Saturday, May 12, 2007

Garden Tales

Bees may be scarce elsewhere, but one border in my garden is abuzz with small, ground-nesting bees.

Because they are nesting next to a pathway used by children, I was concerned about their presence. But apparently they are valuable pollinators that are not usually a threat to humans. Their homes are holes that look like someone poked a Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil into the dirt.

I like to sit on the path and weed this border, but I think I will wait until the bees are done with their seasonal business. The border has iris, spiderwort, daylilies, purple coneflower and lychnis. Chickweed, bindweed and grasses flourish unless I bring out the Cape Cod weeder or the talon-like linoleum knife to pick them out. Sweet alyssum volunteers also need to be dug up from random spots and moved to the front of the border.

The bees have mainly taken over a spot where yellow Japanese irises were planted, but did not do well. The sparseness left bare ground which is the bees’ favored site for setting up housekeeping. Planting grass or groundcover is apparently one way to deter future incursions.

I like bees very much as symbols in jewelry or fabric design, but tend to keep my distance from live bees or wasps. Usually unfortunate encounters with them come from being in the wrong place, such as in the flight path of yellowjackets. It pays to note where they live.

A few years ago, a cicada killer dug a nest in another part of the garden. This large wasp paralyzes cicadas and other insects and puts them in its nest as food for its offspring. It normally does not bother humans, but its presence can be scary due to its size, up to two inches long.

One day I forgot to pay attention to where I was standing and was startled by a buzzing noise in the loose pants I was wearing. I had time to dash inside and rip them off, letting out the unhappy cicada killer. It was just one more garden adventure in the middle of the Queen City.

--Bernice Paglia


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