I Heard a Bee Buzz When She Died

I just found a honey bee in the trough of my sliding glass door, buzzing for all it was worth. I completely forget why I went into the kitchen now, but the sound of her wings drew my attention. The screen door was shut, and I worried that it had a hole somewhere. I love honey bees, so my first thought was to rescue her and return her to the outdoors, where she could work on pollinating my tomato plant for me (I say that because two years ago I bought two tomato plants that put out glorious yellow blossoms all summer long--and no one came to pollinate them. How terrifying!)

Alas, the bee seemed in distress. I offered her the flat edge of the flyswatter, but she wouldn't cling to it. I offered her the thin metal handle next, but her flailings seemed so desperate that I wonder if she knew it was there. Maybe, I thought, she was just dying at the end of her life cycle.

But, disturbingly, she looked like she was in absolute, overwhelming agony. It reminded me of the poor spider that got the Cruciatus curse in the fourth book of the Harry Potter series--it looked like it was screaming. That might have been helped by the fact that its tongue was constantly flailing as well.

I've never seen a bee's tongue before. Dark pink and thread-thin, it's the color of mine, turned into a straw. A long needle for drinking. But to see the bee sticking it out repeatedly, as if, what, seeking an antidote she accidentally dropped nearby? It just made the overall image of her distress more unnerving.

I don't make a habit of examining stinging insects up close, but the bee looked to be a funny color, covered with more pale gray fuzz than seemed normal. Maybe she had a fungus that was driving her out of her mind. Her legs were certainly uncoordinated. Some cross between grooming and walking, with the occasional spastic straightening, as if suffering a seizure, kept the creature in constant wobbling motion.

And all the while, her wings buzzed, until, finally, she grew too exhausted. She lay silent, writhing, tonguing the air. My daughter crouched by me, and I tried to make sense of the bee's possible diagnoses for her. She had picked a couple of flowers outside--just weeds this time, a morning glory and a dandelion. She offered me the morning glory, and I held it over the bee for a while, hoping the smell of pollen would help somehow.

Then we spotted a jumping spider outside on the deck, through the glass. I gave my daughter a child's version of the euthanasia speech, but by the time I'd scooped the bee up, the spider had vanished.

She was just a bee. But she seemed to be in pain, dying, and I've always liked bugs. I stayed with her. I can't remember what I was about to do before I saw her, or if I'd already completed it. But it doesn't matter. I don't even know how she got into my house, but that doesn't matter, either.

I remember you, creature of the air. And I am the better for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment