Tag Archives: basil flowers


28 Oct

This autumn, I’ve seen numerous immobile bumblebees hanging upside down on flowers in the garden. At first I thought they were dead, or perhaps sick. But now I know they are male bumblebees, recuperating from all the wining and dining they do–ie, drinking nectar and trying to get lucky with new queen bees.



Once a male bumblebee leaves the colony, it doesn’t usually go back. It must feed itself and find somewhere to sleep–either in or on a flower. My garden doesn’t have too many big flowers left to crawl into, so the bees latch on to the smaller flowers (in the photos above: gaillardia, lavender, basil, and hyssop) and let gravity do its work. Because the body temperature of a bee matches its surroundings when it is at rest, it quickly becomes immobile in colder weather and has to wait for more sun to warm up again. It can also re-energize by drinking more nectar, but that is somewhat difficult to do when comatose. Luckily, bees warm up fairly quickly. That is a good thing since a male bumblebee’s #1 job is reproduction, and the chase requires lots of energy.

But what is the reward for all the male’s effort? Not much. Most male bumblebees don’t ever get a chance to mate, since it’s a very competitive world out there. And even if they do manage it, the one who benefits is the new queen. Once she has mated, she tucks in for the winter and hibernates underground, awaiting the moment next spring when she can start her own colony. The males (and the rest of the bees: the old queens, worker bees, etc.) do not survive the winter.

Summer Sloth

11 Aug

The sad fact about gardens  is that it takes work to look good. The flowers and herbs in my garden have a great deal of natural beauty, but that beauty requires maintenance — and those poor plants have only me to provide it. So, at the moment, the garden is looking a bit sorry. I am trying to figure out where to apportion the blame for this state of affairs, and have settled on 1) intense heat, 2) mosquitoes, and 3) the Olympics, combined with a houseful of vacationing children, guests, and a couple of impromptu trips. But the reality is, I have slacked off in my gardening duties due to summer sloth.

For starters, a spectacular weed has taken up residence and is now taller than I am;  I left it in place partially out of curiosity to see just how far it would go (whereupon it proved that it can outgrow anything else in the yard, even without water) — but the truth of the matter is procrastination: I assured myself I would take care of it “next time.”  However, even I acknowledge that its time is now, though it did put on an impressive display.

But that’s not all: I need to cut down spent plants, yank out the grass that is trying to creep into the flower beds, do some more preventative edging, resuscitate the latest dog-trampled plants, undertake an emergency transplant operation, and do a lot of dead-heading: roses, gaillardia, echinacea, oregano, and basil to name just a few plants in need of a trim. Here is the flowering basil–the bees love it, but if I don’t pluck off the basil flowers soon, the plant will put its energy into the flowers rather than the leaves, and there goes our pesto.

Following on this theme of neglect, our garden has become pretty quiet. Why? Because I have failed to refill the bird feeders. I am a sad friend to the local avian community. And this slump has extended to the canine members of the family as well–Shaggy Schnauzers 2 and 1, who by now must be embarrassed to be seen by other, perfectly coiffed members of their breed. So, by the end of this weekend, I hope to have made significant headway on the garden, lured the birds back, and cornered at least one of the dogs for a buzz cut.