The bees are buzzing

I can’t recall the last time that I suffered a bee sting, until a few days ago. Over the past few years I’ve made a habit of sticking my nose (and camera) too close to blooms with bees buzzing about, and though I’m certain that I’ve been a terrible nuisance, I haven’t been stung.

I don’t know that I can tell a wasp from a hornet, or one bee from the other, but I blundered into a group of wasps that were evidently building a nest in a crevice between boulders bordering one of the garden’s ponds. I was doing something or other, recklessly too close I suppose, and the wasps took offense. In moments I was stung four or five times, maybe more. Fortunately, there was no one close by to watch, but be assured that I was hopping and swatting, and I’m certain that I haven’t moved so quickly in years as I scurried away. Later in the day I was admiring the new blooms of a Russian sage when I was stung again, and again multiple times, though in my panic to escape I failed to identify my assailants.

On any day spring through autumn there are plenty of flowers (Bee balm, Monarda didyma, above, and Hummingbird mint, Agastache, below) in the garden, and with flowers there are likely to be bees. I welcome the little fellows, especially bumblebees that seem particularly harmless. I’m not a big fan of wasps, but rarely do our paths collide, so I won’t complain about being stung occasionally.

My wife mentioned a few days ago that we don’t seem to have as many gnats and mosquitoes as a few of her friends’ nearby properties, and I can only suppose that the number of birds that call the garden home are responsible for keeping these pesky bugs in check. In a few weeks the Japanese beetles will be back, but I think that the birds lend a hand in keeping their numbers down so that they do little damage and I’ve never considered spraying pesticides to be rid of them.

Most of the butterfly bushes (Buddleia, above) are now blooming, but I’ve seen only small, drab white butterflies that are probably moths but they won’t stay still for even a moment to be identified. Every other summer there are many dozens of larger, more colorful butterflies, so I assume they’ll be around soon. I’ve seen a few hummingbird moths over the last week, and I’m fascinated by these skittish moths that appear to be a cross between hummingbird and bumblebee as they dart between blooms. 

In the past several years new butterfly bushes have been introduced that are much more compact than the old favorites that grew out of control unless they were chopped nearly to the ground each spring. Also, many of these do not set viable seed so that there is less concern about invasiveness. I’ve not often seen butterfly bushes that have sprouted from seed, but apparently this is a problem in some areas.

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