October is great for watching college football and baseball.
At my house, the month is great for watching bees, too. Bumblebees, stocky-looking guys with prominent yellow bands, are all over my marigolds.
I first noticed all the activity a couple of years ago. From mid-September into October, there would be bee conventions in my fields of bright reddish-orange and yellow flowers on every sunny day. “The bees, they are hungry now,” said my neighbor Dino, the street expert on nature and gardening.
I could watch these guys work all day. They are patient and persistent, landing on one flower and really digging deep for nectar — kind of like a college kid reaching into a cooler for that last Pabst Blue Ribbon. On some days, there have been 20 or 25 in the same small plot, each one just minding his own business.
I’m happy to help. Reading about the problem in the western honeybee bee nation these days — colony collapse disorder has thinned hives and resulted in crop pollination problems — I’m glad my marigolds are so popular. I grew a bunch of taller flowers this year, bachelor’s buttons and zinnias among them, but the bees really seem to go for the deep-color ‘golds.
In the past, I’ve described marigolds as the perfect bachelor flower. You harvest seeds from dried buds, toss them into the dirt the following spring, then water and wait for hearty blooms that keep going through late fall. Some people say the unique scent — lilacs and roses they are not — keeps away mosquitoes. Kind of wish they had the same effect on chipmunks.
Considering the bumbles’ positive endorsement, I’m thinking everyone should be growing marigolds. If someone knows of any other bee-friendly flowers, let me know!