Designing around daughter's fear of bees

katybird_PA(z6 PA)May 29, 2002

Inspite of my coaching that the bees are more interested in the flower than her, my 7 year old continues to be very frightened of bees. I am trying to design a play garden for her and her 3 year old brother. I would like to keep out of it anything that will draw lots of bees (not looking to eliminate them).

The play garden is in the back corner of our property. It is roughly square and is only open to the rest of the yard on one side. One side has our shed the other backs the neighbors yard and has two large shasta viburnums and a clump of trees, and the third side drops off to a bank for a drainage culvert (never much water there).

I am trying to tame the weeds along the bank and am building a berm btw the bank and the garden to try to keep balls etc from rolling off the edge.

Most of the play garden will be dedicated to play. Right now the entire area is just mulched. Plan to put in a sandbox, a wooden platform (use to be part of grandma's front porch) which my son thinks is a stage. I want to paint a sunflower mural on the side of the shed. Most of the gardening will need to be done in raised beds or pots as the area is basically fill. Hopefully this will minimize damage from plants being stepped on!

Many of the plants I was thinking to include as a means of attracting butterflies or hummers will probably bring bees as well, right? I have a honeysuckle vine "John Clayton" that I would like to include. My daughter has asked for morning glory and Clematis and rosebud impatiens. I found a couple perennial money plants. I am considering a trumpet vine to grow up the clump of trees. I am afraid I am being overly ambitious given the area is in part shade.

Any feedback on what will do well in part shade and not attract bees would be appreciated as would any ideas of what might grow in the rough stuff on the bank and outside the beds.

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I would say to aim for things that have dbl blooms since it will be hard for bees and things to get to the nectar inside. Basically, anything that flowers will attract bees and bugs though. You could try to find plants with great textures and colors & shapes w/o flowers... like non-blooming lamb's ear, mints (cut before flowering), ect... Any chance you can teach her the difference b/n bees and hornets since they act differently and she may learn to like bees, or goto a honey bee farm?


    Bookmark   June 3, 2002 at 12:03PM
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katybird_PA(z6 PA)

She is getting better, but still gets very nervous with plants that are humming with bees like my salvia. We have some nasty little wasps around this spring and she seems to be distinguishing them from the bees. I told her that when it gets cool in the evening you can even carefully pet the bumble bees and that seemed to make her less afraid of them.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2002 at 8:58AM
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if you don't mind killing one, you could catch one with a jar and put a little alcohol in it to kill it quickly. Then she could examine one close up without fear of being stung. Learn some of the parts of it and point them out to her, and what they are used for. Maybe by learning more about them, she will lose her fear.

There are also "mason bees" that you can buy. They live in blocks that hang on your house. These are friendly, stingless bees. You can pet them even in the middle of the day.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2002 at 7:43PM
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My daughter was afraid of bees too, until we had the *bee* talk. Now she's not afraid of them. I know every child is different, so I can only share what worked with mine...

Rather then concentrate on bees like flowers, I went the reverse angle.

*Flowers like Bees* as the theme.

Now don't laugh at me, but we animate in this household. LOL

I use two objects as the example as flowers. I then made little arm flaps like a bee.. and buzzz sounds,,

The flowers can't make more flowers without the bees. The bee has to get little flower pollen on his legs and carry it to another flower. Then the flower can make more flowers.

No bees, they can't make any more flowers.

Now she loves bees.

And yes, at just turned four she understood this. I think they understand more then we realize sometimes. LOL

Wasn't over her head at all :) And knock on wood,, it worked.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2002 at 4:53PM
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Doris_J(Z8 WA)

My three year old has the same fear, but she's starting to get a little better. Don't worry, Mom. I also had a horrible fear of bees to the point of not wanting to go outside when I was a kid, but once I became intested in flowers, the fear started to subside. Now I can be right in the middle of a garden bed with bees buzzing all around me. It helps, too, to learn the difference between the bees (which ones are honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, yellowjackets, etc).

    Bookmark   August 11, 2002 at 12:10AM
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nature_girl(z7 LI,NY)

I'm in the same boat over here! My 2 little ones (4 & 16 mos) got stung a few weeks ago & my 4 year old is terrified of going outside.

What about a shade garden? I find that most of the bees like to be in the sun.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2002 at 9:27AM
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Katybird, we have a fruit farm. When a huge block of something is in bloom, you can hear the sound of bees. You can watch them, inches from your face. They ignore people completely. They are all calmly going about their jobs. It is amazing to see the bees of all kinds "at work". I think if you could visit a farm or orchard, when things are in bloom, it would help. The children could see that the bees of all kinds are simply getting pollen, not out to "get" children. you could explain that wasps may have a different personality, so that they would know the difference. Lotta

    Bookmark   October 11, 2002 at 12:49AM
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Nobody brought this up, and I recommend this to my customers who are afraid of bees. Plant the things that flower before the bees are active. I believe that they are not active until 50 degrees, so early spring flowering shrubs will bloom before the temps are right.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2002 at 12:23PM
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mycarbumps(Zone 6b E.TN)

i am 17 now but when i was young i was deathly afraid of bees, being exposed to them is what got me over my fear, im not trying to lecture you about parenting but if you shelter your daughter from bees when shes young what will she do when she is older and you arent there to protect her? thats just my $.02 ~Ryan

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 8:42AM
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Hi Katybird, How did your garden grow this summer?

If you're not finished planting and have partial shade, I would suggest hostas in different leaf textures/color. Coleus grow well and provide glorious color without flowers, and at the end of the season they can be cut and brought inside to grow.

My daylilies have a short bloom season but don't seem too attractive to bees and the foliage looks nice aftewards. I like Lemon Balm because the leaves smell lemony when you touch them. Other "smelly" herbs might be appropriate, too.

Look for other variegated non-solid-green perennials at the nursery in a variety of foliage shapes. I like lambs ears, because they are soft and fuzzy and a pretty color. Even if you grow the flowering kind (which bees here LOVE) you can cut the flower heads when they appear.

Bulbs like tulips and jonquils and hyacinth seem to bloom early before the bees appear here.

Start leaving gardening books with lots of pretty pictures laying around the house for your daughter to browse through... maybe she'll be come a garden addict and just HAVE to have something, even at the risk of bees!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2002 at 12:32PM
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andalee(Z6a, N ID)

I was like your daughter when I was small. I stepped on a bee once, and my cousin and aunt were attacked by some very aggressive German bees that lived on our family farm. It wasn't until just a few years ago, when I really began wanting a garden, that I realized that I wasn't going to be able to keep bees and other buzzing things that sting away. So, I decided that unless I could go without a garden and beautiful flowering things, I would just have to learn to get along with them.

Once I began to take an interest, and stopped freaking out whenever I heard a buzz, the bees (and even the wasps and such) stopped paying attention to me. Bees are very sensitive to fear, and when they sense it, they get nervous and trigger happy. Granted, the yellow jackets are still nosy and annoying, but traps can keep them down, and if I don't have meat or sugary things exposed outside they pretty much stay away.

I remember wandering around my MIL's garden, and seeing the few different species of bees that busied themselves amongst all of her flowering wonders. That's when I realized that the bees weren't interested in me. I've also learned a lot about bees, watched them all carefully on my yellow yarrow, and just learned to wonder at them. Speaking of the yarrow, talk about a wonderful place to watch beneficials at work!!! It was like grand central station, with tons of different species. Maybe you should plant something with tiny blossoms so your daughter can watch the different beneficials at work.

Anyway, I don't know if this will help your daughter or not, but I thought I'd share my experience.

Oh, and one more thing--if she wants honeysuckle, it'll be positively swarming with bees. They love that stuff.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2003 at 2:00PM
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Ornamental grasses are wind pollinated and hence not attractive to bees. I suggest Pennisetum alopecuroides cultivars Hameln (knee high) or Little Bunny (just above ankle). They have feathery spikes as flowers that are nice to touch. It provides the lesson that some plants do not rely on insect but wind to do the pollinating.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2003 at 9:47PM
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katybird_PA(z6 PA)

Thanks for all your input. Her garden was pretty sad this summer with all the pitiful drought stricken annuals, but the experience was good. She particularly enjoyed her morning glories. She is much more invested this year in helping to plan her garden and has enjoyed looking through the garden catalogs (though she has some pretty expensive tastes).
One of my beds last year became somewhat of a butterfly haven and she enjoyed watching them. She wants plants that will attract butterflies to her garden too. I have explained that bees and butterflies tend to like the same flowers & although she would rather avoid the bees she seems willing to accept them as a by product of attracting butterflies. There may be hope yet!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2003 at 12:22PM
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