Today I watched a bee die. It was on the lawn by my feet, and at first I thought it had made a false landing, deceived by the elder flowers littering the ground. But it was climbing up a blade of grass, then falling back again. Turning round, turning again, climbing again, falling again, righting itself, settling its wings… The wings looked OK, but the bee could not use them to lift itself out of the grass. It was carrying no pollen, nothing to lift but itself.
Just this morning we’d been celebrating the hundreds of bees busy in the kiwifruit vine. It’s one of those grape-sized kiwifruit, which produces practically nothing in fruit, but has been spared the axe for its shade and perfume, and its blessing to, and of, bees.
The perfume is strongest in the morning, and as we had breakfast under it, the bee-sound was as loud and constant as a tap running. Of course, we’re in a Swiss early summer, not a New Zealand winter.
The bees here have already done their work in the cherry trees, the apples and pears and plums. The linden trees will be the next great gathering.
And meantime the paddocks and roadside flowers and grasses are not cut back until after they’ve flowered and provided their pollens.
Lying in the deck chairs under the elder tree, we’ve become resigned to the sticky drippings from the aphids infecting its new growth.
Blasting them with the hose in lieu of reaching for the bug-spray is only a very temporary solution, but the spray would be a final solution for visiting bees – so we get sticky with virtue.
Hornets – now protected for their wasp-killing virtues – seem also to be beneficiaries. They look as if they’re feeding on the aphid-drippings.
I watched the bee die. It took a long time, but it seemed as if it should be observed.
Bees have been turning up a lot in my reading and thinking lately – yes, bees in my bonnet! If reading about colony collapse, and climate change threats to bees hasn’t yet got your mind buzzing (forgive that!) try reading Maja Lunde’s novel “The History of Bees”, and what happens in a post-bee world. So I’m quietly cheering about small steps, like friend John’s beehives in our allotment gardens in Kapiti, and larger, like the proposal for hives in Christchurch’s red-zoned land, and commercial, like large-scale Manuka plantations.
This morning under the bee-loud kiwi-fruit vine, it seemed as if all was right with the world.
And then I watched a bee die.