“Lions & Tigers & Bees, Oh My”

Gardening NanaYikes! A bee swarm! Where is Winnie the Pooh when you need him?

When planting the “sunflower fort” at my church, one of the first concerns of the preschool director was that the sunflowers would attract bees. Yes, we want to grow the sunflowers for the birds and butterflies. But bees? Yikes!

Just last week down at my Dad’s farm in Rush County, we found a bee swarm in a small tree and it looked like a dark brown bag. My nephew, Donald, and I checked the DNR (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) web site that listed local bee keepers, and I called a bee keeper that was close to the farm. He gave us lots of interesting information and said that not many people get to see a bee swarm. We saw the swarm early one cool morning, and then by noon they were gone. The bee keeper said that the worker bees were keeping the queen bee warm. Then, when the weather warmed up, the worker bees were off to find a new home, preferably in a hollow tree. Unfortunately, it may be the garage! So we’ll have to find out if their new home is in the walls or attic of the old garage – but that’s another story.

Growing up on the farm I saw all kinds of bees and knew that bumblebees (native bees) were okay but to stay clear of yellow jackets! We all deal with sweat bees at picnics; and this year, we had carpenter bees “drilling” holes in our house. Lacecutter bees pollinate a variety of crops, trees, and sunflowers.

There are so many kinds of bees, but we hear most often about honey bees due to their decline and the mysterious disease Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). To help the honey bee, it is good to plant flowers like sunflowers because they provide nectar for the bees in mid summer when not as many plants are blooming. Hopefully, the bees will be done with the “sunflower fort” by the time preschool starts again in the fall so they will not be a problem for the children.

My great nephews, Max and Eli, and I took some praying mantis egg cases from the farm to my garden. Each year we look for more to hatch. Praying mantis is a beneficial insect which doesn’t “bite humans, damage household furnishings, or spread disease.” Safer than bees to watch!

Note: The Indiana Beekeepers’ Association will be at the Indiana State Fair:  http://www.indianabeekeeper.com/

The Gardening Nana is Nancy Craig. Her love of flower gardening intensified while living in Holland and was perfected with Master Gardener courses.

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