Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Is Icumen In

So, a week ago today I saw the first bumblebee of the season. I also learned something I didn't know before: bumblebees don't run. I know, because now I've seen one try, and they're just not built for it.
I disturbed this one when sweeping the balcony, and rather than just take off it made what it thought was a running dash to the edge of the balcony, from which it jumped off and flew away. Except that instead of actually running, it made a number of determined short spurts, each only slightly faster than its normal walk. I'm sure it thought it was running, but the best it could manage was a sort of intermittent power walk.
Still, it's good to see that the bumblebees are back and that Colony Collapse Disorder hasn't spread beyond the honeybees. Yet.

Also that same day, I saw this year's first yellow jacket -- a slender little thing, I think newly hatched. She went about her business and I went about mine, but later that day I saw another, larger, unusual looking yellow jacket that was in some sort of distress (lying upside down in the asphalt waving its legs in the air). I helped it get righted, but it soon fell over again (always a bad sign), so I helped it onto some flowers and left it. Don't know much about yellow jackets, but I wondered if it might be a drone discarded after the flight of the queen. Which of course reminded me of Dunsany's play of the same name (one of his worst, unfortunately).

Seeing both the bumblebee and the two yellow jackets in the same day reminded me of my learning last year, to my surprise, that bees were originally wasps who at some point adapted to a vegetarian lifestyle. Now when I see bumblebees I think of them as saying "dude" a lot as they exchange news about especially good stashes of pollen. Or perhaps that's just me.

Curious observation of the day: the hummingbirds had to compete not just with each other but with the last few desperate yellow jackets at the end of last year for the nectar in the hummingbird feeder, but I never saw any honeybee, bumblebee, or butterfly attracted to it. I didn't have the bee-guard on, so don't know why. Wondering if the same pattern will hold this year. We'll see.


Current reading: THE FRODO FRANCHISE by Kristin Thompson.

1 comment:

SESchend said...


Your take on bumblebees is singular, exemplary, and hilarious all in one.

You are still the most British and most professorial of all my American friends, sirrah.

Consider me jealous to not have your turns of mind.

who has to get back to his galley proofs of his next short story for THE DIMENSION NEXT DOOR for this July