The Bees Are Back!

I’d love to try beekeeping, but our house is very close to multiple neighbors and I’m a bit leery of having a bee hive in my backyard.  However, each year I’ve tried to make my yard as bee friendly as I can.  The bees are fun (dog #1 loves them – it entertains him for hours) and they pollinate my garden to give me lots of squash and (this year) watermelon.

These will be small individual watermelons when they ripen. Unfortunately, with all the humdity there are now some cracks in the rinds so we’ll see if they rot or not.

I plant salvia each year, but the bees weren’t as enthused this year as before.  Finally, FINALLY, the basil went to flower and the sunflowers came in.

The basil isn’t even fully flowered and the bees are going nuts! See the less focused one in the bottom left?

And now all of a sudden, I have bees!  Bees, bees, everywhere.  On the salvia, in the basil, in the thyme, on the watermelons, in the trumpet vines and they are gluttons for the sunflowers.

Can you believe all these bees?

I don’t remember what kind of sunflowers I planted, but I did make sure it was not pollen-free.  Without pollen, the bees won’t come.  Duh!  You have to read the packages carefully as many sunflowers are bred these days to be pollen-less.

I hadn’t planted sunflowers for years and forgot how they grew.  You can see in the above picture how the pollen (and seeds) start from the edge and work there way to the center.  Once it becomes covered in pollen and green seeds, the pollen gradually recedes and the head starts dying back to ripen.  As this happens, the head bends lower and lower to the ground.

You can easily tell the sequence of which ones ripened first (from right to left).

In this picture here, the furthest right sunflower ripened first, setting off the bee orgy.  As it ripened and the pollen sloughed off, the one next to it came into its pollen next, exciting the bees even further.  It is now ripening slowly.  The golden petals are drying and looking ratty, but the seeds are getting larger each day.  The two to the left are the ones I showed in the picture higher up in the blog.  They are first filling in the pollen; in a few more weeks, they’ll be bending over too.

I’m thrilled to see the bees back for another year!  I’m no longer fertilizing the garden as I don’t want to stress them out.  It’ll cut back our yield, but it’s so worth it to see them again.

The bees are loving the thyme in blossom. I know it cuts back on the productivity of my herbs, but I love having the bees around.

Now if I could just find the caterpillars that are eating my mint.  I’m used to losing my parlsey each year to the butterflies, but the mint?  I’ve not had that happen before.  I killed a small green inchworm sized caterpillar the other night, but I’m still finding caterpillar poops.  Those buggers have to be there somewhere, but it’s sure hard to find green caterpillars on green mint.

The turnip greens on the right are ruined and the spearmint on the left is getting there quickly. Grrrr. . .

Oh the highs and lows of keeping a garden!  This too will eventually get resolved, one way or the other.

Over at A Daily Life, there is a new post on a great way idea of using your camera to record your child’s life each year.


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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

18 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Those “mini” watermelons are wonderful! Our daughter experimented with them in a container, successfully. I’m glad to see bees, too.

    • Thanks Patti! Because we’ve had so much trouble with mold and fungus in the garden, this year’s theory is to try things that ripen quickly to see if we can ripen is before it rots. That includes cherry tomatoes, the watermelon and no winter squash this year. While I got a lot of butternut squash the last two years, more than half of it rotted before it ripened.

      I’m glad the bees are back too! The sunflowers are almost done with their pollen, but the bees seem happy now with the basil in flower.

  2. Gorgeous sunflowers! I never knew that about checking to make sure they have pollen. My mint is just struggling …scraggley, but hanging in there – it just must not like where it is?
    Stuff here will be going into survival mode until the heat breaks – me included!
    Love the bees!

    • I can’t believe your mint is struggling – it’s such a noxious weed I didn’t think anything could kill except those stupid ants that invaded my planter last year. Is it getting enough water? That would be my guess or else it’s planted by something it doesn’t like. Although that doesn’t usually bother it – mint is so not touchy.

      Yeah, the heat’s been a big problem here too. And the humidity too.

      Glad you liked the bees! Thanks for stopping by.

        • Just remember not to put it anywhere near the ground – it will spread and you’ll never get rid of it. Keep is in a container on the deck or patio blocks. Even if you sink it in a container it’ll take over. Mint and cockroaches are the two things most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust :)

  3. Thanks Darlene! I’ve had slugs get into the mint once in a while, but nothing has been too fond of it until now. I really think it’s because of those turnip greens being in the same container, but it’s been too wet to pull them out and get something else planted.

  4. I absolutley LOVE sunflowers! Yours look amazing and made me very happy to see. Your garden sounds simply lovely. I have never had anything but spit bugs attack my mint (so far) Hope you catch the perpetrators. XO

    • Thanks so much! And thanks for subscribing.

      My garden’s having the same issues – it’s either way too wet or way too dry. And the unrelenting humidity too.

    • Somehow, I am not surprised at that story! Your boys are so fearless and adventureous. That’s great though that he’s patient to just watch them.

  5. Nancy, I have never experienced caterpillars eating on my mint before, so I looked it up. It would seem that the majority blame it on the cabbage looper. The one you found sounds like a looper. I have been finding dozens of little worms hiding on the underside my cole crop’s leaves. and also on my beans. It is a very buggy year I guess. Ants, squash beetles, worms, stink bugs and Chinese beetles are aggressively chowing down on what was left after the drought and HEAT. I really think it is time to take and dust off that rototiller…
    And very strange NO caterpillars are eating the fennel this year! I have two patches and no butterfly caterpillars to eat it. ~ Lynda

    • I think you’re right that it’s a cabbage looper. That looks like the little moth I’ve seen hanging around. And I think those poops were actually the eggs, which is probably why I see so many. Surprisingly, the collards are still fine but they are in a different part of the garden. I think the turnip greens are what brought these to the mint.

      I had a lot fewer butterflies and their caterpillars this year too. The parsley is just about grown back, so maybe I’ll get a second batch of caterpillars.

      Thanks for looking that up!

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