Many of you may not know that Rosehaven Cottage's gardens are certified as an "NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat" with the National Wildlife Federation. It's really a relatively easy process to become certified once you've changed your gardening focus over to the 5 essentials required for certification:
- Food Sources. For example: native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
- Water Sources. For example: birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
- Place for Cover. For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
- Places to Raise Young. For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
- Sustainable Gardening. For example: Mulch, compost, rain garde, chemical-free fertilizer
I dug our pond in such a way so that it would have a gentle river rock beach on one side for critters to come down and get a drink. There are lots of rock protrusions for birds and creatures to get a footing and splash in the recirculating water that runs over the rocks adjacent to the pond's "beach".
The slope is boggy and in full sun so I have canna lilies, potted Japanese water lilies, and lemon balm growing along the "beach" that provide cover for the critters.
The unplanned bonus of this design has been the honeybees! Every day, particularly in the warmer months, honeybees come from wherever their hives are and drink from the water on the "beach" side of the pond. The area is literally buzzing with activity everyday while the sun is shining.
I've had a number of visitors to the garden look in horror at the "beach" with all the bees and paper wasps buzzing about and say, "Oh my! You've got a yellow-jacket problem!"
Then I kindly explain the difference between paper wasps and yellow-jackets--how the paper wasps are so non-aggressive that they won't even sting me if I knock down one of their paper-like honeycomb nests.
I also explain (and often demonstrate) that I can walk right out on the rocks through the buzzing activity and step into the pond to perform maintenance. I'm usually met with looks of astonishment.
How come I don't get stung repeatedly?
Well, when bees are focused on drinking water that's what they're focused on... water. They are visitors on turf that isn't their hive, and they know it. If I came to their hive and started jostling them about, then it would be a different story. Even though there are a large number of bees on the water's edge, they aren't swarming (a behavior associated with hive defense and colony relocation). They aren't agitated, and as long as I don't step on one or have one fly down my shirt and get scared (that's only happened once), they leave me alone as if they were a bunch of butterflies.
I've been highly fortunate to have these wonderful pollinators in my garden year after year. They have blessed us with wonderful produce: tomatoes, beans, mandarins, strawberries, pomegranates, lemons, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and plums. And I always plant some flowers just for the bees and the butterflies as a repayment for their services.
Yes, balance definitely starts with "bee".
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