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15 August 2017

Bees and Butterflys

Milkweed grows on the Green, but the kind of milkweed that grows there isn’t the kind monarch butterflies require. They want butterfly weed. And I have tried to grow it (bought a plant which arrived dead, got seeds from my friend Eileen that didn’t germinate). There was a lot of milkweed this year and after I harvested the pods I pulled it up because there was too much – but I left the roots. And of course young shoots came up. Well, a few days ago I saw a monarch butterfly flitting around one of those shoots. And she landed and pressed her hind end against the underside of a leaf and – wait a minute! it can’t be! But it was! She laid eggs on it!!

Will they hatch? I hope so! I’ll take pictures of the striped caterpillars and the beautiful green chrysalises they make. When the butterfly has formed, the chrysalis turns transparent and you can see the black-veined wings folded inside.

We also have a colony of bees. I found them by accident:

I’ve been pulling the excessive exotic lilies and was looking for a place to move them to. Maybe the wild corner on the lawn side of the fence? Where you have one of your little tables?

So I began pulling and digging grass, pokeweed roots… and as I worked I was suddenly aware that a bee was buzzing around my head. Persistently. Bees really don’t want to use their weapons: I was being warned. So I stepped away and waited until the bee left me. Maybe I should stop working there. But I went back to pick up some of the weeds I’d already pulled – and something stung me on the arm. Very bad because I’m allergic (I took my meds right away). What I found inside my sleeve looked like a bee (I could swear it was fuzzy), but when I went back and looked at where I’d been working there were a lot of things flying nastily around as if I’d disturbed a nest – perhaps a yellow jacket nest. And yellow jackets are not fuzzy.

By this time the Benadryl I had taken was making me sleepy, so I went home. But today I went back – and what I found was astonishing! Here’s where I’d been working:

I’d been pulling grass and weeds around those boards – and when I looked today (without getting too close!) I saw big, fuzzy bees going in and out of the hole between them. So I’d been right! But this wasn’t a honeybee. Honeybees don’t nest in wood and they’re much smaller. I think what we have is a nest of carpenter bees, and it’s safe to look at them as long as you don’t disturb them. They’re interesting and rather beautiful.

But I wasn’t about to get close enough to photograph one.