The Whimsical Wait for a Colorful Spring

Today is a whimsical day. Looking out at the rare Georgia snow, I am ready for the mellow days of Spring. My sweatpants are neon zebra-striped fuzzies in lime green, hot pink, lemon yellow, royal blue, black, white, and psychedelic purple. My slipper socks are pink with big white polka dots. And the sweatshirt has bumblebees and flowers and says, “Bee Joyful!”

Spring is the season when you look for the birds and bees to come calling, such as the zippy little zebra finch with its grey-and-white striped head, bright orange or red beak, polka dotted wings, and white underbelly.

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  • Zebra finches are songbirds which we won’t likely see flying the skies of Georgia, but we will be blessed by his cousin, the American goldfinch, a canary yellow bird with black-and-white striped wings.

    Our backyard is a songbird habitat, full of bird-friendly plants such as the wild sunflower, which the goldfinches like to rest in. Their preferred environment is an open area where weeds thrive, and we’ve cultivated quite a few flowering weeds including wild phlox, wild bee balm, and jewelweed which the hummingbirds love.

    Goldfinches blend right in with the wild sunflower weed, which doesn’t look anything like a sunflower except to have quarter-sized, bright yellow flowers. It actually looks like a bush when several are allowed to grow wild in a clump.

    Another colorful bird is the polka dot woodpecker whose claim to fame is, you guessed it, having a polka dotted underbelly. Technically he’s not really called a polka dot woodpecker, but rather a northern flicker aka Colaptes auratus. He is a woodpecker, however, and some varieties sport pumpkin orange or mustard yellow underwings, and tail feathers tipped with black.

    To round out the spunky Spring attire is the Bee Joyful sweatshirt, and what could be more joyful than a bee that doesn’t sting? The Bugonia Myth brings us one such bee, in the form of a tame bee born out of the dead carcass of an ox. They were literally called ox-born bees in the days of yore, and Roman emperor Heliogabalus used them to play practical jokes on his cronies.

    The emperor would fill a vessel with these “tame bees” and send it to someone, who upon opening it would panic when a buzzing bevy of frustrated bees swarmed out.

    The tame bees really weren’t bees at all, however. They were drone flies or hoverflies scientifically known as Eristalis tenax, and they looked just like little honey bees. Bugonia, by the way, is Greek for “ox progeny” — hence calling it the Bugonia Myth or Bugonia Superstition.

    There are genuine bees that cannot sting, such as the male carpenter bee, but few people would call him tame when he divebombs you or buzzes right up to your face to warn you away from a nest. The aggressive stance is mostly just bluster, and the only real harm the carpenter bee causes is to bore holes in wood.

    So what is your whimsy as you wait for Spring, with its birds and bees and budding trees?

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