The Bee is Back?
I swore to friends earlier this summer that I had seen honeybees in my garden. Excitement all around!
When someone told me several years ago that both wild and commercial bees were dying out because of pesticide overuse and a mite infestation, I was distraught. That's the kind of news that puts me in an apolcalyptic state of mind, where I'm afraid that all the things I love about the world are disappearing. Every time I'd see something buzzing around my flowers, I'd crouch nearby and try to see if it was a real, true honeybee. Most of the time, it seemed not quite right-- too small or too large, too dark, too swift, missing that pleasant, unhurried, highly heedful dithering that I associate with honeybees.
I'm not completely sure this is a honeybee, either-- I emailed a picture to a bee expert but have not heard back. The body seems to lack the golden fuzziness that I recall from the honeybees of my youth. He could be one of the 4,000 species of wild bees in this country. You can't see it in this picture, but he is carrying plump saddlebags of pollen-- that seems to be a hopeful sign of a creature that intends to make an overabundance of honey.
I have to be careful of the bees--honey, bumble and otherwise--because there is so much work after an absence of six weeks. So much weeding! Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere so much as in my garden, where I diligently tore out all the stupid violets before I left. I returned to find that annoyingly robust self-seeders had taken over the territory. But weeding and dead-heading is hazardous when the bees are still so very busy among my phlox, buddleia, joe-pye, monarda, gloriosa daisies, lythrum and asters. I always assume that the bees see me as a partner, out there to ensure yet more flowering of all that they seek. But, there are some bumblebees out there nearly as big as my fist. I feel they are looking at me balefully.
Some people feel like God in their gardens, making all those important decisions about what lives and what must depart, keeping bloom and foliage and variety in balance. But I'm a very bad god. I oafishly step on one plant when I'm reaching for another, tear things out in the spring because I can't remember that I planted them in the fall, and get tired in the middle of the summer and let the Japanese anemones take over. And I feel slightly guilty when I'm deadheading, especially at this time of year. My poor plants have already worked hard, putting out one burst of bloom after another. The evidence of their fecundity is drying at the end of a stem, but that's what I must snip away to encourage yet more bloom. Isn't this like a greedy audience at the end of a performer's fourth encore, demanding more? More!