March 21, 2010

Communicating with the bees and the birds

Yesterday as I cleaned up the gardens in front, a bee followed me around.  At first I thought it was just buzzing nearby.  I was pleased to see it, a good sign in early spring.  But then I noticed it was deliberately and specifically following me.  As I raked winter debris from around my plants, the bee hovered over me, then swooped in for a look.  Anything good here?  Any new blooms?

When I moved on to the next part of the bed he was right there with me.  He didn't zig zag around, instead he hovered patiently and intently right at shoulder level as I knelt over the garden.  It was clear he was watching what I did.  Again and again he moved with me, my companion on this lovely warm day, as we both searched for signs of spring in the warming soil.
He was happiest when we reached the blooming heath (Erica darleyensis 'Ghost Hills' which I thought would bloom spectral white, but it's a bright pink heath).

There's not much else in bloom in my March garden, so my bee companion had to work pretty hard to find what he wanted.  It was so obvious he wanted me to help him find something flowering.  It was a wonderful quiet hour of interspecies communication, and it pleased me beyond reason.

I was similarly pleased last summer to have a hummingbird companion in my garden.  I had put out sugar water to attract them, and enjoyed the views as they helicoptered at the feeders.  But one sunny afternoon as I watered the back garden, a hummer came over and began dancing in the spray of the hose.

As with the bee, my first thought was that he was just coincidentally flying around nearby doing his own thing.  Then he hovered level with my face, looked at me, and dive bombed into the spray.  Again and again, with joy.  The water drops sparkled, the tiny hummingbird shimmied, and together we shared some moments sprinkling the garden.  Not nearby, not wary of getting too close, but unabashedly in concert, communicating to each other how enjoyable misting water and sunshine are on an afternoon in the summer.

These were small moments, with small creatures.  But I am overwhelmed with the realization that they directed the conversation with me, not the other way around.    I have been so used to doing all the communicating ("come here and visit my feeders, hummingbirds" or "shoo, go away, don't sting me, bee") that it never dawned on me they might be able to say something so clearly and so effectively to me.  And with such obvious delight in my presence in their world.


  1. The very same thing happened to me twice last summer when I was watering with the hose -- a hummingbird flew up and was very clearly interested in taking a bath. The water presure is so high from the our well that I had to aim the water spray upwards, or blow her away, and she revelled in it: flew back and forth, then bathed in the droplets on the leaves, then back into the spray again. This went on for a good 15 minutes. She must have been the world's cleanest hummingbird by the time she was done.

  2. Laurrie, I find this quite moving! What sweet stories of very special moments in the garden. Love it!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. A great thing about gardening is the connection it gives us to those creatures who live there, and I am happiest when they seem to appreciate my efforts. I have had a similar experience with the garden hose and a hummingbird. But the funniest thing was when I wore a blouse covered in a bright orange and blue floral print. A hummingbird kept buzzing me, thinking I was a flower!

  4. What great stories. I can just see the hovering bee and the diving hummingbird! Since becoming a gardener, I've lost my fear of bees (though not necessarily of wasps) and really enjoyed this post.

  5. Apart from loving this post, I just read your "About me" page: it's beautifully, beautifully written.

  6. Sweet bay and debsgarden, It's great to hear you both had the same experience with bathing hummers in the spray. It's wonderful to watch. (Deborah, I also had a hummingbird fly around me in confusion when I was wearing a red polo shirt one day!)

    Garden Ms. S and Melissa, thanks so much for coming by and for telling me you enjoyed this post.

    Marie, thank you for your compliments! I've loved reading your blog for quite some time now. I'm glad you came by here for a visit.

  7. I think you handled the stalker bee more calmly than I would have. But I liked this unusual topic. My quiet creature experience: I once had a bird land on my shoulder. I didn't know whether to be nervous or joyous.

    Christine in Alaska

  8. I loved reading this Laurrie! I haven't ever had such a 'two way' interaction with wildlife as you describe with both your bee and your hummingbird, but I was completely enchanted by the way you described both occasions!

  9. I just loved this post! And I'm envious of your time with the bee and hummingbird. Still, I'm so glad you had the time - it's just icing on the gardening cake, isn't it?

  10. Christine, what a rare surprise to have a bird land right on your shoulder... amazing!

    gippslandgardener, thanks so much. I'm enchanted by your gardens, even though I don't recognize many of your Aussie evergreens -- such a different climate from here.

    Kim, thanks. There are so many unintended benefits of being out in the garden!


Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.