To the bee a flower is the fountain of life

It seems to be a recurring spring theme. I get busy and stop posting. So here we are in July and I have a desire to catch up. At some point I will have to translate my beekeeping notes into a post for posterity’s sake. In the meantime I will simply post about my efforts to have a more pollinator friendly yard.

I haven’t seen a monarch butterfly in our area for years. This one arrived while I was looking at our first sunflower bloom of the year. Hopefully we will soon have some caterpillars on our milkweed plants (the only food monarch caterpillars eat). ©Erik Brown

I have been working to have more flowers available in our yard, especially for this time of year when other nectar sources dry up or fade away. Here are a couple of ongoing projects.

10 by 10 + 10

The site, or 10×10+10, advocates the simply idea that if everyone built or contributed a 10 foot by 10 foot space for pollinator flowers, it would greatly help the bees, butterflies, and other insects that rely on them. I really liked this idea, as it is similar to the fairly successful Monarch Waystation Program started for monarch butterflies.

We took out an overgrown forsythia this year, and it was the perfect spot to start a flower garden. I bought some mountain mint, grew some cosmos, borage, and sunflower from seed, and transplanted some sedum into a roughly 12 foot (~3.5 meters) square. My garden was off and running.

Of course, the deer loved it. The sedum and sunflowers were especially tasty. One online deterrent recipe later (which I can no longer find, but includes egg, milk, dish soap, and garlic), and they were a little better. I sprayed the sedum and sunflowers after each rain, and the sedum at least recovered. Today I found the sunflower and monarch butterfly you see at the top of this post.

My fledgling flower garden back in May. The larger plans in the middle are sedum that used to be in my apiary. ©Erik Brown

The same garden on July 5. What’s left of the sunflowers are in the back left, and the borage in front has done particularly well. ©Erik Brown

A honey bee on mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) on July 6. Look for a wasp in the background. ©Erik Brown

The Field

My other project has been to let my apiary and back field grow and see what happens. It is a work in progress, though this year some form of Black-eyed Susan has taken off. I simply mow the area once or twice a year, and hope for a meadow. Last year was all grass, this year we have actual flowers showing.

Milkweed within my apiary fence on June 15. I saw bumble bees, sweat bees, and honey bees visiting. Notice the thistle plant in the lower left, which will bloom this month (July). ©Erik Brown

Black Eyed Susans

Our back field on July 6. You can see our little road in the background. ©Erik Brown

Another small project was to start some wildflowers in the field. I bought a pollinator mix packet of seeds, and planted them in four small flats. While they were growing, I placed an old outdoor carpet on the lawn for 6+ weeks to clear a space in the field. On May 24, I planted them by cutting each flat into six pieces. So far they are doing okay, and I hope they will reseed a little and spread in future years.

Planting my pollinator friendly flowers in the midst of our field. You can see my small flats here that I cut into six sections before planting. ©Erik Brown

My little flower experiment on July 6. You can see some Black-Eyed Susans from the mix (like I needed more) and the blue flower is Globe Gilia (I think). ©Erik Brown

For to the bee a flower is the fountain of life.
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love.

Our title comes from the poem On Pleasure by Kahil Gibran, from his book The Prophet published in 1923 and translated into over 40 languages. The book is a somewhat spiritual reflection on topics from love, marriage, and children, to beauty, religion, and death. I first read it as a teenager and still have a copy somewhere.  You can see the full poem, as well as other poems in the collection, on the katzanddogz web site.

This phrase seems to capture, in perhaps anthropomorphic terms, the relationship bees and flowers seem to have. Bees cannot live without flowers, at least they cannot live well; and flowers cannot reproduce naturally without bees and other pollinators. An appropriate thought for a post about summer-blooming flowers in the yard.

May you prosper and find honey.

6 thoughts on “To the bee a flower is the fountain of life

  1. Love your wildflowers. Black eyed Susans are a favorite of mine – so easy to grow, they spread like crazy, and you can always have fresh cut flowers. Beautiful!


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