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Not Quite One with Nature in the Garden

May 09, 2013

As I worked in my garden yesterday, various encounters with resident fauna left me feeling a bit unbalanced. But, as I reflect on it today, I realize it was just nature doing its thing and me being in the midst of it. Here’s what happened as I weeded, planted, pruned and watered…

Bumblebee on Manzanita

The bumblebees happily at work in the garden.

It began with the distant sounds of crows arguing. Loud squawks and wing flapping from the neighbor’s large trees. Then, suddenly the crows were upon me. No, not diving at me directly, but rather doing something I can only describe as fly-fighting. Four big, flapping, angry birds skimmed the air just a few feet beyond my head. Three were hot on the tail of another, chasing it hard, and they almost dove their prey right into my head. A murderous Murder?

I survived as they passed on to other territory.

It was a rather warm afternoon, and our honeybees were very active. They’ve thoroughly enjoying all of the water offerings in our garden. Most, from both hives, make their way to our small potted spigot fountain filled with Glass Gardens Northwest’s new line of Bee Preserver floats. Although the path by the fountain gets busy with bees, they pretty much leave me alone. No biggie.

But, one gripe with the honeybees: they also love to harvest water from freshly moistened potting soil. So, my potting bench is often inaccessible to me if I’ve prepared trays of containers to pot up. Usually, I can carefully move a tray and do my potting up on another table, but yesterday a lone honeybee was having none of my crazy gardener antics. That bitch was out to get me!

Containers filled with potting soil

Containers filled with soil & draining for potting up – unless the honeybees find them first!

Yes, I know. Honeybees are not aggressive. But…

Well, I’m here to tell you that sometimes one goes rogue. And, she will defend territory. This girl had clearly staked out the potting table as well as every tray of soil on it as her own. And, it was only one bee. The others had no interest in the potting table; they were all content to drink from the water features. This cranky buzzer would go so far as to chase me into the house or the greenhouse — whether I went near the potting table or not. Even when I watched for her to leave the table for the hive and then took a tray of containers elsewhere to pot up, she would come find me.

I gotta be honest, I hope she was on her last legs and died overnight. I’ve got a lot of potting up still to do, and she’s cramping my style.

Then, toward the end of my gardening day, after being chased by the defender of the potting table for hours, I found myself training a thornless blackberry along our wire fence, and the buzzing started up again.

Could she really be chasing me that far from the potting table? 

Nope. This time I was being buzzed by a bald faced hornet! And, I was right outside my greenhouse door.

I immediately ran inside the greenhouse and slammed the door in the hornet’s face. Shit! Hornets?

Okay, I love bees. Nobody will contest that. But, hornets? In my greenhouse? No way could I stand for that!

Carefully, I took another route out of the greenhouse (past the crabby honeybee on the potting table), and spied the hornet situation from afar.

Turns out she wasn’t building on the greenhouse or even in the tree near it. Rather, she was harvesting warm wood from the framing — chewing up our greenhouse door in tiny bites — to take back to wherever she is building her papery home. And, I have to hope she is building far from our garden, so both she and I can co-exist peacefully and as one with nature.

Oh, and so far, no new sightings of the hornet, the fighting crows, the cranky potting table defender honeybee. My hope is she got back in sync with nature and either found another job or her life cycle ended so she can be at peace. I’d really like my potting bench back!

4 Comments

  1. Susan Maki says:

    Watch out for those bald faced hornets. The last three years, we have found several football sized nests in the yard. I was stung several times and ended up in the ER. I now have my very own EPI pen just in case. I love bees, and happily watched honey bees in the pulmonaria today while I weeded, but hornets? Uh, not so much. Hope your future gardening days are a bit more peaceful!

  2. cat says:

    It’s a full contact sport! Happy Gardening!

  3. Exactly! I drained one water feature early this morning and am setting up new spots for them. And, our beekeepers were by yesterday to check on the hive that the cranky honeybee comes from. Hopefully, we’ll all be in sync again soon!

  4. Susan, I’m soooo sorry to hear about your hornet encounter. Yuck! I continue to see them harvesting wood and am trying to track their beelines, which I believe are leading to somewhere else in the neighborhood. But, I don’t want to accidentally encounter their nests. I wonder? Where did you find the nests? Dan The Bee Man tells me that he finds they really love nesting in big rhodies.

    I’m so glad you still appreciate the honeybees and can differentiate them from the hornets. Honestly, I don’t think I could stand a hornet nest in my small garden, so I’m really hoping (for all our sake’s) that they aren’t creating a home here.

    Take care & thanks for the well wishes!

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