As you may have guessed by now if you follow my blog, I’m a bit of an amateur naturalist. Learning about all kinds of plants and creatures gives me joy. Sitting on our deck when I’m writing longhand (best way to pour out the first draft of a story), I love to watch the birds at our feeder and other wildlife going about their day (which can also distract me from my writing, or help provide the pause that summons the next sentence). Our feeders hang outside the kitchen windows, my favorite view as I eat breakfast or lunch.
So, I can report, with delight, that we saw another hummingbird on Sunday, pale olive green with a lemon yellow breast. It hovered and sipped, zipped away, then returned for another drink. I wasn’t nearby for other visits, but the nectar level in the feeder was slightly lower by evening.
However, apparently the hummingbird’s activity attracted some other visitors—bees. As we were leaving the house Sunday evening, I noticed them investigating the feeder. By the time we returned, there were no more bees crawling around it. They had all managed to fall inside.
What to do? Bees are important pollinators, essential to world food supplies, and honeybees are in serious decline due to a variety of factors, especially use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. At first I thought they had all drowned, but when I tapped the feeder, they started swimming. Then they started humming. It was as if they were calling for help. (Yes, I’m a softy with a writer’s imagination. But still possible.)
My hands are not facile enough to simply pick up the feeder and dump the contents, especially at risk of getting stung. But with salad tongs and long plastic kitchen spoons, I managed to unhook it and spill it on the ground. When I checked back a while later, most of the bees were still curled up on the grass, but at least one was wobbling about. The next morning, they were all gone. So either some other critter came along and had a feast, or they slept off their sugar high, dried out, and flew away. I hope the latter is true.
A little online research turned up a few ideas to avoid a repeat: diluting the sugar water solution to a 5:1 ratio, still sweet enough for the hummers but not as appealing to the bees, is my next step.
And so, Dear Reader, I hope you find some inspiration and fascinating drama in your own back yard. I’m taking a break for the next couple of weeks and will be back at the end of August. For those in the northern hemisphere, savor the rest of summer, and if you are down under, I hope the end of winter treats you well.
Image: Leandro Fregoni