Fading into the Soft White

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Honeybees congregate on our floating row covers to die. Every day, two, three, four or five will choose to land one last time on this billowing white fabric that covers one of our garden beds. There they will cling while their strength wanes, until they fall off to be lost in the mulch.

I know worker bees don’t live very long. They work so hard that by the end of their lives, their wings hang in shreds. Their little bodies just give out. And I know that I should not think of them as individuals, but as expression of the will of the Hive. Still, there’s something melancholy about the way they ride these white waves. Perhaps their fading senses lead them to the brightest place they can find.

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11 Comments

  1. there is something melancholy about it to be sure! I just found a little pile of bees frozen in the snow around the entrance to their hive. i really don’t want to get overly attached to them–given the numbers of deaths you see–but it’s hard! i’m glad i’m not the only one who feels sort of bad about it.

  2. Edwina: Those little bees outside the hive probably died in the hive, and their bodies were dragged out by the cleaning crews. Most hives retract in size during the winter. The drones are kicked out, and workers who die are not replaced.

  3. As a transplant to Oregon, I’ve learned that this state doesn’t have too many bugs (especially in comparison to Florida!), but it does have a lot of spiders, which tend to set up shop in the garden. They spin their webs between the tomatoes and stakes, of between the taller plants. Unless I’m harvesting, in which case I gently destroy the web with a length of bamboo so that the spiders can scramble to safety and I don’t get a faceful of web, I tend to leave them there to do their jobs. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them catch one of the darn cabbage butterflies, but they do catch a honey bee occasionally, and every time I see one of the sisters hanging dead in a web it makes me very sad. It’s all part of the great web of life, but knowing that doesn’t seem to help on an emotional level. I’ll try to remember this post when that happens.

  4. Paula: That reminds me of something that happened around here recently: I was chasing a confused bee around our living room with a cup, trying to do a catch and release. It was nighttime, and the bee was attracted to the house lights. She bopped hard on the lampshade of a standing lamp and fell to the ground. As I knelt to capture her, a friggin’ HUGE black widow darted out from under the lamp base like a movie monster–moving incredibly fast. In a blink it was almost on the bee. Without thinking too much, I clapped the cup over the bee, foiling the widow, but getting my fingers within an inch of her. That is how automatic my protective impulses are toward the bees.

    The spider, thankfully, was shy rather than vengeful and retreated under the lamp base. I released the bee outside, and then, caring not-so-much about the web of life at that moment, got out the vacuum and went after the spider.

  5. Oh my gosh, thanks a lot for making me suddenly start sobbing! That is one of saddest things I have ever read (about insects) and it really got to me. Must get self under control! I think perhaps I am reading waaaay too much into this and seeing too many human parallels, as I really cannot stop crying now. Geez.

  6. Sorry, Anon! I didn’t mean to make you cry. Though the bees do make me melancholy, too. I think that post has something of the spirit of the season in it, the end of the year, the (seeming) dying of the land, memories of those we’ve lost coming forward with the holidays. It’s just the time of the year to think these thoughts, I guess. Look for things which balance it out. I find kittens work admirably well.

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