Archived Story

Nancy Wiersman: How wondrous is the bee?

Published 9:59am Tuesday, September 1, 2009

There are a lot of great, informative books on bees.
I will have to invest in a few.

While watching a bumblebee which was laden with pollen – by the way, just how does this creature pack the pollen onto its scrawny, stick-like hind legs?

This in itself must be nothing but a tiny miracle.

After all, it has no fingers or hands in which to make this task any easier.

All it does have are those twig-like stumpy legs with a foot on each end, which rolled about the flower, rather clumsily, I thought

Now this had got my inner child all curious, even though I’m a grown woman, who is every bit the age of ???

Maybe this is why my grandson Ethan, who is now 10 going on 17, and my Brady, who is only 18 months old, and I enjoy nature so much.

After all, we are all curious children at heart.

Now in the spring I often find bees – especially yellow jackets – carrying off plenty of caterpillars to a nest hidden with hungry young awaiting.

Now these caterpillars, be they beneficial or the destructive types, it makes no matter to a bee.

To a bee they are just good protein-packed food, all wrapped up in a tidy little package.
And while I’m on the subject of bees/caterpillars, my latest issue of Organic Gardening has an article on how bees protect plants from caterpillars.

It seems as bees fly about from flower to flower, landing, crawling, rummaging, ransacking, gathering pollen as they go.

Not only are they pollinating them, which is a miracle in itself, they also are serving as “watchdogs” in the garden, too.

Researchers from the University of Wurzburg, Germany, have found that peppers that were confined in a tent with both bees and leaf-eating caterpillars had up to 70 percent less leaf damage than peppers in a tent with just caterpillars.

Many caterpillars detect air vibrations with their fine sensory hairs that cover their entire body.

But the caterpillars are not so intelligent after all. As clever as bees are, they cannot distinguish the difference between a hunting bee versus a harmless pollen-gathering bee.
So, if a caterpillar feels the flower vibrate and buzz, the alarm goes off.

They stop chewing and munching. They panic and drop, falling to the ground.
Instead of spraying those nasty harmful pesticides, plant more flowers instead, such as asters, borage, cornflowers, cosmos, plenty of flowing herbs, marigolds, sedums and zinnias.

Which will also attract and feed the most sage judicious bee. After all, they are very fond of nectar and pollen as well. Till next time.

•••
Personally, I feel both happier and more secure when I am reminded
that I have the backing of something older and perhaps more permanent
than I am – the something I mean, which taught the flower to count to give
and the beetle to know that spots are more pleasing if arranged in a
definite order. Some of the most important secrets are, they assure me, is
known to someone else other than myself.

— Joseph Wood Krutch

Nancy Wiersma of Dowagiac writes a weekly column.

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