Saving a Bee

In the Spring, when it is just warm enough for bees to be flying, the water in the large dish I leave out for them is cold. Bees can keep warm enough flying, but if they fall in and get soaked, they will quickly chill and soon die. But I have found that if I lift a bee from the water, even a bee that seems quite dead, and warm it in the palm of my hand, perhaps blowing gently into my cupped hand, in a few seconds she will stir, and in a few minutes she will stand and dry her wings and groom herself, and then, in her own good time, fly off. How pointless to save an individual bee! She is like a single cell of the organism, her colony. Bees die by hundreds every day. I kill a few by accident every time I work in a hive. And yet, in my sentimental way, I like to think of giving that bee some more time. It warms my heart.

Winking Out

On a sunny day in my bee yard, I like to watch the activity of the bees at the entrances to the hives. The bees have tasks—to guard the entrance, to ventilate the hive, to deliver pollen or nectar, to rest in the sun, or to depart on a foraging trip. Some departing bees take off straightforwardly as soon as they emerge from the hive; others walk some distance up the front of the hive and then launch themselves into the air, like scuba divers tumbling from their boat. Each bee makes an irregular spiral in front of the hive; then straightens, outward. The flight path curves slightly right and left, but the direction is clear. I watch an individual bee as she zooms off, a diminishing dot against the blue sky. Then, in an instant, as if with a snap, the bee winks out—disappears; she has suddenly become too small for my eyes to distinguish. She seems to be gone, but I know that she is still there, on her way somewhere.