Monday, July 20, 2009

Where are all the bumblebees?

First off, let me do a little boasting (for which I should honestly take no credit) about the success of the hollyhocks I started from seed (mixed colors, doubles) last spring. While last year they never bloomed and the plants themselves didn't get any bigger than footballs, they came on like gangbusters this season. The tallest spike is just over 8 feet !!

And how clever of them to sort themselves out: the tall red right next to the arbor, the shorter whites flanking it and the more petite peaches-n-cream coming up with one of the whites. And they are attracting honeybees and solitary bees. Unfortunately the Jap beetles delight in burrowing into the blossoms and I have to dig them out.

I'm seeing honeybees, solitary bees, hover bees, sweat bees, etc. etc. I even tolerate the many carpenter bees (oh my poor shed). But I've not seen at all this year is even one bumblebee. Nada. Zip. I've been reading that they are in bad trouble this year and the total lack thereof seems to bear that out. I really miss those big 'teddy bear' bees.

I am, however, seeing many more of the green metallic bees this year, especially on the coneflowers and sunflowers.

Local honeybees are having a grand time on the white clover, the still blooming Johnson's Blue geranium (going on 9 weeks now!), the many varieties of zins, sunflowers and phlox.

And then there are the butterflies... wow... but I'll do a separate post about them later.

Bottom line the place is buzzin'. I just wish there were some big friendly bumbles in the mix.


  1. I hope the bumbles arent in too much trouble. I enjoy them too. they seem to follow me whenever I am outside.

  2. flowrgirl - so true. They are like playful puppies and are just plain fun to have around. I hope you've got some bumbles in your garden!

  3. My, those are some tall Hollyhocks! Amazing how fast they grow.

  4. Kris - Great hollyhocks! (That sounds like an exclamation you'd hear in a comic book - like Great Hera or Great Krypton!) I'm jealous - I tried starting hollyhocks the past two years, and didn't even bother this year. What I DID plant in the ground last year or the year before just comes up a few inches, maybe tries to put out a flower, and then dies off. I've never had a plant do what I remember seeing a neighbor's hollyhocks did as a kid when we were in England. And they're no where near as impressive as yours! Wow!!

    I'm also seeing a bunch of the metallic green bees - they're really interesting looking.

    Now you've got me wondering if I've been seeing bumblebees or carpenter bees in the backyard...I know I've got a ton of one variety or the other. Tell ya what, if they're bumblebees, I'll send some over your way.

    I put in a new (already starting to bloom - cheating, I know) butterfly bush a few weeks ago, and it's been attracting butterflies. It's sort of crammed between the deck and the volunteer sunflowers, which is where I put it so *I* could appreciate the smell. I've seen swallowtails and red admirals on it, and the last few days a monarch has been fluttering around above the yard, never settling down on the butterfly bush. Maybe it wants more space around it...

  5. PS I'm guessing the bees love all the clover in your yard? I mow SOOOO slowly when I hit the areas of clover, making sure the bees have time to fly out so I don't chop 'em up!

  6. Those are some tall hollyhocks! We've actually got lots and lots of bumblebees here this summer and quite a few honeybees too. I think they like the hot weather we've been having.

  7. Wow, they are really tall hollyhocks! And I'm seeing a tall Kris, too :-).
    You will harvest seeds for next year, won't you? Hope they will come again, as pretty.

  8. Ha Xuan - The hollyhocks are tall, but not so much the gardener. I barely make it past the half-way point on that 10' pole! LOL While I won't save the seeds for myself (since I really don't need more than 5 plants), I want to share/trade seeds with my WS'ing friends this Fall.

    Jeph, I WS'd butterfly bushes this spring and got almost 30 plants. I've given lots away but still have maybe 20 plants here and they are all getting buds and will bloom soon. I'm so surprised they would do that the first year! I'm really looking forward to all the bees and butterflies. (And I mow slowly when I finally have to cut the lawn...)

    Catherine, I envy you the bumbles! Enjoy!

  9. Wow, what a long blooming season for your geranium. Mine was over in about 2 weeks, and it certainly wasn't hastened by excess heat.

    Worrying about the bumbles. We have an outbreak of European foulbrood in Scottish hives this summer - bad news.

  10. Amy, they did sort of just spring into the air this year... :-D


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