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July 12, 2011 > Pat Kite's Garden: Bumble bees

Pat Kite's Garden: Bumble bees

By Pat Kite

I plant to attract bees. Unfortunately, last month I had to kill some. I still feel very sad about this. Bumble bee adults are the big [3/4-inch] black and yellow fuzzy bees larger and plumper than honeybees. Bumble bees built a nest in a high crevice near my front door. Unfortunately, my granddaughter is extremely allergic to bee stings so I spoke to the bumblebees, telling them I had lovely flowers just for them, and could they just move their nest someplace else. Instead their number kept increasing.

Long story short, for the first time in 40 years I hired a pest control agency. The cost: $150 for one spray, and it didn't completely succeed. I kept ducking the loudly buzzing bees on my way toward front door. Bumble bees and I had more conversations and small wars, including a workman's stipend to screen off the nest site. This helped. Normally, according to most texts, bumble bees construct nests at ground level. Perhaps, because my yard is so heavily planted, they couldn't find enough space? Or maybe they just wanted a nice view?

Bumble bee species or are found almost throughout the world, from sea level to high mountaintops. California has 26 native Bumble bee species. Charles Darwin wrote a quite funny story about bees and their political benefits. Darwin considered Bumble bees to be patriotic British citizens. According to Darwin, who sometimes had a sense of humor, spinsters tended to keep cats. Cats control mice. Since mice tend to destroy Bumble bee nests, fewer mice meant more Bumble bee survival. A healthy Bumble bee population would continue pollinating red clover. Clover is used to feed cattle. Cattle provide beef to the military. The military defends the British Empire. Thus the continuance of the British Empire is reliant on Bumble bees.

More than $10 billion of food crops are bee pollinated in the United States. Because I am normally quite fond of bees, I put in oodles of lavender. Other personal Bumble bee flowers include Alyssum, Bergenia, Butterfly bush, Geraniums, Impatiens, Rosemary, Sage, and Valerian. Bumble bees help pollinate tomatoes, many vegetables, and most fruit trees. People sometimes confuse Bumble bees with the equally large Carpenter bee. Basically Carpenter bees are black with shiny areas. They are another story.

I am pleased to say that wherever my Bumble bees moved to, they have done well. I now have lots of little Bumble bees and some honey bees, plus an assortment of other pollinators.

This is a long-ago nursery riddle:

Little bird of Paradise
She works her work both neat and nice
She pleases God, she pleases man
She does the work that no man can

The riddle's answer? A bee

Happy summer!

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