Then, it happened. I became the crazy bee lady.
First thing in the morning I scurry out on the deck in my shark pajama pants and a tufty ponytail, clutching my coffee like Gollum with the "Precious" in Lord of the Rings. I spend the next 15-20 minutes hunting for bees, plunging face-first into my flowers and then hollering, “BABE. Babe!”
“BAAAAAAABE, COME SEE THIS BEEEEEEEE!”
The neighbors love me.
First of all, the bees in my garden are, on the whole, not exactly early risers. I’d be much better off doing this on my lunch break. Second, this is not an awesome use of your time, especially while in the middle of rebranding your career. Third, you had better be in a pretty secure relationship.
Those aspects aside, this is an awesome practice I highly recommend. Getting outside first thing in the morning and connecting to the natural world sets an entirely different tone for your day and can do wonders for your mood. You also learn a whole lot about the oft ignored roommates you share your yard with, and I fine-tuned my powers of observation.
My garden is a little more than 5 months in and suffering from the suffocating heat of the South Carolina summer. The first wave of mature plants died off as the first wave of seedlings began to bloom, and those gave up the ghost as the sunflowers put on quite a show. As we approach mid-August, it’s pretty much down to a plethora of zinnias in that formerly overcrowded 2 feet by 4 feet patch of ground. I’ll let my garden rest for several weeks and then I plan to turn the soil and put in another batch of hardy blooms.
So why am I writing a post about my small but fierce bee garden yet again?
I just returned to Charleston from my home state of Florida, which is suffering a tragic, overwhelming, and devastating loss of sea life at the hands of a massive red tide. The images are graphic, disgusting, and gut-wrenching. What’s causing this? Are we to blame? I don’t have the answers, though this article on National Geographic was a thoughtful read.
Two thoughts keep running through my mind:
What can we as lone individuals do for this planet that is suffering so much on such a massive scale?
The earth does not belong to humankind exclusively.
I’ll openly admit it: my faith in the political system falls somewhere between 0 and hahaha-someone-get-me-a-tequila-shot.
While I do volunteer frequently, I don’t believe the responsibility of a solution for our global mess should lie at the feet of overworked and underfunded non-profits, who are frequently competing with multiple causes for the same generous donors. We as individuals created this ecological disaster through our ignorance, our consumption, and our indifference. We as individuals have a pressing responsibility to live better, to be active. If we don’t, your children will suffer.
If you were hoping I would have a cute, concise, Pinterest-worthy answer to the question I poised, I don’t. I’ve been honest about where I am in this journey to a greener life since I started this blog, and I know I’ve curbed my consumption and waste by leaps and bounds. My life is so different than it was a year ago. I’ve now entered the phase, though, where simply destroying less, wasting less, and causing less damage isn’t enough. I want to create good, I want to enable life.
I want my legacy to be that I’ve made MORE space for the other species on this planet. The bee garden, my friends, is here to stay.
Five Things That Happen When You Plant A Bee Garden
1. You start noticing bees.
Once you’ve spent several hours assembling a veritable bee buffet, you’re going to feel miffed if the suckers don’t immediately show up. (Or maybe that was just me?) Every time you pass by your garden, you can’t help but look to see who’s buzzing around.
You’ll start to realize bees come in all sorts of crazy shapes and sizes, and they all have their own personalities: quick-moving jet black bees, small green bees, giant lumbering bumble bees, curious carpenter bees, irritable hornets. (If you’ve got questions about bees, I’ve got answers up on this guest post at Honestly Modern.) Then you start noticing them as you go about your day out in the world.
2. You become a bee advocate.
You planted a bee garden because you care, on some level. Once you start to track the daily progress of your garden and the activity of your bees, you stop being skittish around them and the next thing you know, like me, you’re using leaves to scoop exhausted bees off the ground or driveway and you’re carrying them to your bee garden or bee pond (remember that bowl of rocks and rainwater I talked about?). This summer I’ve rescued three bees. Obviously, I’m not a bee doctor, so I can’t tell you what was wrong with the first two, though both were gone within an hour. The third actively drank from the bee pond, hung out for a second, and got back to being a bee.
3. The butterflies show up.
You might be trying to save the bees, but you’re going to get some really beautiful party crashers. Butterflies of all shapes and sizes will flock to the brightly colored blooms in your bee garden, which in my case led to:
When I started noticing the new influx of lizards around the bee garden, I couldn’t help but cringe. Were they snacking on my pollinators?! Yes. The answer is probably yes, from what I’ve read.
Bees’ coloring tends to be off-putting to predators, and they were more likely snacking on the hoverflies, house flies, and other insects as well, if that gives you comfort. I believe nature should do its thing, though, and didn’t interfere. There were also snails, caterpillars, beetles, frogs, and one giant toad.
5. You’ll have an influx of birds and squirrels, particularly if your bee garden mix has sunflowers in it.
Again, I don’t mess with this part of the garden, so my beautiful jaunty sunflowers went to seed after several weeks. Cardinals, beautiful tiny brown finches with yellow bellies, and squirrels flocked to this patch of my yard, vying for seeds and insects along with so many other feathered friends. Logan and I shared more than one laugh watching frustrated, fat squirrels try to get to the head of the sunflower. One big-butted little fluffy squirrel waited while his buddy tried to climb the stalk, which ultimately bent over, and he snagged the entire head off the stalk and went scrambling over the fence with it.
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This small 2 feet by 4 feet chunk of dirt? It is teeming with life.
Save daily watering, I’ve left it alone since I planted it. It’s a tiny space, but it is a suburban oasis, a refuge, an unpolluted source of food and water. So many of species in this beautiful world are suffering, but what if we all tried a little harder to live around each other? What if instead of a massive lawn you rarely set foot in (if you don’t have kids, my guess is that it’s been hot minute since you went frolicking across your grass between Netflix-binges), we all set aside little sections to serve as habitats? (If you don't have a yard, you'll find a link to a hanging mason bee house below.)
What if we didn't try to claim every single thing on this planet as ours?
What if we all tried a little harder to protect and enable those who need it most?