It’s got all the ingredients of a summer blockbuster: violence, pathos, beauty, love, and finally the triumph of good hard work. And where can you see this great show? At our house, in the lavender plant on the entry terrace. There’s more action in an hour there than there is at your Cineplex on any given evening.
First the beauty: the butterflies. They come in a series as summer progresses. Last week the pale greeny yellow ones that look like leaves were everywhere:
This week it is the swallowtails and the smaller white ones with dark wing smudges which travel in small herds:
Our friend Tay calls swallowtails the upside-down butterfly, because they really do look like they’re upside down when they’re perched on a flower. There are a host of other butterflies that come and go, from teeny little brownish ones to the lovely orange ones accented with circles.
Two weeks ago I saw one butterfly of a type I’ve never seen before, or since: small and cobalt blue. Then there are the not-quite-butterflies not-quite bugs, with their dramatic red, white or yellow spots, as well as the good old bugs.
The pathos and violence go hand in hand. There are nasty little beetles that hide deep inside some of the lavender flowers. When a careless bee sticks his head in to drink from that flower, the beetle kills him with a swift swipe of his serrated razor-like arm. We tried, but couldn’t get a picture of these little bastards. The poor dead bees just hang on the flower, giving every appearance of being drunk. But no, not drunk. Dead.
The triumph of good hard work? The bees, of course. There are more bees than you can shake a stick at. My favorites are the small fuzzy yellow bombers that never even bother to retract their proboscis as they move from flower to flower. They’re quick, and hard to catch with the camera.
Next in size is the medium-sized fuzzy orange drudge who methodically moves from flower to flower, taking his time but being thorough.
There are three very large bees, two with bright yellow stripes on their backs, and one who dresses entirely in black and refuses to be photographed.
Towards the end of the lavender’s bloom a bee that looks like a Mini Cooper with racing stripes arrives in great number.
Italian honey bees are reputed to have a gentle temperament and be excellent honey producers. I can’t vouch for the honey production because I haven’t found any, but the bees certainly are gentle. We brush by their lavender bush a dozen times a day, and while they buzz around and complain, neither of us has ever been stung.
There’s a downside to being so hospitable to the bees. Some of them nest in the ground, and we have a resident badger. In his efforts to find bee grubs to eat he has dug numerous holes under our trees, especially the olive trees.
The odd thing is there is never enough dirt left outside the hole to fill it in completely again. Where does he take the excess dirt, and what does he do with it?
You’re wondering about the love part of the equation? It’s just that I love to watch the action around the lavender bush. If you’ve got one, sit down sometime and watch it for an hour; it’s worth way more than the price of admission.