What has happened to the humble bumblebee?
Science has been noting a decline in the honeybee population which is worrisome for the ecosystem but now there’s buzz about the bumblebee. No one knows why its numbers are on the decline but one scientist notes she hasn’t been able to find one in 3 years.
Many of us had unfortunate encounters with these rotund, striped insects when we were children. I vividly recall dashing shoeless across the front lawn of our home on Elizabeth Street in Grimsby on one of those carefree kid summer afternoons, and being halted by the stabbing pain of a bumblebee stinger in the tender underside of my foot. The little bugger had turned himself (herself?) butt up in time to pierce my flesh in its final act of vengeance. Ever since then, I’ve given the little buzzers a wide berth.
But now they’re in decline and tomatoes, raspberries and sweet peppers are not getting pollinated. These are plants that honey bees ignore. Some tomato growers are rearing their own bumblebees but there’s a theory that crowding is leading to disease and once they’re freed, instead of boosting the population they’re actually killing it off. Scientists predict a future of sporadic fruit-bearing for tomato plants if we don’t bring back the bees in big numbers.
They advise us to plant purple flowers and mint to attract whatever bees are left and keep them healthy. I’d advise against mint unless you are looking for something to take over your garden, your lawn and the lawns of your neighbours. The stuff spreads like mad and its roots are oblivious to borders and difficult to pull out. I tore out enough mint in my Willowdale gardens to make a thousand mojitos. But I may plant a purple flower or two and try to hold back on the heebie-jeebies if I do encounter a bumblebee or two. And there’ll be no more barefoot running for me!