The yarrow in the Pendleton garden is covered in bees. Their fuzzy faces, droopy antennae, fat, round abdomens, wobbly flight patterns, and yellow pollen sticking to their legs like leg warmers in a preschool ballet class are ridiculously endearing. Particularly under a microscope, these little ladies look like mini, flying, teddy bears.
I kneel down to watch the drama. These bees are not the yellow honey bees that are unmistakable in a patch of clover or visiting you as you sip chamomile tea on your porch in the late morning. These are Anthrophora or digger bees in the same family as bumble bees. Their stripes look like someone has dragged a toothpick through the middle of them. A little Lasioglossum – a tiny black sweat bee – lands on the same cluster of yarrow blooms. The Anthrophora buzzes and makes a show until the Lasioglossum picks a new cluster. After the Anthrophora bumbles away, the Lasioglossum moves in to have her fill.
These little miracles of flight are not the only visitors to the yarrow today. There’s a beetle I’ve never seen before with teal and red stripes! A thread-wasted dauber wasp hovers around looking for some nectar. These plants are as busy as the apartment buildings across the street. Kids plop down into baby pools on the side walk while mothers holler notes of encouragement and warning out the windows three stories up, and men play music out of their cars.
There are pollinators who are solitary, pollinators who like to live together in the same place, but raise their own young, and pollinators who live in colonies with one queen who lays eggs while all the worker bees find and make food, raise young, defend the hive, and keep the colony clean. There are even hairless bees that disguise their young as other species and have someone else raise their young for them.
There are as many different kinds of bee life-styles as there are human life-styles and lots of strategies to support every type. Come learn about the habitats and flowers that support a diverse, dramatic and vibrant ecosystem in your own urban garden.
We still have plenty of space in our Butterflies, Beetles and Bees, Oh My class on Saturday, June, 25. We’ll do some field work to asses the pollinator population at the Civic Garden Center, learn about successive blooming flowers to feed our bugs from February to November, and learn how we can host different nesting habits of our winged friends.