Spring is in the air, or rather, it was on my front porch. It wasn't looking good either. We'd had a few mild days of 60 degree weather, and it brought out not only the song birds, but also, of course, the bees. Only the one on my front porch wasn't buzzing about. It was laying on its back, legs skyward.
Perhaps it's all the time I spend anthropomorphizing everything from the lowly squid to the mighty whale, but I couldn't leave the little guy just laying there. I brought him into the house in a little tupperware container, hoping warmer temperatures might thaw him out.
It turned into quite an adventure. The bumble did thaw, and started buzzing. I was trying to write. He was trying to get away. I put a lid on the container, very lightly. Then I checked the temps. Still in the 20s. Not good for bumbles. But what was I to do with him?
I did the only thing I could think of. Cut a few early pansies, hoping there was some nectar in there, put them in the container, and then went on-line, researching bumblebess in Oklahoma.
Turns out, my little man was likely the queen bee. They are pretty much the only bumblebees that survive long enough, hibernating over winter, to lay eggs and begin a new colony before they die.
That ratcheted things up a notch.
Like a brooding mother hen, I checked the temps all day long, until we finally hit the 50s. Then, I took the - probably very pregnant with eggs - bumblebee outside in her little tupperware castle. I put it in a flower pot, sunken a little below the dirt, in a wind-free corner of the front porch, directly in the sun.
She didn't move. Still, I was hoping the sun would help. I went out to check on her regularly. When it hit 60, I went out again. She was gone. And I hope all went well. I haven't seen any bumbles since.
My visitor got me to thinking about the lowly bee. I did some more research online and what I found is pretty unnerving. Bees are dying by the millions. There are two forces at work, a little mite that's wiping out hives and Colony Collapse Disorder. The mite arrived in the late 80s via China, and is difficult to impossible to keep under control. If that's not bad enough, there's the Colony Collapse Disorder. It's not a disease, at least not as far as anyone has been able to tell. Basically what happens is that the adult bees leave the hive and never return. It's dessimated bee populations across the U.S., sometimes up to 90%. But in all that, we are at work too. Bees are trucked across the U.S. every year for pollinating almond crops, and crops in general. As the market demands have grown, so have the bees' pollinating jobs. It's not good on them. They are moved from crop to crop to crop, along with other bees, are exposed to all kinds of illnesses and, ultimately, overworked. Seinfeld really hit the nail on the head in "Bee Movie" when he said they need a vacation, but that might not be all.
Here's a shout out to the lonely bee. He's the hardest worker there is. Maybe, in need of a long break from us.
On a lighter note, Gabe's Meanderings did an amazing interview with me about Dragon Wishes. Pop by and take a gander. She made me sound so together, and high-functioning. I may have to beg her to become my publicist!!
Valensteins: Ethan Long
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