Sting Me Once, Shame On Me…

Sting me repeatedly, shame on you!  Especially if we’ve been kind enough to try to avoid the ground nest you’ve created in the middle of our garden.  For more than a year. 

This is a PSA – a public safety announcement. 

I know that bees are the most magnificent pollinators.  I know that bees are having a very difficult time due to CCD.  I know that honey bees are not aggressive.  But I’m here to warn you about the Common Eastern Bumblebee.

Image

This Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, was found by our shed after a freezing rain in late March. We kept it for my daughter’s 4-H entomology project, but it is a good example of the size and coloration of these aggressive bees.

The Eastern Bumblebee creates it’s colony in a hole in the ground.  They tend to prefer areas with mowed grass, open ground & bare earth.  We have all of these conditions in our garden area.  They consume pollen & nectar & so will take advantage of areas with flowering plants. This means they are great pollinators.

However, they are also quite aggressive when they feel their territory is being invaded & multiple bees will attack the invader(s) with painful, repeated stings.  Unlike honey bees, the Eastern Bumblebee’s venomous stinger is not barbed, so they can sting over and over again.  They will attack people and pets within a large radius of their nest. 

We spent all of last summer being attacked when ever we tried to tend the garden or mow in the vicinity.  On more than one occasion they chased us into the house, more than 200 feet from their nest, after walking in the yard 50+ feet from the hole.

I am posting this information because I am very frustrated with all the entomology/insect/gardening related websites claiming that these are docile insects & insisting that people are misidentifying the creatures that are terrorizing them in their own yards and gardens.  These are bumblebees, they live in the ground, they can sting multiple times and they are aggressive if you happen to live in the area near their selected nest site.

I have felt completely helpless, trying to find a way to encourage these bees to remain calm, or find a new home & today, after numerous flybys while watering the animals near the house, I decided that I am willing to resort to chemical means.

So I went online once more, trying to find advice on how to permanently get rid of the little bastards & found one last ditch possibility…  Please let it work, because I DO NOT want to poison them.  I just want them to move off far enough that they will feel safe & not feel the need to attack us.

The plan is to flood them out.  We tried this in the past, but apparently not for a long enough time.  It can take almost a week of repeated flooding of the nest for them to decide to move on to greener, or at least drier, pastures.  I haven’t seen them at a particular hole yet, but I am flooding last year’s nest area & will continue to do so for the next 5-7 days.  In the case of those with an active nest, please wait until evening & run your hose at night to avoid being attacked by active bees.

Here is a link to the forum where I found the detailed idea: 

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/organic/msg071022556900.html

Take note of all the people insisting to the original poster that she must be confused about what sort of insect she is dealing with, and that bumblebees are not aggressive.  The truth is, if you encounter an Eastern Bumblebee on a flower somewhere far from it’s nest, it probably wouldn’t be aggressive unless provoked.  But they are VERY territorial and they are eager to attack if you have the misfortune of stumbling into the area around a nest.

And that concludes my Public Safety Announcement.  Wish me luck and say a little prayer that the bees move on so I don’t have to resort to something loathsome.

Safe Travels to Our Wild Friends

For the second year in a row we’ve had a family of wood ducks nest in the huge Tulip Poplar tree in our front yard.  We are a good half mile from the nearest creek so it was a surprise to see them last year.  They left their nest at about this time last year, with 5 ducklings in tow.  Yesterday they made their big move again, with three little ducklings.  I will never cease to be amazed at the height those little babies fall from and hop right up in the grass, unscathed & calling for Momma & Daddy. 

The parents must feel that our yard is pretty safe, being completely fenced & having such a high tree, but we do have dogs & cats, who primarily live indoors, but to have access to the whole place now and then through out the day.  I worry about the babies – but since they seem to be intent on nesting here – I am happy to be extra vigilant at this time of year to help give them the best chance possible.  It’s just so flattering that they feel good enough about us that they are willing to nest just a few feet away from our front door!

a wild baby wood duck hatched at Brown Fox Farm

A wild baby wood duck hatched at Brown Fox Farm & ready to head out into the world with his parents & siblings.