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Nature Mom: My Family and Beautiful Bees

Jonni, my husband, grew up in urban South Africa and moved to Toronto when he was 18. His relationship with nature is unique for someone from a big city. (His first summer here he scratched his head wondering why everyone was wearing shoes!)

The South African climate is spectacular all year round, so Jonni experienced most of his childhood outdoors raising silkworms, chasing chickens, looking for scorpions under rocks, and playing with his multiple pets – all of which lived OUTSIDE.

Jonni’s connection to nature is no more evident than in his relationship with bees, for which our kids benefit greatly. He taught them the most important pollinators of all only sting (not bite, for goodness sake!) when they are threatened or agitated.

If given the opportunity – like when a bee mistakenly enters our house – Jonni will calmly put his hand out and gently coax the bee to walk onto him. I always watch with one eye closed, the other partially open, waiting for disaster. But disaster never comes! He wanders outside, bee on hand, and turns the short-lived visit into a moment of inspiration and education. The kids come in close to count the bee’s stripes, check out its stinger at the back, make sure there are six legs, and “Oh! What’s that on the legs? Pollen!” When they’ve completed their bee examination and the bee is ready, it flies away.

As a result of Jonni’s ease and respect for bees, my kids are in awe of them. Bees often show up in drawings and the kids always draw our attention to them in the garden. I play my part by planting a variety of plants and flowers to keep the bees interested. Croci, salvia, and coneflowers are my kids’ favourites (and of course faves of our resident bees.)

Unfortunately, Jonni was not at home this week when a huge bumblebee found its way inside. (Note to self: plant more spring bulbs to keep the bees in the garden.) The kids didn’t get the “wow-factor” they would have with their father, but I safely captured the bee, carried it outside and let the kids get a good look at it. Not exactly the Bee Whisperer, am I, but at least my kids got a few seconds with this beautiful and important creature.

Don’t miss the opportunity for your own kids to get up close and personal with honeybees at “The Buzz on Bees ” on May 25 at the TBG, part of the City Critters Family Series.

David Suzuki offers a great read on bees and simple activities to make your family garden more bee-friendly. I love the idea of a “Bee Bath!” Find  it here.

Kids’ Garden Zone

As I mentioned last month, my kids and I are working on a “story garden” in their section of the garden. So far, we’ve placed logs (which I picked up at a firewood vendor) and the kids irresistibly climb from log to log. I’m waiting for the first tea party! As the spring garden chores decrease, we’ll have more time to really make this story garden something to talk about. Stay tuned!

PHOTO CREDIT: Jonni Super Photography / Hilary Bain

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