The buzz on bees

If you are not one who swats and retreats at the first sign of a bee buzz-by, I bet you know someone who does. Friend, fellow blogger, and landscape designer Debbie, at A Garden of Possibilities, wrote a fantastic post on bees as part of the Garden Designers Roundtable group she is part of.

I have nothing to add regarding bees – Debbie pretty much covers it all – but I will expand on the value of observation. I’ve been stung three times this season – all by wasps, not honey bees, and all because I wasn’t paying enough attention to my surroundings. Both times I disturbed an existing, but hidden, nest. Had I followed my old EMT training to survey the scene before entering, I likely would have noticed flight patterns and been able to prevent getting stung.

Surveying simply requires standing back and watching for flight patterns to and from a specific area before you begin any digging, weeding, or other disturbing-to-stinging-insects activity. Wasps like to nest in multiple unexpected locations. I’ve found them behind shutters, inside storage boxes, in hollow fences, at the top of wooden tuteurs, in trees, inside a retractable garden hose reel, and under the roof peaks of houses. Yellow jackets, which are actually another form of wasp, commonly nest in the ground.  No matter the stinging insect, observation may be the best sting-avoidance step. Bees, wasps, etc. do not seek to sting people, but do so because they feel threatened. When it’s dry, as is has been in Connecticut, I’ve found bees/wasps to be more protective of the flowers or berries they get moisture from. To minimize the risk of stings, I try to deadhead flowers or harvest berries in early morning or late day when stingers are less active.

yellow jacket on raspberry bumble bee1 For example, it’s not a good idea to reach in bare-handed to pick raspberries under control of what I believe is a yellow jacket as shown here. I love raspberries, but so do they, so I opted to leave the raspberries alone until a time when yellow jackets are less active. But the bumble bee at right was perfectly happy to pose for its photo as long as I did not disturb it. When you take time to observe you’ll notice that bumble bees like to rest on flowers overnight – I like to think they are intoxicated by the nectar.


For more info, and photos, of bees, wasps, etc. visit this University of Minnesota Extension page and this University of Connecticut IPM page … and make sure to visit Debbie’s bee post – it’s worth the read.

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6 comments for “The buzz on bees

  1. August 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Joene, Thanks so much for the kind words and the shout out. Your tips about avoidance are definitely worth reviewing often since sometime I get ‘in the zone’ in the garden and forget to pay more attention to what’s happening around me.

  2. joenesgarden
    August 25, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Debbie, your post is well worth noting. You are very welcome.

  3. August 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’ve noticed a few bumblers overnighing on blooms and have always wondered why. Seems a bit dangerous, being out in the open at night, but better than “flying under the influence” I suppose;)

    The yellow jackets have been relatively rare this year, so we are better able to enjoy outdoor dining without the jumping up and down and arm waving that goes with yellow jacket guests.

    Christine in Alaska

  4. joenesgarden
    August 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Christine, Wouldn’t it be funny to learn the reason bumblebees rest on certain flowers overnight is because they are nectar-oxicated?

    I wonder why no one tried to name a wild dance the yellow jacket?

  5. August 28, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Great advice and links. I feel blessed to have a hive of wild honeybees living next to my house in an old Rock Maple. Doubly lucky to have captured one of their swarms. My luck ran out, when I was attacked viscously by yellow jackets one year. I have enjoyed your post and the links you provide.

  6. joenesgarden
    August 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Glad you enjoyed this post, Carol. Hope you also visited A Garden of Possibilities and Debbie’s post on bees.

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