For years I’ve made a habit of poking my nose and camera within inches of flowers as butterflies and bees buzzed about, and until a few weeks ago I had not been stung in a great while. Then, wasps that were nesting between boulders bordering one of the garden’s ponds got me several times before I could leap to safety. Later in the day bees of some sort took offense when I ventured too near a Russian sage to transplant a foxglove. As I scurried away I was too rushed to identify my assailants, except that they were small, flying, and had stingers.
Most often I have the good sense to steer clear of wasps (above), but obviously not always. There is a sizable nest in the upper limbs of a Chinese Snowball viburnum outside the library window, and after the recent attack I’ve exercised extreme caution in wandering on the path beneath it so that they’re not provoked.
In recent years there has been a noticeable lack of honey bees, and of course there is considerable concern about their recent decline. Their numbers seem greatly increased in the garden this summer, perhaps because I planted several mountain mints (Pycnanthemum virginianum) and a hummingbird mint (Agastache, above) in late summer of last year. In bloom the shrub-like perennials nearly vibrate with many dozens of bees buzzing about (below), and I’m cautious not to disturb them more than is necessary.
Bumblebees (below), butterflies, and an assortment of moths are abundant in the garden, and they seem only mildly annoyed by my presence. If I become too bothersome bumblebees will drift off to another bloom, and butterflies and moths are skittish and flee quickly.
The butterflies (below) and bees have become as much an ornament of the garden as the blooms that they visit. I cannot imagine the garden without them, and for this reason I tolerate the modest numbers of Japanese beetles and aphids.