Shifting Perspectives

The bumble bee is working, flitting from flower to flower and slurping nectar. I’m drinking a cup of coffee and watching it work. You might say that makes me a supervisor, but the bumble bee knows what it’s doing and should never take direction from me. I’m not an apiarist, a botanist, a zoologist, a biologist, an entomologist. I’m not an -ist person. I’m an -er person, a reader, a writer, a photographer. So, I watch the bumble bee and take pictures because I’m going to write about it and my morning stroll around my gardens.

Finding the bumble bee on its nectar run delights me because I’ve stopped by the garden behind my shed to see what the rabbits noshed after I made my evening rounds yesterday. The rabbits like the leaves on my Asiatic lilies and have nibbled half of them back to the stalk. To a lesser extent, the rabbits also like my zinnias and dianthus. The lilies, pale yellow with dusky-red centers, bloomed profusely this year. I hope the lilies store enough energy through photosynthesis before the rabbits eat the rest of their leaves. (Yeah, I remember something from tenth-grade biology.)

Asiatic lilies before blooms faded and rabbits ate the leaves

I provide alternative food for the rabbits—my lawn is a mixture of grass, clover, wild strawberries, and dandelions, plus a few plants I’m unable to name. I’m thrilled when I see rabbits eating clover or dandelion leaves. But they still view my gardens as dessert trays.

Bees, butterflies, and other insects like clover and dandelions too. Dandelions are an import source of nectar to bees and other insects in the spring before flowers bloom. After learning how vital dandelions are to bees and other insects, I stopped digging them up.

Because bees and butterflies suffer from disappearing habitats, I plant flowers that provide nectar for them. Recently, I learned native plants are also important to caterpillars because they nibble on the leaves to store up the energy needed to become moths and butterflies. And, guess what? Birds need to eat those protein-rich caterpillars to store energy for laying eggs and raising their young. Now, when I notice my plant leaves have been gnawed, I see those “damaged” leaves as part of an important food chain.

While I’m planning more gardens for bees and butterflies, and begrudgingly, the rabbits, the bumble bee darts from yellow sundrops to flowering spearmint to tomato blossoms. I raise my coffee cup to the bumble bee and thank it for pollinating my tomatoes.

[For more about the importance of dandelions to the insect world, read “The War on Dandelions Is Killing Bees, But It Doesn’t Have To.” For more about the importance of caterpillars for birds, read “Singing Praise for Caterpillars.” To learn about the bird-larvae-caterpillar-moth-butterfly food chain and how it can limit pests in your garden, read “Birds Do Eat Butterflies.” If toxic insects and birds don’t worry you, it should. Read about Biomagnification, to understand how toxins used to kill weeds and insects impact animals and humans.]

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