Unseen most of its life, we seldom think of it or the service it does. My eyes have been watching it for you. That’s because its story will give you joy. You will be awed. Being awed is a joy for me. So, it must be for you. Don’t expect a large object. Its small. It is quick. In trying to photograph it my patience was tested every time. It’s not colorful either. Yet black fuzzy yellow with yellow pollen attached legs can be beautiful.
Yes, our subject is a bee.
What are your typical bee stereotypes? Perhaps your knowledge is based on the negative experiences you have had with a non-bee, the yellow jacket wasp. Worse, a yellow jacket has stung you. This is a bee, not a wasp. Look at the photo. There are no alternating black and yellow stripes on its abdomen.
It is small. For size perspective, it faces a 5/8 inch diameter garden hose.
This little ground bee can be your introduction to the concept that bees are not only good, they are amazing.
About bee stings. This bee and members of its colony have been active since late April. Be astonished, these small ground bees have their nests in front of the outside water spigots to our house. My wife and I use these spigots to water flowers, shrubs, and grass for the last 4 weeks. Each time we go to turn on the water spigot we step over, or on one or more of these bees’ nests. Guess how many times my wife and I have been stung? Zero. How many times has one of these bees buzzed around us for disturbing its nest? Zero. The day I forgot and covered the nests with a thin layer of landscape bark I was reminded the bees have their nests here when I returned and found 5 or 6 of them searching for their nest tube in the ground. I had covered them. Would you say I was stung that time? No.
More amazing. About 70 % of bee species nest underground like these do. These bees are expert at soil excavation. They tunnel into the soil and create a hard tube of small soil particles. Beneath the soil these tubes end in cells. The female ground bee brings pollen to the cell and shapes it into a ball. She lays one egg on the ball and closes the cell. The egg will hatch to feast on pollen before winter but spend winter in the cell as a prepupae. They freeze there and survive! Next spring it will emerge from the cell as an adult bee.
While many of the nest tubes are hidden, my estimate is between 30 and 40 tubes in a 2 foot by 3-foot area just below our outside water spigot. Many bees are using this area. We would like to add fresh landscape bark to the spot. We can wait till they finish nesting.
Have you thought about where the pollen comes from? Our yard has flowering crab apple trees, two fruit apple trees and a raspberry patch in our garden. We have a small native prairie garden. Two days ago, we planted a cherry tomato with blossoms already on it. These bees are doing us a great favor. They are making our food. As they gather pollen they pollinate the plants. Seeds and fruit result. They expect nothing but pollen to feed their larva. We get the best part of the bargain and we seldom if ever notice them.
Sometimes we mistake them for wasps and kill them. If they were human we could say all they ever are is gracious.
There is an even better greatest grace bargain. We get the best part. We do none of the work. The work of paying for our sin has been done for us. It was hard. It was agonizing and extremely painful. I don’t know the name of the little bees we’ve talked about. I do know the name of the One who paid for all our sins. His name is Jesus. While there were eyewitnesses to his crucifixion. You and I never saw it. To us His sacrifice was like that little bee-unseen. He is unseen, but on the throne of heaven today. His death for the sins of each person living and once living on the earth. He made the little bee I’ve shared with you.
Why did Jesus die? Love. God’s love. The Bible says it best. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 Jesus died for your sins and mine because God loves us, he graciously saves us. He made the beautiful ground bees to remind us his love has no limit and his power is everywhere present.