Face Off Behind Joe’s Pond

The schedule I had for today was light. I didn’t make a to-do list and decided I’d make a day out of it anyway. The only thing I had after waking up was to deliver a package to the UPS store. After a very leisurely breakfast and after reading the final page of a book titled “First Steps, How Upright Walking Made Us Human”. It was time to attach a shipping label to the homemade box that contained my grandson’s old skate board and to drop it off at UPS. With that singular chore completed I decided to attack the overly grown stems of the shrubs behind Joe’s Pond. Every time I walked on that path the spindly stems swatted me in the face. The path is not intended to be a unwholesome activity. It is meant to give the guest another perspective of the pond and its surrounding habitat. Instead it has become a face slapping arm waving experience. Not to mention the many mosquitoes that are awakened at the scent of warm blood moving through their homeland.

I’ll give myself thirty minutes to cut this path free and that is it, I said to myself as I gloved up and lifted my lopper from its cradle on the garage wall. Oh, I’ll take the hand clipper and a kneeling pad too, and so I treked into the garden behind the house to perform the surgery necessary to make it enjoyable again. I stopped about twenty feet short of the target. There are some plants here that I’ve been hating all summer, I’ll just pull those out before getting started on the simple mission. Down on my knees I went to begin yanking the flowers that were weeds. Then there was the unwanted grass that crept beyond the stone border and invaded the perennial bed engulfing the lonely rose bush. I had a pile of detritus within a few minutes and needed to dispose of it. A short trip to the side of the house to pull the yard waste container into service was necessary. Then I headed for the mission target. Instead, I wound up along the stone border again extracting the weeds behind the marigolds. These ugly plants gave the garden a ratty look so I redirected to this target instead.

Eventually, I arrived at the path behind the pond to cut the unwieldy shrubs that impede an enjoyable stroll. Except, there happened to be a huge amount of the same weed that invaded the part of the garden I just finished weeding. This obnoxious plant was making the backside of the pond look horrendous. How can a person enjoy taking this path when all these invasive waist high critters blocked the view of my orderly perennials? They surrounded the boxwood and the Juniper tree behind the waterfall. “Go for it Joe,” the little voice inside my head shouted. I did go for it, and was doing a bang up job too. Then out of somewhere came this damned bumble bee the size of a golf ball whizzing around my head. Like a novice, I began swatting it away from my head. Anyone who gardens knows that bees don’t like to be disturbed, and if they are, they certainly don’t like it when the one disturbing them begins swinging wildly with a vengeance. I made a direct hit and knocked him to the ground. His response was one of immediate recovery and he flew up straight for my face. Again, I swung at him and pushed him away but now he was really mad. He landed on my arm just above my glove and I swished him off, but not before he gave me a stinging sensation that hurt like hell, and felt like fire. Finally, my senses returned and I ran away. He chased me for a short distance and then disappeared.

Now what do I do? I was rubbing my arm at the site of the sting hoping the hurt would go away, it didn’t. I opted to go back to the garage and to retrieve my lawn rake. I thought if I stretched and raked the pile of weeds away from the Juniper I could gently continue my task of clearing the path. Before I could retract the rake he was after me again. That’s not going to work at all I said to myself. We humans have a very large brain and it was time to put it to use. After all the brain of the bumble bee has to be the size of a grain of salt. It was just a nano second before I concluded that I would attack the path from the opposite end and work my way back toward the Bumble Bee residence. The final pile of weeds lay on the path next to the Juniper. I stretched the rake toward it hoping I could finish the job and go in for lunch. Just as I began retracting the rake he appeared again from under the Juniper and was buzzing around the rake. He hadn’t figured out where I was, so thankfully I was safe for the moment. I dropped the rake and will complete the job tomorrow.

Illinois Natural History Survey entomologist Tommy McElrath points out features of a female bumblebee captured at Trelease Prairie. The hind legs of the bumblebee sport bulging stores of yellowy orange pollen.

The half hour job took two hours by the time I faced off with the bumble bee and finished lopping off the spindly long branches that caused my unhappiness. At least thirty minutes were spent cleaning up the mess I made except for the tidy pile behind the Juniper shrub where Mr. Bumble Bee resides.

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