Bumbles in My Back Yard!

Earlier this summer I was having a bit of a crisis. You see, for the last couple of summers we've had a very active bumblebee nest in our back yard. It's hidden behind a bed of hostas and a bleeding heart growing around the foundation of our garage, its entrance hidden under a scattering of oak leaves (see above).

Orange sacs on the bumblebee's back legs hold the pollen it has collected.

I was alerted to its presence when I was innocently watering the garden and suddenly heard a vibrant buzzing coming from a corner of the garden bed. Several fairly large bumblebees were circling around the area, looking for the intruder—me—who had apparently come a little too close to the nest.

Now, some people might freak out at the thought of a bees' nest in their back yard and call an exterminator. But knowing as I did that, in general, bumblebees are peaceful insects and will only sting when they feel cornered or when their hive is disturbed, I simply stepped back several feet and waited for them to realize I wasn't a threat. It also gave me a chance to see where they were returning to.

Of course my first act was not to look up the Wikipedia article on bumblebees. It was to call our long-suffering neighbor, who works for the Xerces Society and who puts up with my endless bee questions, along with the occasional accusation along the lines of "one of your friends just stung me!" He informed me that congratulations were in order because there was indeed a bumblebee nest under our garage and they seemed perfectly happy.

I felt like a new parent.

Busy as a bee collecting more pollen.

Which is why, when earlier this summer I observed no activity from the nest and very few bumblebees on the flowering shrubs and bushes on the block, I got a little panicky. When I consulted my neighbor (like I said, he puts up with a lot), he said it was possible that they had abandoned the nest, but with the unusually cool spring and early summer, they might just be late in appearing.

So I waited. And waited.

It was just about exactly when our neighbors' prodigious stand of lavender bushes burst into bloom that, joy of joys, I saw the bumbles return, buzzing happily from wand to wand, taking their gathered treasure back to the nest behind the garage. I was ecstatic. And yes, I texted our neighbor with the good news.