I was standing in my perennial garden last weekend looking at all the activity in the cluster of bee balm plants that I have been trying to increase over the past few years. There's such a variety of bees and insects that use this flower I can see where it gets its name from. I actually spotted the first hummingbird moth of the season, at least the first one I've seen, on this patch. Fascinating creature. And speaking of that:
A neighbor of Johnny's Research farm stopped in Friday last week to ask about the bees in his yard. Seems there's tons of them, so many in fact that their buzzing wakes him up in the morning. They don't sting, but rather buzz around their holes in the lawn. You "can walk right through them without getting stung". Curiosity finally got the best of me so, inviting our resident insect queen Susie, up the road we went.
We drove up his driveway and observed many bees but certainly not thousands, or even hundreds but definitely good numbers of them. They appeared to be drinking the dew off the leaves of the surrounding trees. They were buzzing some flowers but weren't landing on them. Then I looked across the lawn from a lower vantage point and I saw them; thousands of them! An almost eerie sight. There were so many of them you could hear the buzzing if you listened closely. And then I walked closer and they didn't pay any attention to me whatsoever.
As we observed the bees we discovered a few things about them; they're not as big as bumblebees, they're certainly not aggressive and there is indeed hundreds and perhaps thousands of them. They appear to be drilling holes in the lawn. We watched them go into the holes with pollen attached to their legs. So, after watching for a while and getting a pretty decent description of what they looked like and what they were doing, we headed back to the farm to do some research.
We found out they are "mining" bees also known as Andrenid bees. They are ground dwelling bees that are docile, beneficial and unlikely to sting. After mating in late winter and early spring, the females dig a burrow the diameter of a pencil and up to eighteen inches deep. Off the main shaft there may be several brood chambers to hold her offspring. She lays an egg and supplies it with nectar and pollen on which it feeds after it hatches.
The larvae will grow during the summer months and until fall when the adult is formed. Early in the spring the adults emerge and the cycle starts anew. These bees are docile so won't pose any problems to humans or pets. They are extremely important as pollinators and should be left alone. The blueberry growers like them for pollinating their crops as well as native plants. If a homeowner insists on moving them away a simple sprinkler set up will persuade them to move on as they don't like wet areas with lush growth.
Until next week, I'll be in the bee balm. Brian