Tuesday, 17 April 2012

"Half a bee, philosophically,"

"Must ipso facto, half not be.
But can a bee
Be said to be,
Or not to be,
An entire bee,
If half the bee
Is not a bee,
Due to some
Ancient injury?"


"Lah dee dee, one two three, Eric the Half a Bee,
A B C, D E F G - Eric the Half a Bee:
Is this wretched demi-bee,
Half asleep upon my knee
Some freak from a menagerie?
No! It's Eric the Half a Bee."

Ground bees are the bane of my life at this time of year.

Well, when I say "ground bees",  I'm not sure if I mean bees that live in the ground as opposed to a hive: I'm a botanist, not a - er, what's the word for someone knowledgeable about bees? Not lepidopterist, that's butterflies: apiarist?  *rushes to look up correct word on google*  Apiarist = "person who keeps bees". Well, that's close enough for the purposes of this conversation.

So, what bees do I mean? At this time of year, I find a lot of large bees - the sort that I (not being an apiarist) would call bumble bees, big fat black and yellow ones - dozing at ground level, tucked in amongst vegetation or sometimes, apparently, under the surface of the ground.

This means that when I am enthusiastically weeding borders, or tidying up old foliage of perennials, I keep disturbing them: the first I know is usually loud and indignant buzzing,  at which point I stop what I'm doing and gently turn over whatever soil or debris I have just moved, to try to find the bee without squashing it. Then I have to gently persuade it to clamber up onto my hand (gloved, of course - I'm not daft) so I can carefully transfer it to a part of the bed that has already been weeded.

Rudimentary google research indicates that bumble bees are the ones that buzz - thus confirming my identification, hah - and yes, they do actually nest in the ground. So it would seem likely that early in the mornings, they will be crawling around at ground level, waiting for it to get warm enough for them to get airborne.

These will be different from Leaf-cutter bees - we learned about them last year, do you remember? - who lay their eggs in cocoons made from leaf material, in tunnels underground.

(Did I just say "tunnels underground"? Can there be such a thing as a tunnel above ground? No, so that was a stupid thing to say, wasn't it? I do apologise. I think "tautology" is the official name for this ailment, isn't it?)

So where does the half a bee thing come in? Well, there I was, clipping the edges of the lawn with my long-handled edgers, and: - do you really need me to continue? Are you cringing already?

Yes, there I was, clip, clip clipping, at my usual high speed: and then there was some indignant buzz, buzz, buzzing.

I admit it, I closed my eyes. Just for a minute. But then I had to go down on hands and knees to take a close look, and yes, it was a big furry bumble bee, and it appeared to be still alive and indignantly buzzing although it did (warning: if you are of a nervous disposition, stop reading now) have only five legs.

Aaargh! I feel like a murderer! Can a bee survive having one of it's legs cruelly chopped off - albeit innocently - by a passing Gardener?

I do hope so!


Did you enjoy this article? Did you find it useful? Would you like me to answer your own, personal, gardening question? Become a Patron - just click here - and support me! Or use the Donate button for a one-off donation. If just 10% of my visitors gave me a pound a month, I'd be able to spend a lot more time answering all the questions!!


  1. To bee of not to bee, alas poor Rachel. My troubles are our hive dwellers who, en mass, can get angry at my strimmer or lawnmower (must be a hornet like resonance from them or something) getting too close to their hives, which make maintaining around them a bit tricky. I've learnt the save working distance now (and not to do it just after their hives have had their weekly check) but I think I could have given Usain Bolt a run for his money the first time it happened.

  2. Ha ha, I had to look up who Ursain Bolt was! (apparently he's Jamaican and can run really, really fast.)

    Yes, I imagine it's something to do with the noise, or possibly the vibration. Ah, you have bees (seethe with envy), lucky you, I'd love to keep bees one day. Odd, as I don't particularly like honey. It always tastes vaguely medicinal to me. But I'd still like to keep them, when I get a bit more land: my own garden at present is just too small!



Comments take 2 days to appear: please be patient. Please note that I do not allow any comments containing links: this is not me being controlling, or suppression of free speech: it is purely to prevent SPAM - I get a continual stream of fake comments with links to horrible things. Trust me, you don't want to read them....