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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – July 1

A customer came into the garden center today asking if we had a product that would keep bees off her plants. It seemed that she bought some flowering annuals at another garden center and after she planted these she found that bees were drawn to them. “I want to keep the bees off the plants,” she said.

This woman was worried because she had children and the kids might get stung. “Are they allergic to bee stings?” I asked. She answered that someone in the family had been stung in the past, and their skin had swelled. Well, I thought, just about everyone swells from bee stings, and they hurt like hell. That doesn’t make them life threatening.

We had no product to sell her, and she left after commenting that she might dig the plants up and return them to the garden center where she’d made the purchase.

This woman’s concern would be more understandable if one of her children had a history of sever allergic reactions to stings. (And by the way, most people don’t. Read a great summation of bee stings here.) But I couldn’t help but comment to a coworker that when I was young we were taught that bees might sting and we should give them a wide berth. When my kids were small I told them, “You leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.”

I don’t think we do anyone any favors by encouraging ourselves or our children to be more afraid of the natural world. We all need to be aware and cautious while remaining respectful and acknowledging that we share this world with other creatures, pleasures and dangers large and small.

Frankly, I can't imagine a garden without bees.

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