We can tell it is Spring when the pollinators make our Japanese maples and liquidambar trees thrum. Above our heads, the bees dance and knock the flower stems out of the trees. The sap drops on the deck. Our shoes pick up the stickiness and we make snapping noises as we walk.
The bees in our trees are not all honeybees. Some are smaller with straighter, hairless bodies. I've tried to identify them, but they are too high in the trees to photograph so they remain a mystery. Bees, flies, wasps -- any of these could be pollinating our trees. While trying to identify our pollinators, I've discovered that there are about 25,000 species of bees worldwide and they are endangered. I am just grateful when I hear them in our trees every Spring. They, like Spring green, are a sign of renewal and hope.
We have friends who are beekeepers. We have ventured close to the hives to watch in fascination as the bees squirm, shake and fly to flowers in the hills near Mt. Diablo. I have never seen a wild nest of a California native bee. Some live underground like bumblebees and miner bees, and others build hives in trees. I am still looking.
When I visited Shakespeare's home in Stratford-on-Avon, the bumblebees hovered over the alliums in the garden.
Spring also brings the Tiger Swallowtails back in the garden when the weather warms. Every year we have one or two that flit around the yard starting in early Spring and continuing through the Summer. They never seem to touch down, but float across the trees and flowers. They live about two weeks so we see the cycling of many generations during the warm months.
Bees and swallowtails are delights and remind me to take time to sit awhile and enjoy what nature brings before me.
In the process of trying to identify our yearly visitors to the garden, I've come across some helpful websites:
Two honey vendors who can be found in local farmers' markets:
http://therabeehoney.com (located in San Luis Obispo County)
http://stevesbees.org (located in the East Bay, San Francisco Bay area)
three sites with information about bees and butterflies:
and don't miss the Spring edition of Edible Marin and Wine Country, which has several articles about bees. http://ediblemarinandwinecountry.com
Other signs of Spring: we start cleaning -- decks, garage, offices. What do you do when Spring comes?