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.
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.