Ever get the feeling the world is conspiring against you?
Well, today I am feeling a little paranoid. Apologies in advance to Tina from My Gardener Says for breaking the usual tone of these Wildlife Wednesday pieces but today I am not exactly going to ‘celebrate’ my backyard wildlife.
My tale of woe begins a few days ago when I decided to plant some bulbs. Ah, you might might be thinking: any fool trying to grow bulbs in Texas gets what she deserves — a big bowl of nothing.
But I chose wisely. I thought. Camassias, Spanish bluebells and oxalis. All hardy and reasonably wildlife friendly.
I had my little digger in hand. The sunlight was gentle and filtered by autumn leaves. The world smelled like pecan and mulberry resin. Happy. Happy. Digging. Digging. A job well done.
Then yesterday I woke to the sound of a blue jay YELLING at a squirrel. I look out the window and the squirrel practically shrugged back at me as if to say: I do not know what that guy’s problem is. You and I both know it is a glorious day. “Yes. Aren’t squirrels ADORABLE?” I thought. “That blue jay needs to mellow out.”
And so it seemed for a brief moment in my life that my luck had changed and the world felt good and golden. I had visions of spring flowers dancing in my head.
Being outside at this time of year feels like heaven so I am always looking for things to do. Trimming. Weeding. Repotting. I noticed the azalea my son bought me awhile ago needed a new home. (Yeah, I know, an azalea. He meant well but … heat, alkaline clay soil and juglone mean this is a plant whose roots will never know freedom.) I found a bigger pot and carefully placed it under the oak where the bees live. Dappled sun. A perfect place for an azalea. I lugged a big bag of compost over to the site. The label promised ‘organic.’ I ripped open the plastic and … JOY! … it was alive. Warm to the touch and it really smelled like soil. A small miracle.
Suddenly I was surrounded by bees. ANGRY bees. REALLY angry bees. Three stings in a row. Back of left leg. Stomach. Right arm. They were coming at me from all directions. One poor soul was caught in my hair. Cut to the next scene where a crazy woman breaks every sprinting record as she races into the house.
It took a couple hours for the bees to calm down. From behind a closed window I watched my lovely bees freaking out and circling that bag of potting soil. I tried to make sense of the disaster while my husband whispered words like ‘Africanized’ and ‘removal.’
I think I understand what made them so angry. When I opened the bag a blast of carbon dioxide was released right under their colony. We have entered fall but it is still hot and dry. The bees are hungry for rain and the next nectar flow so they are already feeling a bit cranky. Then they smell something suspiciously like a large predator under their home — think bear — and so they bravely defended themselves. Kamakazes. Dying for the good of the group. Like an idiot I was wearing black so I even looked like a bear.
When I went outside later to save the azalea roots from drying out completely I first tied up my hair and then put on my husband’s white tee shirt that was in the laundry hamper. I didn’t want to smell like someone recently marked as an enemy. The bees were completely calm and I finished the job with no trouble at all.
As I moved the soil around to cover the azalea roots I found one of the bulbs I planted the day before. Only, I never put a bulb in that pot.
It had to have been that squirrel’s doing. I took a walk around the backyard and found little holes marking all the areas where bulbs were supposed to be. That squirrel probably went around rearranging everything that it decided not to eat!
So lessons learned. Even friendly bees can be triggered to defend themselves. Don’t plant bulbs on off years when the pecans aren’t producing.