July has been an especially lush month in the garden. All the plants are blooming and bearing, and there is much more greenery than soil now. This year we built a small patio at the south end of the garden, made from flat chunks of limestone we hauled up out of the creek bed. This is where I write, flanked by butterfly bushes and trellised nasturtiums and morning glories.
I come here so often that the butterflies and bees have grown accustomed to me. A red admiral is sunning on my tee shirt right now. In the past hour, a zebra swallowtail, a great spangled fritillary, three monarchs, a tiger swallowtail, two cabbage whites, two eastern black swallowtails, and two blue-spotted purples have come within arm’s reach.
The honeybees are particularly friendly now that we have a hive of our own and I’ve learned to relax around them. If one wants to perch on my arm for a bit, I let it: I can tell the difference between a bee that is curious and one that is fearful. (Tip: A honeybee will grasp you with its legs if it plans to sting. But what a waste, since it will rip out its honey stomach with its stinger and die.)
The story I am about to tell you is a bit anthropomorphic, to say the least, but here goes.
It’s been a very wet spring, which means the bees have not gotten out to forage as much as they need to, so we have been feeding them sugar water much longer than we normally would. I was standing in the driveway about 6:30 one morning, taking one last look around before I headed off on my work commute. It was a cloudy day, and early for bees to be out and about, and there are no flowers near the driveway. But a bee landed on my arm, walked across it and flew off in the direction of the hive, came back to my arm, flew off again–.
I took the hint: The hive was hungry. And so I grabbed a refill, pulled on my gumboots (which looked stunning with my skirt and jacket), and hiked through the meadow to the hive. Sure enough, the sugar water jar was empty, and the clump that had gathered beneath it was very happy to see me.
The bees that visit the garden are fond of my shoes. They like to crawl in and out of the openings on my bright pink Crocs and to suck up the sweat on my Skechers. I’d prefer that they go visit the borage, which is full of beautiful blue stars right now, flowers that almost make up for the plant’s prickliness. But I can wait.
Our “mammoth” sunflowers have outdone themselves this year—some are eight feet tall. But some are only five or six feet tall, which means the birds have to pay attention when they swoop over the rows. A pair of indigo buntings flew through yesterday like X-wing fighters, beak to tail, and had to split apart abruptly to avoid crashing into one of the taller plants. The goldfinches hiding among the yellow petals called out what I believe was “Mommy!”
I regret that we did not plant the zinnias on this side of the sunflowers, since I cannot see them from where I sit, and each time I walk over to look, I get distracted by the flashbulb-bright pinks and oranges. And the skippers. And the hummingbirds.
And this persistent little hitchhiker bee that makes my heart beat so that I can hardly speak.