The Birds and the Bees

I’m almost finished reading The Beekeeper’s Lament, which chronicles one large-scale migrant beekeeper’s journey through the changing agriculture and hive demands, the relatively recent colony collapse that could have wiped out the honeybee population, and the implications of centralized production. As a result of reading that book and Ashley English’s Keeping Bees, I’ve come down with a bad case of bee fascination. Did you know, for example, that bees are responsible in one way or another for one-third the food we eat? It’s a lot to put on a tiny insect.

Knowing that we were *this* close to losing these little workers during the colony collapse of the last decade made it more exciting to see their activity this spring and summer. The prolific clover alive with bees in early summer let me continue to justify our weedy lawn. And it’s been fun seeing the many-years-old lavender weighted down and alive with honeybee and bumblebee activity. Not only is this activity fascinating to watch, but once the bees are hanging out at the lavender, it’s a short hop to the little vegetable garden on the side of our driveway, where they can get to work pollinating our melons and pumpkins.

Thanks, little fellas.

Speaking of the little garden on the side of our driveway, ever since Phil expanded it, I’ve wondered whether the neighbors would mind our so visibly growing vegetables out front. Mind you, we don’t live in one of those neighborhoods where we get tut-tutted and waved a copy of the association by-laws if we leave out an errant trash can. But nevertheless, I don’t want to be the eyesore neighbor. So I planted a little row of sunflowers at the head of our driveway plot, just to pretty it a little. As the sunflowers have matured, we’ve noticed that the birds have found them. Which is pretty stinking cool. Phil and I both have come out to find a bright yellow finch perched on top of a seeded flower, working out the seeds.

(The squirrel that rips flowers off that aren’t even seeded yet, and then scatters the petals and leaves around our yard like carcasses, is not so welcome. We’ve got our eyes on you, mister.)

Overall, I feel like my time spent in the garden needs to result in food. I’d much rather toil over some heirloom tomatoes than a rosebush. That’s just me. But it’s been really heartening to remember that plants put in merely for their beauty, and not to harvest, can still provide food for some of our little buddies.

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4 thoughts on “The Birds and the Bees

  1. I had no idea we had goldfinches in my neighborhood until I had sunflowers one year. I was fascinated, and even though I no longer have sunflowers, I do have a finch feeder. Since discovering of the little guys and galls hanging upside down getting the sunflower’s seeds I now leave my coneflower and blanket flower seed heads all winter in case someone needs a snack.

    • Between the sunflowers and changing our bird feeder to “wild bird,” I’ve been amazed at the gorgeous birds that have stopped by. The goldfinches are stunning, and like you, I hadn’t seen one in our yard until this summer. Thanks for the tip on just leaving the flowers out to give birds a little snack, Johnna!

  2. Cindy, I read just a couple of weeks ago that if the bees all die, WE would be gone in three years. Scary thought. They are SO important and most people just think of them as something that stings. I hate mowing our yard and side meadow (2 acres) and seeing the bees on the clover. I try to stop and nudge them away, but I know I’ve taken several down. Breaks my heart. I want to invent a sort of “bee swoosher” that sticks out the front of the tractor so they’ll fly out of my path.

    • I completely hear you, Judy. (Beth can tell you about my Levi Coffin Days freakout about BEES near the cider.) Until reading up on them, I had no idea how critical they are for pretty much all of our food. The author of “Keeping Bees” said she initially got hives not for the honey, but because of what they do for a vegetable garden. Like you, it now makes me so happy to see them. And I think you have a get-rich-quick invention on your hands with the Bee Swoosher.

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