August 1, 2007
On Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. we were sitting enjoying a drink in the beautiful garden of my in-laws. We noticed some strange bumblebee behavior. My friend Brian tells me that sometimes you can find a bee having an afternoon nap inside a flower, so I'm always on the lookout for a sleeping bee. The sea holly in front of us was full of rush-hour traffic as the nectar flowed from the little flowerettes. There were honeybees, bumblebees, syrphid flies and leaf-cutters competing for nectar. There are three varieties of eryngea planted next to each other here: planum, varifolium, and Jos Eijking, the latter of which Doug says is the favorite of the bees. The good thing about having three varieties of sea holly planted together is that they bloom at different times, giving the bees a good source of pollen.
This garden is only a few blocks from Van Dusen gardens, so it is conceivable that the honeybees came from their hives. Behind me bumblebees were foraging in an abelia bush full of pink blossoms. "Hey, Mr Bumble Bee, you're on the wrong end of the flower!" my father-in-law remarked. Sure enough, the bees were clinging to the end of the blossoms instead of maneuvering themselves inside. I looked closely and saw a hole where the bee had bitten through to rob the nectar without pollinating the plant.
I returned my attention to the sea holly, or eryngium, which has a striking blue tinge. There was not one, but four bumble bees all resting on the sides of the flower. They seemed exhausted, with only minimal movements of their antennae signaling that they were still alive. (Unfortunately I didn't have my camera along that day to catch a picture of them napping, so I had to go back later to snap these photos.
My mother-in-law says that the hummingbirds love the abelia bush too. In fact, a hummingbird did visit the garden that evening, once to sip nectar from a cluster of Monarda or bee balm plants, and then again to feed at a fuschia. The evening sun flashed of his iridescent green and ruby plumage. Abelia is a good hummingbird bird because it blossoms over a long period of time and the bush contains a profusion of blossoms.
I am collecting a list of plants that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. There are good lists available through sources on the internet, but I need to sort through the information to see which plants are most suitable to our zone here in Vancouver. Right now the California poppies in our back yard growing under the climbing beans seem to be the most popular flowers for bees from among the collection of blossoms we have. The hydrangeas are blooming full tilt, but the bees don't seem to be very interested in them. The bumblebees are crazy about Sedum, though, worrying over the plants that are just beginning to open and show some pink.
Keep your eyes peeled for napping bees and send me a photo if you like. We can start a napping bee gallery.