Confessions of a Bee Rancher

Three bumblebees enjoying blanket flower

Three bumblebees enjoying blanket flower

When I first heard about the decline of the honeybee, I started paying more attention to the bees in my yard. To my relief, I saw that honeybees still came to visit. And of course there were bumblebees. Then I noticed these beautiful little shiny green insects, and they turned out to be bees too! I had no idea there were so many species of bees, just in my garden. By taking photos and posting them to BugGuide, I soon discovered a dozen different kinds of bees. There’s honeybees, and bumblebees, jewel-like green Agapostemon bees, black long-horned Melissodes bees, Squash bees, Early Miner bees, Carpenter bees, Small Carpenter bees, Wool Carder bees, Leaf Cutter bees, Halictid sweat bees, and Lasioglossum sweat bees. And Cuckoo bees, so that’s a baker’s dozen.

Since honeybees come to my yard, I know that I have neighbors no more than a few miles away who are beekeepers. I’ve thought off and on of keeping a honeybee hive myself, but it always seems like too much trouble and besides I don’t actually eat honey very much. So thank you, neighborhood beekeepers, for your hard work. I hope your ladies continue visiting my flowers.

But now that I’ve gotten to know the native bees, I worry a little that honeybees might crowd them out. I also discovered that the fact that I am a lazy gardener is a good thing for native bees. The flowering “weeds” I don’t pull provide forage all summer long. The soil that I don’t dig up provides undisturbed places for ground-nesting bees. The grass that grows in thick clumps and the piles of clutter provide shelter for bumblebees. The perennials that stand all winter provide canes and hollow stalks for stem-nesting bees.

In short, my yard is like a pasture while all the bees can forage. When I first saw herds of fuzzy bumblebees grazing on clouds of wild asters, I realized I don’t need to be a beekeeper, I’m a bee rancher.

You don’t need to keep bees to have them in your yard.

About Pam Phillips

I am a writer and gardener. I never cease to be amazed by the wonder and beauty of bees.
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2 Responses to Confessions of a Bee Rancher

  1. I think I am a bee rancher too! I just started noticing the wild bees about two years ago. Now everything I plant in the garden is with a thought for the bees but that is not difficult as they love lots of beautiful plants. It is a bit lonely in the winter without them but I still see some bumble bees on my strawberry tree and fragrant jasmine on the sunny days.

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