooperation with nature as well as our neighbors.  We’re all in this together. You, me, the bees… the whole world.  By saving the bees, we are in essence saving ourselves.

English: Honeybee (Apis mellifera) landing on ...
English: Honeybee (Apis mellifera) landing on a milk thistle flower (Silybum marianum). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks for listening,

Strawberryindigo.

 

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References and Suggested Reading

The Honey Trail by Grace Pundyk. © 2008

A Short History of the Honey Bee by E. Readicker-Hendersen. © 2009

USDA website; page on CCD