A real buzz. Danielle Purcell keeps a close eye on bees working in her garden.
A real buzz. Danielle Purcell keeps a close eye on bees working in her garden.

The buzz on bees

Work. Work. Work. That’s all they ever do. And thank God! Pollination, after all, does make our planet’s best edibles.
But the bees, be they small and mighty, are sadly in decline.

Why is vanilla bean so expensive? Because it is hand-pollinated. And we do prefer those specs of vanilla scattered in the best ice cream rather than the artificial crap with not one spec of real vanilla.

 To get real vanilla, we rely on manual in-vitro. Woe is the story of the bee that no longer is employed in this department.

In the garden I try to look at everything as a whole. What’s the buzz all about? Look closer and you’ll appreciate the complexity of bee genius. No Petri dishes, no lab coats, and no tiny tweezers. It’s all for Queen and colony. And your favourite honey.

Foregoing any courtship, the virgin Queen and male drone head straight up into the ethers … she gets down (up) to business securing in-flight fertilisation. Maybe the mile-high club is based on past-life bee-haviour.

But the Queen has much to do. No time for lingering kisses, she returns to her colony as soon as possible.

Her many mating affairs are for no other than colony production to secure all the ingredients we know as royal jelly, propolis, wax, honey and pollen.

Not a moment’s rest after whirlwind honeymoon flights. It occurs to me the traditional honeymoon was in fact destined for flirting with pollination.

A pretty flowering native that attracted so many bees last year prompted me to plant four more. Since then, the bee activity is tremendous. I wonder if I’ll ever fancy wearing a white NASA suit and catcher’s mask and really flirt with bees.

Bees are complex yet simple, hardworking and obviously quite the mile-high lovers. But by gosh we love them and need them, don’t we?

In perilous times of bee extinction, the best a garden lover can do to keep the romance of in-flight getaways is serve plenty of nectar-producing flowers – unless you plan on supervising several free-standing love-in colonies in a NASA suit.

The astartea heteranthera is a tremendous love nest. An open shrub less than one metre across with tiny pink flowers and even smaller leaves, it needs sun with some dappled light, away from strong winds and, of course, good drainage.

I’ve also seen plenty of activity around the philotheca winter rouge flowers. They have long flowering periods from winter to spring.

Bees are most attracted to tiny flowers and the colours pink and blue. With a little intention, you can attract more than birds and butterflies ... say, more bees.

Your honeymoon garden will be a buzz.

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