It's been a busy time for calls about bees, hummingbirds and rabbits. We may think our gardens are places to grow food and flowers, and develop a green mantle of a lawn, but to some wild animals gardens are home.

It’s been a busy time for calls about bees, hummingbirds and rabbits. We may think our gardens are places to grow food and flowers, and develop a green mantle of a lawn, but to some wild animals gardens are home.
Several recent calls centered around bumblebees stinging. Bumblebees, like many other pollinators, are at their peak population this time of year. Most bumblebee nests are in the ground and house 300-400 bees. Only the queen bumblebee makes it through winter so their canning supplies – honey – are only enough for one bee.
Bumblebees, like most bees, will sting if they feel threatened. Driving a lawn mower over their nest entrance qualifies to a bumblebee as a threat. On the other hand, bumblebees are wonderful pollinators, providing a bounty of green peppers and tomatoes.  If you don’t have them in your main traffic area, one option is to stay away from that area until a hard frost. It’s a small price to pay for their pollination services.
I also had a couple of calls about aggressive hummingbirds protecting sugar water feeders. Territorial hummingbirds make things easier for us in the Midwest by migrating end of September. These lovely tropical birds winter over in Central and South America so if they are eating you out of house and home, they will be gone in a couple of weeks.
A lady who had recently purchased a home with an established garden found a nest of three tiny rabbits. Actually her dog found the nest and brought her one of the baby rabbits, which later died.
Rabbits, like other wildlife, look for sources for food in our gardens, as well as nesting spots. The best outcome would have been to leave the babies in their nest and to somehow fence off the area from unwanted visitors.
In this particular situation, it was not possible to keep the dogs away from the nest and the homeowner didn’t know how to care for the babies. I took the tiny rabbits and left the new homeowner with a trap hoping she could catch mama. The plan was to reunite mama rabbit with her babies somewhere in my forest-surrounded garden but that was not successful.
The odds of these baby rabbits surviving are poor. Wild rabbits can literally die of fright. I feed them a milk substitute with a dropper 3 times a day and take them outside for a little time in the garden.  Evenings I place my hands over them to simulate mama rabbit visiting, which stimulates them wanting to eat.
So far, so good. The little white stripe on top of their heads has almost disappeared, which means they are moving into their next stage of growth. They have a good set of teeth and may soon start eating solid food.
Over the years, many wild rabbits have been released in my garden. One summer, my neighbor, Mr. McGregor – that really was his name – said he had counted 13 rabbits in his yard. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had released those little eating machines in the neighborhood but I was happy to learn so many of them had made it.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener, beekeeper and sometimes cook. Copyright 2016 used with permission, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com.