Bee Safari in the Norquay Food Forest

What a beautiful day for a bee safari! When it rains the night before and then the sun comes out in the afternoon, the bees come out to work. This is a long-horned bee (Melissodes) which collects pollen on the hair on her hind legs and nests in the ground.

Before I headed to the Norquay Food Forest for our bee safari, I checked out the SPEC school garden at Norquay Elementary where the bees were having a party in the threadleaf coreopsis.

It's so lovely to see so many great bee plants thriving in these beds. You can see the coreopsis there with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) which is an awesome plant for butterflies and bees.

If you haven't been by the Norquay Food Forest, I highly recommend  stopping in to get some ideas for your own garden, school garden, or community garden.

We met some cute doggy friends, including burdock, who loves to eat radish flowers!

And here's sweet little Summer, who just loves being sweet.

The yarrow is blooming and this is where you'll be seeing the bees here. The crab spider knows this and is waiting for its weekend brunch. Bees are definitely on her menu!

Here's another bee predator: a small wasp called a bee wolf. There was also quite a few yellow jackets and bald faced hornets taking wood from the fence to make their paper nests.

But where are the bees? We found honeybees and bumblebees in the lavender, and they will soon be harvesting pollen from these lovely purple burdock flowers.

The thimbleberries were full of these funky pickles! They are actually made by thimbleberry gall wasps that lay their eggs inside the stems of these shrubs. The thimbleberries are ripe, but best leave them for the workers who keep the food forest looking shipshape! You can also see the scarlet bee balm in the back of the shot, which is another fantastic herb for bumblebees and hummingbirds. We watched a male hummingbird silently feeding on the long tubular blossoms.

On the way to the school, we stopped by a private front yard garden with leafcutter bees in the creeping bellflower. Look at her amazing jaws! These mandibles are used to cut out leaf pieces to use as nesting material. This is a very weedy flower, so I can't recommend putting it in your garden deliberately, but the bees do love it. It's a great plant for vacant lots and back alleys.

We arrived at the SPEC school garden at Norquay Elementary to be greated by many gorgeous bees! One of the best plants for bees is lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) You can see the deep purple pollen this yellow-faced bumblebee is carrying in her pollen baskets.


This patch of phacelia was buzzing with yellow-faced bumblebees! There must be a nest nearby.

Calenda and borage (aka bee porridge) are school garden essentials. They are so easy to grow from seed and the bees LOVE the flowers. Humans can also put the flowers in salads and teas.

Herbs and veggies with lacy umbels of flowers attract the tiny masked bees and small carpenter bees. Honeybees, flower flies and larger bees love them too!

Scarlet runner bean flowers feed hummingbirds and bumblebees. They also look so lovely and the beans are delicious!

One of the highlights of a bee safari is catching a glimpse of the lovely turquise sweat bee (Agapostemon). Look for small leafcutter bees in these coreopsis flowers as well. They were too fast and sneaky for me to get a photo.

Many thanks to everyone who came out to explore the bees in the hood! I feel very grateful to share these lovely creatures with other folks. Everyone has something to teach me about the human connection to bees, and it inspires me to see people's joy as they witness the beauty of these creatures.

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