Tag Archives: bees

She danced in with a leafy surprise.

I was following a Cabbage White around the kale patch, when I happened to look into a squash blossom. It was pointing straight up like a cup, and I saw a hoverfly in the bottom, not hovering at that moment, but I assume drinking nectar…? He didn’t move. While I was pointing my camera down there, another hoverfly zipped right in. For a moment they were piled up, but soon arranged themselves one on either side of the cup. Who knows how long they might have sat companionably at their juice bar if a third insect, flying so fast I couldn’t see, hadn’t flown in, and quickly out again; that agitated the fellows and they departed.

On the same tour of my estate I noticed bees at the dwarf pomegranate bushes. They would buzz around slowly checking out various blooms; I soon realized that they were looking for flowers that were at the right stage of opening, because they have to crawl deep into the narrow cave to get what they want. The flowers don’t seem to be open very long before they start to wilt, and then there is no way to get in.

I never believed in Mother Nature before this week, when I found a gift that was so clearly chosen with my particular gardening eccentricities in mind, I thought immediately that she would be the one who left it for me. But — I went back to that quote from Chesterton, following St. Francis of Assisi, who said we should think of Nature more as our little dancing sister,” who delights us into laughter. We have the same Father, we and Nature. Okay then, I’ll say it was my Little Sister who gave it to me: a tomato plant.

I used to grow the absolute best flavored tomatoes that you could find anywhere. A big part of my method was to dry-farm them, the way the Italian immigrants to California used to do. You water when you plant them, deeply, but then not again all summer. I tweaked that system and usually gave mine a drink every month or so.

But in my new garden, I haven’t found a way to do this, or a place. This year I didn’t plant one tomato, and I gave away all my tomato cages. Recently I saw my neighbor Kim’s tomato “garden” which is all in big pots, and it gave me the idea to try that next summer, and I could put the pots in my nice hot utility yard, on the gravel.

This week I went out to the clothesline and saw a tomato already planted in that very space. I’m thinking it must have a deep root, as it’s not near a water source. I did laugh, I can tell you. Whether or not I get a tomato from this plant, it was a very sweet and thoughtful gift from my little sister, and I take it as a pointed word of encouragement about my idea for next summer’s tomato experiment.

The sun and a spider mite.

The sun up above does feel like the ball of fire it is, today when the thermometer stands at 100 degrees. Summer caught up with itself and arrived with stored up (solar) energy!

It was too late to take a walk, on a day like this, but I did it. Maybe it was the heat that made the phrase “ball of fire” come to my mind as I watched a spider mite racing around on a blackberry flower, never stopping. What can a mite accomplish if it never pauses? It’s the little smudge appearing in a different spot in each of the shots below.

I also looked at the bees and flowers. I saw a syrphid fly and had to learn all over again when I got home that it was not a bee. In the process I learned that in the United States alone there are 4,000 species of bees. Here is another insect I don’t know… Is it a wasp or a fly? At least, I know it’s not a bee.

I also can’t remember what this shrub is that all three insects are posing on. [So fast! My first commenter reminded me that it is cotoneaster.] Maybe I never have known. But I didn’t really want to spend today doing insect or plant identification. I need to wash the dishes and strip the bathroom floor! So if any of you know about my insect or shrub perhaps you can tell me.

syrphid fly

Most of the salsify have scattered their seeds, but some flowers are still opening.

Mustard plants eight feet tall are growing out of the drying-up creek, along with lots of thistles. What is that orange spot that catches the eye…? Not a piece of trash, surprisingly, but California poppies! I’ve never seen them down there before.

All of this life, in many colors, pushing forth. I wondered… if I focus my camera on one small part of the very ugliest thistle, might I see something pretty? I did:

Last night at church we had a thanksgiving service for a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. When the husband retired from being a professor and a full-time Orthodox priest in Michigan, they moved from Michigan to California to be near their children. The wife said it was as though she had died and gone to heaven. 🙂 Since then they have been part-time participants in three parishes, and from all three of them people came to congratulate and rejoice with them.

I had been to only one other Moleben of Thanksgiving ever before, which was prayed for my husband and me in thanks and praise for God’s faithfulness during our 40 years of marriage. That was already seven years ago! This service was a joy – I was so happy to be part of it and to pray with them.

I had mixed up the time and arrived an hour early, which was kind of nice because I got to chat with the husband and his son a bit. The son was getting the barbecue ready for the party that would happen after the service. We were enjoying the shade of this beautiful catalpa tree whose flowers smelled like the fancy dessert was baking in the oven nearby. But this picture shows what my daughter told me about iPhone cameras, that they distort the sides of the image. Do you see how the buildings on the sides are both leaning in? Okay, now go back and enjoy the tree.

Before I go to my housework, I will have a tall glass of water, and before that, I’ll give you a little lotus weed in warm summery tones. I’ll meet you back here on a slightly cooler day.

I sip nectar with the tiniest.

I sat in my garden reading Penelope Lively, who when writing about garden fashions that come and go, kept using the word “rill.” I picked up my phone to look up that word and see what the British might mean by it, and quick as a wink a tiny fly, almost too tiny to see without reading glasses, lit on the screen, with its wings open for about one second, a flash of shimmering rainbows.

Then it fell off, on to my book. Was that the fly, merely a black gnat? I got him to crawl on to my finger and back on to the screen, where he was kind enough to display his bright wings again for a moment, and then took flight.

On my walk yesterday I saw just one insect in a sea of catsear blooms. And I worked hard to get a picture of a flower with him on it. Not like most years of my photography, when I tried to avoid bugs on blooms, and would be disappointed if my flower were spoiled by a spider or something I hadn’t noticed when I clicked. But most of those critters had come out blurry anyway. No, getting a sharp image of an insect is not easy with a little phone camera. But I have time, don’t I? And a lot of digital storage, too, in case I don’t get around to deleting all those blurry pictures.

I started looking for flowers with insects, and of course, there were bees! It was so warm by this time, they were flying fast and furious, and couldn’t decide which of many privet or blackberry blooms to drink from, like kids in a candy store. The best shot I got was of one flying away with her loot. And I found a near relation to catsear beetle closer to home, descending a wide staircase of rose petals.

Obviously, I also am a kid in my own candy store, and can’t choose just one or two pieces of ambrosia to gaze upon or aim my camera at or share with you. If the temperature were constantly mild when I sit out in that paradise, I think I would fill to bursting with the joy of the place. But usually I get too hot or too chilly or find a task to do, so I don’t get dangerously stretched.

In my front garden many insects are buzzing back and forth and not lighting on any flower. I think they are just hanging around, or more precisely, swooping around — coming back to check every few minutes, so they can be the first to drink at the ocean of teucrium flowers that are going to start opening any minute now. I’m not sure that walkway will be wide enough for human feet to walk without colliding with honeybee wings.

Many of the cistus, Jerusalem sage and helianthemum already need shearing! Alejandro my sometimes gardener was here yesterday and we moved one of the big pots that hold olive trees, and found two salamanders underneath! How they ended up in this droughty place I don’t understand, but I didn’t think about that at the time.

I grabbed the two of them, who looked like Mama and Baby, and put them to swim in the fountain for a minute while I ran into the house for my camera. Then I released them near a faucet with good luck wishes. Maybe I should have carried them to the creek? (Which reminds me, a rill in a British garden is a water feature.)

 

Back to the insect kingdom and their food… The word nectar carries a heady meaning. Drink of the gods – delicious. But the origin of the word is also pretty tasty if you like words: The first step back is to the Greek nektar (we’re talking about Greek gods, after all), “which is perhaps an ancient Indo-European poetic compound of nek- ‘death’ + -tar ‘overcoming,’ ‘cross over, pass through, overcome.'” No one used this word for the sweet liquid in flowers until about 1600.

Those links to the thought of overcoming of death could lead to an intellectual/writing exercise about how it’s all connected, but I’m not willing for that kind of workout today. I just want to join my fellow creatures in imbibing the sweets.

 

Sometimes both useful and easy.

When I posted about borage two months ago, half of the commenters said they also hadn’t had luck growing it. For some it didn’t reseed itself; for others, the summers were too hot. Kim said, “I have always thought it to be easy,” though she doesn’t have any growing right now.

bee drinking from oregano

The uses of borage was the subject of several comments; a couple of people said they didn’t know what they would do with it if it did thrive. But Cathy wrote, “It is such a captivating plant which attracts bees and creates curiosity from human garden visitors.”

And it is primarily for the bees that I thought to grow it in my Pollinator Garden, and so that I could behold that pretty sight of borage with bees buzzing happily around it. I let the insects make use of the plants, such as the oregano I always grow, but rarely use myself. The bees drink their fill of its nectar and last year I got good pictures of them doing it. So I guess I would use borage as material for my photo art. 🙂

I want the borage for its pretty, often gorgeously blue, flowers. I would like to have a few of those flowers to put in salads or in cold drinks in the summertime. Martha asked if I would be making tea with it — perhaps I would! They say that tea made from the leaves tastes like cucumber. Here is a picture from the Internet of one way I can imagine enjoying those blue accents, come August.

A young friend dug four borage plants from her garden and brought them to me at church just this month. Then the weeks of rain began, so they are still sitting in their pots, but looking very healthy.

I have come to suspect that borage is a bit thirstier than most of the plants in my garden, and that previously it has died from drought. The one I bought and planted this spring is looking good after the recent season of bounty, during which its little roots were surrounded by as much water as they could drink, day after day, no matter where they reached. Once the rains stop — as of this evening, there is no rain at all on the forecast — I may just have to squirt a little extra from my garden hose on the borage, beyond what it gets from the drip irrigation.


It won’t be long before this flower cluster opens, and the bees arrive!
To do their work, to get their sweet drinks, they will find to be the easiest thing.