The Birds & the Bees

Written by Ron Cook

August 11, 2018

In years past, I’ve grown Mammoth Sunflowers strictly for the birds to enjoy, but this year, I’ve noticed many times, that my honeybees are enjoying them almost as much as the birds do.  When the sunflowers are covered in pollen, the bees hit them pretty hard.  I suppose for the pollen they can gather so readily?

Today, as I was out walking past the garden, after the rain, I heard enough commotion from the honeybees, that I went over to investigate and this is what I found…  The birds have completely stripped the sunflower heads of all visible seeds, but there is still something there that the honeybees are enjoying.  There was a mass of bees on nearly every empty head.  I counted as many as a dozen bees per sunflower.  It was so nice to see them there that I walked all the way home to get my camera to show you what they were up to.
honey bee, sunflower, garden
Honey bees gleaning on a spent/stripped sunflower head
The first photo is one with the honeybees enjoying what was left by the birds.  The second photo is of how much the squirrels enjoy them.  I’ve had several sunflower stalks cut to the ground by squirrels this year.  Once they are close enough to the ground for a squirrel to jump up to the heads, they grab a piece, break it off, and run up a tree with it.  Not only do you get to watch good interaction with wildlife, but the showy yellow flowers are nice to look at too.  Just another reason to plant them.
squirrels, sunflowers, gardening, nature
Squirrels really go for sunflowers!
I’ve also noticed a new bird I’ve never seen before.  This little guy will sit on the sunflower leaf and wait for a bug to come to the blossom, then, he’ll fly up and snatch it out of mid-air.  This bird is not afraid of me.  It will hop around, doing its thing with me standing within 6 or 8 feet of it.  I came home to look it up and found that it is called, a “Blue-gray Gnatcatcher”.  It’s smaller than a Wren.  It builds a little nest of mud and hops around eating bugs all day.  It’s not much bigger than a hummingbird and has big, round eyes that watch me everywhere I go.  Its heavy browline makes it look a little like Groucho Marks.
Blue-grey gnatcatcher<br /> Photo
Blue-grey gnatcatcher

To read more on the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, see: Blue-grey Gnatcatcher


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