Searching for the Source of Sweetness

I wore down a path between gardens today as I traipsed from one to the next and back again. But if air space is anything like lawn space, then those who visit the garden via flight have created their own well-worn passageways as they also search.

w-post face scrub

My mission was to see the hummingbird again. But, this little guy, no longer than a half inch, stood atop a false dragonhead yet to bloom and waited to be noticed.

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He even took the time to scrub his face as I watched.

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Continuing my wander, I stopped by the daylilies and made a discovery. We’ve lived in this house for more than two decades and I never realized until today that we have some double daylilies. The previous owners had green thumbs and we’ve benefited from the fruits of their labor. But how had I missed this before? I know we have double daffodils, but loved my new find. Especially as this past weekend, my friend Beth invited us to her hundred acre wood and her mom showed us their daylily gardens. Beth’s mom, Mary, talked about hybridizing the lilies and so she’ll know best about this.

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When I revisited the flowers later in the day, the sun shone brilliantly on them, enhancing their orangeness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I think has happened is that the petal formed along the stamen and imbedded the anther, thus it looks like a petal with grains of pollen. Crazy cool. And beautiful. And yummy.


That wasn’t the only shade of orange worth wondering about. And it was no mistake the this fritillary butterfly chose the beebalm on which to land.

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Check out its mouth. A butterfly feeds through a coiled mouth part called a proboscis. When not in use, the proboscis recoils and is tucked into position against the butterfly’s head.

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Since the proboscis is narrow and straw-like, it allows the fritillary to extract sweet nectar from tubular-shaped flowers. Suck away, dear fritillary.

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The fritillary wasn’t the only beebalm visitor with a coiled proboscis.

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I actually heard it before I looked up and saw this moth. It sounded like a hummingbird and flapped its wings as fast or nearly as fast as a hummingbird and shared the name hummingbird. This is a hummingbird moth.

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Notice how the proboscis begins to unfurl as it approaches the flower.

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While it hovers, it probes.

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Searching deep for the source of sweetness, where others can’t reach.

The Need for More

Yesterday I stopped into our local independent bookstore, Bridgton Books, to purchase a title recommended to me by a friend (thanks D.B.), H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. While there, Pam, one of the proprietors, showed me Reading Rural Landscapes by Robert Sanford because she thought I’d be interested. Of course I was, and so for all of two seconds I debated about which to buy and guess what–I’m now the proud owner of both titles. I had earned a $10 credit (for every $100 spent, you receive $10 off if you belong to their book club and there is no book club fee–truly independent).

At camp, I was also reading another book (purchased at Bridgton Books a year or two ago). Well, actually rereading it because I like the author’s style/voice and maybe just a wee bit because she’s an Episcopalian. And she lives in Alaska–another draw for me. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from small-town Alaska by Heather Lende.

3 books

Both last evening and this morning, I read from all three. Not simultaneously, of course. It’s always been that way for me. Skipping from one topic to the next. Easily bored? I don’t think so because being bored is not part of my makeup. More like an insatiable need to know more.

The bees and wasps and flies and ants and hummingbirds have the same insatiable need right now, as they flit and walk and crawl from one plant to the next, sucking nectar and exchanging pollen along the way.


This busy bee was well-laden with pollen. Its bright orange sacs bulge on its hind legs like a kid wearing arm floaties in the water.

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Every time a bee visits flowers, the pollen sticks to its fuzzy body–its antennae, legs, face and body. Think pollen magnet!

The middle legs are equipped with comb-like hairs that scrape off the pollen and transfer it to the pollen presses located on the hind legs.

bee 3

Like our calves, the bee’s legs have a tibia or lower leg section. The tibia is shiny and surrounded by hairs, including some that are rather long and stiff. These form the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia  is another comb-like structure (ankle), and on the metatarsus (heel or foot) is the press. When it comes to pollen collection, the two structures work together like levers.

Nectar moistens the pollen, making it sticky. The pollen is transferred to the press, and then is manipulated between the press and comb until it sits flat on the bottom of the tibia. Each time a new batch of pollen is added, it’s pressed onto the bottom, forcing the pervious batches to move further up the tibia.  A full basket (think one million grains of pollen) bulges, but hairs hold the pollen in place as the bee flies from one plant to another before heading home to stock the nest.

beefly on goldenrod

It’s not just hairy bees who are active in the gardens.

large blue wasp

Gathering for the family is important business.

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Thanks to the goldenrods and asters, there’s plenty of pollen and nectar still to be gathered.


The mint seems to be the biggest hit among the variety.

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And there is other action as well. A funnel weaver tried to challenge the larger spider, but quickly retreated.

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Whenever I take a closer look at the crawling and flying members of the gardens, I’m in awe of their colors, patterns, hair or lack of, and overall body structure.


You may have to look closer to find the visitor on this coneflower.

red legged grasshopper

This red-legged grasshopper tried to make itself invisible.

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The camouflage worked better once it climbed to the top of the fence. When grasshoppers fly, I can hear their wings make a rasping sound. But moving as this one was, there wasn’t a peep. The crickets and cicadas, however, I couldn’t see, but they’ve been contributing to a chorus all day.

hummer approaching

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And then there is the hummingbird–ever swift and beautiful with its iridescent colors. Whether it is dining on nectar or insects attracted to the nectar, I don’t know, but it always returns, seeking more.

We all have the need for more. The frightening thing is that oftentimes we take more than we need. For the sake of the birds and insects, we need to think about that and how we might change our ways.