The buzz

In the big bed - just imagine the flitting and buzzing all over and around...Like everything else, the garden air show seems to be happening a little earlier this year than last and I think it’s more entertaining than TV. I wish I had moving pictures to show you the swallows scooping mosquitoes off the Great Lawn and hummingbirds feeding on monarda, gladiolus and crocosmia. There are dragonflies and butterflies and moths lighting on the every delicate stem and an easy dozen species of bees and wasps working nearly every flower. There are so many of us tending the gardens that it’s really a wonder that we don’t all get in each other’s way.

Linda deadheading in the Display GardenAs a matter of fact (I’m knocking wood with my feet as I type this) I have only been stung 2, maybe 3 times in the 7 years I’ve worked in these gardens. And not yet by a honeybee. I may simply be lucky but for what it’s worth, I also have a profound respect for all of our busy pollinators. I do my best not to get in their way or deadhead flowers that are still being worked on. That said, I do have to admit that one of my stings was from from a startled solitary-bee when I accidentally grabbed it along with a helianthus flower that wanted deadheading. It is curious that they all seem to go for flowers we might think have already gone by…

We were so happy when Jeff from Aquidneck Honey started dropping off honeybee hives. Gail and I were utterly captivated watching him casually knock a colony into a new box and wish the “girls” good luck. His bees have settled in to their new home and we’re getting used to having a little more buzz and excitement in the gardens with five hives in place now. If Colony Collapse Disorder can be said to have any good side, I think it’s that more people have learned to be respectful and interested in bees rather than afraid of them.

Jeff delivering the first hive - with Gail paying close attention.

Angelica gigas and a couple of honeybeesWe all know by now that honeybees only sting in self or hive defense, and sacrifice themselves by leaving an essential body part behind (so to speak) — which should be removed immediately by gently scraping the sting site. If the bees ever sting, we’re prepared. There is ice in our freezer, baking soda and a sting-stop ammonia pen in the greenhouse first-aid kit. I’ve also just learned that parsley and basil are effective sting-pain relievers if crushed and rubbed on as a sort of poultice. Anyone who has been in the vegetable garden knows we have plenty of basil especially. For the 2 or so percent of the population that is allergic to bees, I hope you travel with an epi-pen and never have to use it.

Eastern cicada killer on Eryngium planumI am a little bit afraid of wasps because they can be vicious if provoked. Interestingly, the enormous Eastern cicada killer, which is one of the scariest looking wasps is also one of the most docile. According to my research, they will sting only if they’re grabbed or stepped on. Like the easy-going bumble bee, cicada killers are ground nesters. And that right there is why barefoot gardening is not for me.

Have you been stung much while gardening? Do you have a preferred sting relief remedy?

6 thoughts on “The buzz

  1. I am terrified of wasps. I remember getting bitten! not stung, bitten twice one day when I was in the 4th grade and I remember the swelling and such was just as bad. I had used a lotion on my legs that I suppose the wasps found particularly tasty smelling and they decided to eat me.

    My garden beds look anemic compared to yours. Lovely.

    Susan, I think you’re right about wasps biting and they definitely are fully capable of stinging/biting/attacking more than once. Bullies is what they are. But at least here they seem more interested in the flowers than me (knock wood). -kris

  2. The wasps look frightening don’t they? I have been stung but that will never keep me out of the garden. Nice post, Kris. I have to come by to see that vegetable garden.

    Layanee, that cicada killer is just so huge… Even though I know it’s not interested in me, I’m going to stay out of the way. Hope you come by soon!! – kris

  3. I’ve certainly been stung by bees but the European honeybees in Australia have very mild stings — nettle-stings are considerably more painful and long-lasting. Most of our native bees are stingless. I have seen numerous wasp species around our garden but none have stung me because I don’t bother them, apart from checking whether they are European Wasps. The latter can overwinter in our climate and as a result the hives can become huge, and thus a real threat to life as all the wasps will attack at once.
    We have a lovely bird here called a Bee-eater which I have seen at work on a paper-wasp nest. The bird flies up, pecks the nest, and catches a wasp on the wing. It waits until the wasps settle down again and then repeats the process until it has had a good meal. Fascinating!

    Chookie, no doubt about it, you have the most fascinating wildlife in your part of the world! And so funny that you mentioned nettle – I was actually stung that and can say for certain that rubbing basil on it won’t help. Do not rub a nettle sting, period! I sort of forgot that… -kris

  4. We keep bees in Western Cranston. Fascinating.
    A few weeks ago, we had a bad experience (our mistake, somehow) that resulted in my having a dozen stings on the neck and above and a dozen below (yes, I wear protective clothing…) Nobody could decisively tell us what we did wrong, I think it was a result of overcrowding. Needless to say, an illuminating experience.

    After that, though I don’t need one, we decided to keep an Epi-pen on hand, because who knows when a guest from the city, with a child in tow, discovers an inknown allergy.

    John, how scary to have them gang up on you like that! And so lucky that you’re not allergic – though if you were, you’d only need one sting to need the epi-pen, not dozens (ouch!) -kris

  5. When I was at Blithewold today I could not believe the bees, dragonflies and butterflies all over the garden! The flower beds were so alive with them, buzzing and flying. It was really something. I had the same experience – I walked along the flagstone paths, brushing against the plants and the bees didn’t really seem to take notice of me. It was a lovely moment of coexistence. I wish we had more bees in our yard.

    Kira, You will soon find out (I have every confidence) that if you plant it, they will come! They do have certain kinds of favorites… -kris

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