The skunk, the honeybee and the hole in our staircase

The sometimes ruthless cycle of nature plays out in Jacqueline Bell-Irving’s backyard

One of the pleasures of living on Bowen is enjoying the creatures that visit our garden. Just recently however a tragic incident occurred.  

Over the years we have had all sorts of birds and animals stopping by. Some for a very short visit others for years. 

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There was the time we had a small herd of deer, a large male and his three lady friends lounging on the grass for a few days because there was a large hole in the garden fence. Another time there were strange fish heads that kept appearing by the water bucket in the back garden. We eventually discovered that an eagle was either washing his salmon dinner or just leaving us the unwanted fish heads. Then there was the time I bumped into a huge otter running around our garden. I’m not sure who was more frightened. His real aim we believe was our next-door neighbour’s fish pond, which has been cleaned out more than once. There was the heron that used to sit either in one of our front garden trees or on the house roof waiting for the opportunity to again fish in our neighbour’s fish pond. It’s been restocked yet again but now has a protective covering.  

For years we have had feral cats living in our home and another living only in the garden. One evening a few years ago, we came home to find a skunk sitting on the front steps along with two of the cats munching down on some of the outdoor cat’s dry food. They all seem quite happy to share and be together; we have never had any spraying by the skunk. He returns every year as he’s found a nice dry space to call his own in our garden. Unfortunately, he is, we believe the culprit that has caused havoc in the front garden. All summer we have enjoyed watching a colony of honeybees. They found a home under some old dilapidated wooden stairs in the front garden. Watching them flit from flower to flower and fly back to their little home was fascinating. They loved the lavender, clematis and roses and worked hard all day long gathering nectar. 

Recently, we were having an Autumn clean-up and passed by the old wooden stairs to find a huge hole in place of the tiny one that the bees used as their front door. There on the ground were the remnants of the little honeycombs that had been devoured, we are assuming, by the skunk!

We don’t know much about bees except that they love the white flowers on our holly tree in spring and we have often stood underneath it over the years listening to their wonderful cacophony as they buzz from flower to flower for days. We have always had little honeybees in our garden but this year they stayed, made a home and gave us even more pleasure. We are saddened at the destruction but are not sure what we could have done to prevent the outcome. We are just hoping we will have more honeybees returning to our garden next spring.

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