Wildlife Wednesday: October 2015

closer baby squirrel 3 June 2015

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.

But.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: October 2015

  1. Oh my … you are amazing. Nasty little experience. We had bees and I only got stung once (in the bottom mind you while I was gardening). I was always very cautious even though I adored them. As for that squirrel .. cheeky!

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    1. Mr. Squirrel will be getting the stink eye for a few days not that he even cares. The stings didn’t hurt nearly as much as the betrayals. I thought we were all friends! ;)

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  2. I’m glad you weren’t shoved away from your ongoing affectionate relationship with your girls and their hive. I’m laughing about the squirrel story…because…squirrels! There’s a reason we say somebody is acting “squirrely” when their behaviors erratically defy logic. I suppose the squirrels watch us burying “food” for them (because why else would we be out there!?!) and think “Wow those big bald squirrels are bad at that…I’ll just rebury these properly and they’ll never know the difference!”.

    One thought about the bees reaction. Reading about wasps and how they so often “attack” firefighters working behind the lines it seems that rather than their swarming being nest defense as originally thought, after fires the wasps get thirsty – desperately aggressively so. You think there is any possibility your bees were simply defending what smelled (at least initially) like a new moisture source?

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    1. Squirrels. Poor things. Everyone is always mad at them. They remind me a bit of those kids in school that got that terrible Attention Deficit Disorder label. They were always my favourites but they were always in trouble — even with their peers. Say what you will squirrels are really good at digging and who knows maybe I might be happy with the results. Those little hands loosen soil better than my hand shovel does and they do seem to get those bulbs nice and deep. It will be kind of interesting to see if anything pops up.

      I like your theory about the moisture. It is so very dry out there right now. Even the ragweed along the creek is withered. I do supply water but it could never be enough. I suppose one of the bigger lessons is that wild things are still wild even if they are in my backyard and I ought not think I know more than I do.

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  3. I’m sorry to hear about your bee encounter and hope the irritation goes away quickly. I know how dangerous they can be based on some reckless experiences as a kid. Our neighborhood is overrun with squirrels. They ate the flowers and left just stems on the annuals I grew from seeds, they climb the stalks on the two canna lilies I planted and broke them off, and they dig in the potted plants on the front porch digging out the flowers and throwing dirt everywhere. I am developing a relationship with them similar to the one Carl (Bill Murray) had with the gopher in Caddyshack. I’m really starting to get irked and I think that soon they are going to wish Carl had moved in instead of me. :)

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    1. Oh my gosh. That is a – lot – of destruction. haha but now you’ve planted that “I’m alright” ear worm into my mind and I am not going to ever see them the same way again.

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    1. No harm was done and honestly it was pretty hilarious. That such little beings can wield so much power is wonderful in its way. I was hoping the bee venom might be good for my ankle which is still a bit inflamed. I do feel bad for the bees who died defending their home because of my thoughtless behaviour. You make a good point about the epi-pen. I should toss one into the first aid kit.

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  4. You don’t want to be around pissed off bees–been there,, done that. But your description of running into the house, made me laugh. Sorry–been there, done that!! One, time when I opened my hive, my smoker stopped smoking ( I make Bee Daddy light the smoker, I’m hopeless at it!) I stupidly thought: Oh, I can finish up without smoking them, it won’t be so bad. I was covered, running around the back yard, amusing the neighbors, I’m sure. I actually started laughing so much that I had to sit down–far away from the hives, with bees still buzzing me angrily. I learned my lesson that day.

    As for the squirrels–bad, bad squirrels!!

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    1. I am still breaking out into laughter so feel free to join in! For one brief moment I thought: stay very still and be Jedi calm. In about 1/2 of a nanosecond I rejected that idea as completely insane and flew to the door.Squirrels! I am SUCH a sad case that I still think they are adorable.

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