Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Big Issue: Forage for Bumblebee Queens

It's May and the gardening frenzy has truly begun. It was up to 29 degrees Celsius today and the queen bumblebees were foraging around the site of our new garden at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre. Unfortunately, there's not much forage there for them besides the glorious cherry and crabapple trees that are blooming right now. The queens are too big for the English daisies in the lawn and the dandelions even bow under their weight, making it an awkward job for them. The cherry trees are busy with competitive foraging as mason bees, honey bees and smaller solitary bees vie for nectar and pollen to feed their brood. I've seen mason bees knock the big queen bumblebees right out of the apple blossom. Bumblebees may be big, but mason bees have the advantage of speed and agility.

An angel came to my rescue today--not a cherub with wings and a harp. This angel was driving a bulldozer. We'd just been given a dump of garden soil for our raised beds. "Need a hand getting the soil in the beds?" he asked. "Oh yes!" I said, "Thank you so much!" I was ready to kneel down and kiss his dusty steel-toed boots. He was such a deft operator, he hardly spilled a drop of our precious soil. It was a pleasure watching him work from a sweet spot in the shade, especially knowing he saved us about three hours labor. "You don't know how much this means to me," I said. "Well, I do some landscaping part time, so I know you could use my help. It's your lucky day," he said and he was right. My heart was bursting. And I was relieved that we were one step closer to getting our garden ready for planting.

The grade five boys who had committed to helping move the soil were a bit puzzled when they saw almost all the job had been done. "Who did this?" They asked. I told them about the angel in the bulldozer. "There's still lots to do," I said, and we smoothed the beds, put down cardboard in the pathways and started to cover it with mulch. It was so hot I warned the guys to take breaks in the shade and drink lots of water. The boys worked for a half an hour but the heat made them cranky and tired. "Can we have a water fight?" They asked. "Sure!" I said. I'm a firm believer in water fights on hot days. But first I told them they had to put away all the tools. "And don't run with the rake!"

Another exciting event was the arrival of the Village Vancouver Seed Library for temporary residence at Moberly. Randy Chaterjee kindly offered to deliver the lovely box he crafted and helped stock up with seeds. While I sat in the sun waiting for Randy arrive, a little girl made taught me how to make daisy chains while her brother had his piano lesson. As we made bracelets out of dandelions and daisies, I imagined how we could plant more flowers around Moberly for those lovely big queen bumblebees. Later that night when I sat in my garden after dinner I saw queens foraging  in our  azeleas and rhododendrons. Free from the competing crowd, the large and lovely ladies enjoyed a solitary feed while the lilacs perfumed the air with their old-fashioned sweet scent.

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