Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 64

SINGING IN THE GARDEN

To Bee or not to Bee
Text and art by GINNY NEIL

O

ne warmish day, I was walking across the
back 40 to feed the dogs when I stepped
right into a ground-hugging swarm of bees.
I backed off in a hurry. I have a deep respect for these busy buzzers. Years ago, I was
helping hubby chase sheep up and down
a mountain. Exhausted, I sat down on a
stump to rest. I jumped right back up. I had plopped
right on top of a yellow jackets' nest, and boy were they
mad. An angry black and yellow swarm chased me half
a mile down the valley. I escaped with one sting and a
great story to tell.
But, these bees were different. In spite of my threatening presence, they kept flying in low zig-zagging patterns about three inches above the ground. So, I crept
closer and watched for a while. Then, I went in the
house and looked them up.

64

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

How doth the little busy bee
improve each shining hour...
-Isaac Watts
Turns out they were ground bees,
or digger bees, or miner bees. The distinctions are a bit fuzzy to me. I went back
outside to look again and spotted little cones of dirt, like
mini-volcanoes scattered across the thin grass next to the
driveway. These were the openings to the solitary burrows (called tumuli) made by female bees.
Information on these native bees was pretty scarce,
but it seems that perhaps what I saw flying above the
burrows was the males. They emerge from the burrows
first, then run reconnaissance over the openings until
the females emerge.
After a female is mated, she digs a new burrow two to
three inches deep, then creates about eight side tunnels.
Each tunnel is stocked with a food ball made of pollen
and nectar. The balls are topped with one of her eggs.
Although there is only one female per burrow, the bees


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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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