Bees Can Sting Repeatedly!

I experienced the weirdest thing today, at least to me. Gardening in my own backyard, (for a change) I felt a sting on my left ankle. I yelled (it hurt!) and shooed away a fat bumblebee as I don’t like to harm bees. It rewarded me by coming back and stinging me again. In the same ankle! I was unaware the bees can sting repeatedly.

I retreated out of my backyard thinking I had disturbed a nest or something, but the darn bugger follwed me, stinging me again even though I was now 50 feet away. Once again I yelled “ouch” (don’t believe that) and ran up the slight incline to my front yard with the bee in pursuit. It was quicker than I and stung me a fourth time!

I now have two stings on each ankle! The small red spot at the bottom is a recovering bug bite I got at the cottage. My poor ankles are taking a beating…

bees can sting repeatedly
bee stings

I bet I will someday think this was funny; if I had a video of the episode I’m sure I looked and sounded very funny. Lucky for me that I am not allergic to bee stings.

That was enough gardening for today.

Instead, I came into the house and visited Mr Google looking for information on why bees might attack or at least sting repeatedly. I have been stung repeatedly before, (lucky me!) so am aware it is possible, I just want to know why me? After all, I’m the one that wears the Save the Bees t-shirt and purchased bumblebee necklaces for my granddaughters.

Back to the research…

I came across this article that says that bees recognize human faces! If that’s the case, I might be doomed…my backyard is not that big!

And another article that says angry bees produce higher quality venom that may help in the treatment and study of osteoarthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Maybe I should go donate blood as this guy (I am assuming it was the same one stinging me repeatedly) was obviously angry.

Interesting stuff.

Well, the swelling and the pain has subsided. When hubby arrived home from work I sent him out to the backyard to check for nests in the lawn or garden. He found nothing.

Photo credit: Pexels Free Photos

Cottage Wildflower Garden Update

A few (cottage) seasons ago I told you about my plans for a wildflower garden at our cottage. This is an update…

The first set of evergreens (pine and spruce) we planted a few seasons ago have grown even though gypsy moths have persistently tried to hamper their survival.

cottage wildflower garden backdrop of newly planted evergreens
Spruce and pines

The most recent set are coming along well too; they love the full sun and lots of space to grow…

cottage wildflower garden backdrop of newly planted evergreens
Newest evergreen plantings

After a few arguments with hubby over what grass to cut (he likes the manicured city lawn look, I prefer a more natural look here) we compromised with some of each. To mark my territory of where I want the cottage wildflower garden, I trampled down the grass to create a “line” he was not to cross with the lawnmower. You can barely see it on the right side of this picture, but he saw it and that’s what counts.

Cottage Wildflower Garden outline
Wildflower ridge…coming soon!

The area is not very garden-friendly, sloped with sandy soil enhanced (not) with salt and bits of gravel from the road.

Cottage Wildflower Garden inhabitants
Wildflower ridge coming soon!

Unfortunately many of the seeds I spread over the past few seasons migrated to the designated lawn area. The soil is very sandy in this neck of the woods, so removing the errant plants and transplanting them to wildflower ridge was easy.

Wildflower ridge is now chock full of daisies, black-eyed susans, malva, white and pink achilea, Queen Anne’s lace, viper’s bugloss, and milkweed. My cottage wildflower garden is coming to life!

The milkweed attracts monarch butterflies. They lay eggs on the leaves which hatch into caterpillars (you can see 2 in the picture above) which in turn morph into more monarch butterflies.

Next to come (from my gardens) are monarda (AKA beebalm), phlox and flax, perhaps coneflowers and butterfly weed.

The next spot I plan to transform is the shadier slope at the water’s edge. Stay tuned for more details on that project!

This is a much shadier site, so will require some research to find suitable new occupants.

Please let me know if you can think of any other plants I can add to either site. I prefer natural looking (no city slickers allowed) perennials.

I am hoping the bees and butterflies like my cottage wildflower gardens as much as I do!

Save the Bees with the Bee Protectors

If you are into all things nature, you have heard that bees are endangered around the world. So endangered in fact that it is said the last bee will be extinct by 2035. That’s not far off! Whether this is due to climate change, the extensive use of pesticides, or any other possible reasons, that fact remains. Learn how you can help save the bees.

As usual, to save the bees education is key to changing our habits and preserving their habitats.

The Bee Protectors project has been in the works for a while, and it has been finally brought to fruition solely off the funding of our owners.

The Bee Protectors project is run by a small, passionate, group of individuals who have a goal of helping the world to be a better place through spreading the message of the importance of bees on our environment.

Bee (pun intended) the change and check out this website for unique bee-related clothing and even jewelry. Shipping is free for orders over $45.

My friends, family, and garden clients will be seeing me supporting the bees in this sweatshirt soon! I first have to decide on the yellow or green sweatshirt, maybe one of each…

save the bees

Itching to get Gardening? What you Can Do Now.

Itching to get gardening?

Photo Credit

Is spring looking promising in your neck of the woods? The warmer, sunny days here (Ottawa, zone 4/5) are making me itch to get into my gardens.

Use Caution!

It is still (at least it is here) early to get into the gardens to clean them out as many (most) hardy perennials and shrubs are still dormant. I know it is tempting when you start seeing green shoots, but hold off a bit. At least until the soil is not mushy.

The same cautionary rule applies to your lawn. If the snow is gone, wait until it is no longer squishy to walk on before raking, aerating, top dressing etc. I have been aerating in the fall for the past few years, so I am one step ahead.

You also should beware of overwintering bees and other beneficial insects. Gardening too early will disturb them before they are ready to come out of their cozy spots under the debris in your gardens.

Also be on the lookout for nests belonging to our fine feathered friends. Spring is nest and baby season for birds. If you discover one being used, avoid it for a while, until babies have left.

Rabbits have their babies in burrows or holes in the ground in a protected area. I came across one a few years ago when weeding a client’s garden. I was pulling weeds, when I spotted movement. The only way I could distinguish that they were baby rabbits was by their big feet. They had no hair yet. I replaced the weeds to protect them and moved onto another area of the garden.

What can You Do This Early?

Prune Trees

You can prune trees now, in fact this is the best time to do so, before the leaves come out. Just do not prune anything that blooms early, like lilacs or forsythia, as you will cut off the spring blossoms. And, if you have to trample all over your soggy lawn to get to the trees to prune them, perhaps you better wait for a few weeks.

Use a good quality, sharp set of loppers to prune branches. This is one of those times it pays to purchase quality. Choose a set you can handle, as some are quite heavy and create a workout for your arms.

If cut branches are diseased, wipe lopper blades with disinfectant (rubbing alcolol or hydrogen peroxide) between cuts.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

You can and should cut back ornamental grasses that were left tall for the winter. By now they look weather-beaten. Cut them back to 4 to 6 inches from the ground. This will ensure the new green shoots (when they appear) wont have to compete with the dead brown ones.

Use a sharp pair of garden shears to make the job of cutting back the ornamental grasses much easier.

Plan and Dream

This is also a great time of year to plan. Make a list of things you want to do, even if they seem far-fetched. Sometimes dreams become reality!

Get Ahead of Crabgrass

If crabgrass is making an appearance in your lawn, treat it quick! As soon as the snow is gone crabgrass germinates, so the earlier you get to it the better. The snow is always gone from my south facing lawn first, so I have to get on the crabgrass now. You can recognize the sprouts as they are bright green in an otherwise drab lawn, and whorled like spokes on a wheel.

I have tried corn gluten, a preemergent, with varying results; the biggest problem is finding it in the stores so early. Scotts has a product out with good reviews for treating crabgrass. I have yet to try it.

This year I poured boiling water on the germinating sprouts, will let you know how that works.

Disinfect Tools and Pots with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally friendly alternative to bleach for cleaning and disinfecting in the garden.

If you use containers on your patio, deck or in your gardens, a warm sunny day is a great time to clean them out. Rinse them out and spray with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them. Let the pots sit in the hydrogen peroxide for at least ten minutes. Rinse again, then fill them with new soil so they are ready to fill with annuals when your last frost date arrives.

If you intend to fill any containers with perennials (I have some with ornamental grasses in them) you can do that now. Contact your local nurseries to see what they have available, my favourite here is Ritchie Feed & Seed.

Hydrogen peroxide is also an effective way to clean your tools. Spray or soak them, let them sit for a minimum of ten minutes, then rinse and dry.

Change up Your Outdoor Decor

Remove your winter arrangements (the evergreens that are not so green anymore) and replace them with harbingers of spring. Nothing says spring like pussy willows (I saw some at Farm Boy yesterday) or forsythia branches!

Start Some Seeds

Non-hardy seeds should be started at least six weeks before your last frost date, so this is a great time to get them going. I have learned a few tips over the winter regarding seedlings. Stay tuned for a future post on that subject, coming soon.

Conclusions

While it is still too early to really get started, there are a few things you can do to scratch that gardening itch.

Stay tuned for a more detailed post next week on the next steps in spring cleanups.

2035 The Last Bee

2035 The Last Bee is a fascinating movie currently in production about the looming extinction of bees. It has an estimated release date of February 2021, which is not that far off. Watch the movie’s trailer to get a glimpse of what is to come.

I learned about the movie from Project Bee. My interest was piqued when I read their Facebook article about creating wildflower gardens on city boulevards. I would love to initiate such a program in my hometown of Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. In the meantime, I plant and encourage others to plant perennials the bees love…

from the ProjectBee Facebook page

Gardens4u is all about respecting, conserving, protecting and enjoying what Mother Nature provides us with. That includes bees, in fact I have been known to talk to the bees I encounter in my own and my clients’ gardens. I never use toxic chemicals to remove bugs, weeds and the like in these gardens.

Even though I had a painful encounter with a bumblebee last summer I do appreciate their unique contribution to our landscape.

To learn more about the movie 2035 The Last Bee and the dedication of the production team behind it, check out this website. Support them any way you can, the bees depend on it!

Can bees sting you more than once?

Can bees sting you more than once? They sure can, do and did; I have proof! Yesterday I was creating a planter for my front veranda of ornamental grasses and kale. I had put the planter on the lawn to avoid making too much of a mess on the veranda. I saw a bee in the adjacent garden, but didn’t pay it too much attention. When I lifted the completed arrangement up to carry it onto the veranda, I felt a sharp, prickly sensation on my upper leg, just above the hem line of my shorts. Thinking it was just a piece of plant material, (ornamental grasses can be sharp) I sort of brushed at it. (my hands were full) I then felt a second similar sting, so I set the pot down and checked my leg. A fat, fuzzy bee was latched on to my leg, working on a third sting!

I was always under the impression that bees only sting once then die. So, I googled the question; this is what I discovered:

Queen and worker bumblebees can sting. Unlike in honeybees, a bumblebee’s sting lacks barbs, so the bee can sting repeatedly without injuring itself; by the same token, the sting is not left in the wound. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but may sting in defence of their nest, or if harmed.

Wikipedia

I guess that was a bumblebee then, definitely a bee (she was fuzzy and fat) and not a wasp or a honeybee. I say “she” because I also learned that only the females sting. This picture shows the difference is their appearance…

can bees sting more than once
left to right: honeybee, bumblebee and wasp

The bumblebee bites/stings were quite distinct on my leg within seconds. I didn’t think to take pictures until today, 24 hours later. What is amazing (to me) is that the leg is still very sore, swollen and hot even though the sting marks themselves are no longer obvious.

I may go back to the scene of the crime to see if there is a bumblebee nest in that corner of my garden. I did some research on the subject, so now know what to look for. I will not harm the nest if I discover one, just want to be aware of its location to keep my grandchildren away.

Wasps: Why are They Ornery in the Fall?

wasp on a yellow flower

Lucky me! I have been stung by a wasp twice in the last 4 days.

I was not sure if wasps are particularly ornery this time of year or they are attracted to my newest pair of red garden gloves.  I did a bit of research; this is what I found out…

Why are wasps ornery in the fall?

Wasps, and bees too, are more aggressive in the fall because by this time of year their living spaces are crowded.  They are also extra protective of their hives as they prepare their queens for the upcoming winter.  Know too that wasps, unlike bees that die after one sting, can (and do!) sting multiple times.

Wasps are attracted to white and yellow

Wasps are attracted to the colors white and yellow, but like most insects, cannot actually see the color red.  I guess that lets out my red garden gloves theory. They did sting me right through the red gloves.

How to shoo a wasp, or not

I usually blow gently on a nearby wasp to send it on its way (away from where I am working) rather than kill it.   I must admit though, these two wasps that stung me recently got smucked as I yelled out several curse words.  Man, those stings sting!  I read too that plain old vinegar applied to a sting will reduce the swelling and the sting.  I tried that, it helped a bit, but it took 3 days to get rid of one sore finger; the other hand is still swollen and itchy.

What are wasps good for?

Believe it or not, wasps are good for something.  Like bees, they pollinate flowers and crops.  They also eat detrimental insects including ticks and houseflies.  Another good point is that if you have seen an increased number of wasps and bees recently, they are not ready to hibernate, meaning winter is still a good ways off.

Crushed wasps release pheromone that attracts other wasps!

Another interesting fact is that if you kill a wasp, especially if you crush it, its body releases a pheromone that attracts other wasp encouraging them to attack.

So, beware of the ornery wasps and bees as you get your garden work done this fall.

photo credit

Noises of a bumblebee

As I was tending to a garden recently, I looked up when I heard a strange sound coming from a nearby rose bush…

this chubby bumblebee was not making his usual buzzing sound, but more of a squeaking sound, as he worked his way into and around this rose.  The typical buzzing sound is caused by the vibration of a bumblebees flight muscles, but I am not sure what the squeaking sound meant.

Perhaps his muscles were a little rusty due to the heavy rain we have been receiving.  Or maybe this particular bumblebee is a senior citizen with arthritis, he sounded much like my ankles in the mornings LOL

No Shortage of Bees in Kanata

I read somewhere recently that bees are a dying breed because of insecticide use.  That’s just not true here in Ottawa’s suburb of Kanata!  Every garden I have worked in this summer has had lots of bees, in fact I have been stung a few times.   For example, look carefully at this sedum; it’s loaded with bees…
100_2679

Tomorrow I have to figure out a way to move seven of these plants in a garden I am working on this week without getting these bees upset. The plan is to aim a hose at the plant from a distance to gently move the bees from one plant at a time so I can dig out the plant.   I am not sure what I will do when I get to the last plant full of bees!