Like everything else, the garden air show seems to be happening a little earlier this year than last and I think it’s more entertaining than TV. I wish I had moving pictures to show you the swallows scooping mosquitoes off the Great Lawn and hummingbirds feeding on monarda, gladiolus and crocosmia. There are dragonflies and butterflies and moths lighting on the every delicate stem and an easy dozen species of bees and wasps working nearly every flower. There are so many of us tending the gardens that it’s really a wonder that we don’t all get in each other’s way.
As a matter of fact (I’m knocking wood with my feet as I type this) I have only been stung 2, maybe 3 times in the 7 years I’ve worked in these gardens. And not yet by a honeybee. I may simply be lucky but for what it’s worth, I also have a profound respect for all of our busy pollinators. I do my best not to get in their way or deadhead flowers that are still being worked on. That said, I do have to admit that one of my stings was from from a startled solitary-bee when I accidentally grabbed it along with a helianthus flower that wanted deadheading. It is curious that they all seem to go for flowers we might think have already gone by…
We were so happy when Jeff from Aquidneck Honey started dropping off honeybee hives. Gail and I were utterly captivated watching him casually knock a colony into a new box and wish the “girls” good luck. His bees have settled in to their new home and we’re getting used to having a little more buzz and excitement in the gardens with five hives in place now. If Colony Collapse Disorder can be said to have any good side, I think it’s that more people have learned to be respectful and interested in bees rather than afraid of them.
We all know by now that honeybees only sting in self or hive defense, and sacrifice themselves by leaving an essential body part behind (so to speak) — which should be removed immediately by gently scraping the sting site. If the bees ever sting, we’re prepared. There is ice in our freezer, baking soda and a sting-stop ammonia pen in the greenhouse first-aid kit. I’ve also just learned that parsley and basil are effective sting-pain relievers if crushed and rubbed on as a sort of poultice. Anyone who has been in the vegetable garden knows we have plenty of basil especially. For the 2 or so percent of the population that is allergic to bees, I hope you travel with an epi-pen and never have to use it.
I am a little bit afraid of wasps because they can be vicious if provoked. Interestingly, the enormous Eastern cicada killer, which is one of the scariest looking wasps is also one of the most docile. According to my research, they will sting only if they’re grabbed or stepped on. Like the easy-going bumble bee, cicada killers are ground nesters. And that right there is why barefoot gardening is not for me.
Have you been stung much while gardening? Do you have a preferred sting relief remedy?