Thursday, 18 August 2016


An amazing thing happened today. It has probably happened here many times in the last five years but I have never witnessed it. The difference of five minutes forwards or backwards and I would not have witnessed it at all.

It was a hot, humid day. In anticipation of the forecast rain storm due to arrive tonight, I headed out to the cut flower patch to collect a bunch of sweet peas and calendula for the kitchen, and cut some helichrysum (also known as straw flowers or everlasting flowers) to dry, fully expecting to wake up tomorrow to a battered patch and forlorn flowers. As usual, on arrival at the plot, I got distracted, and a five minute task became a 30 minute potter. Everything changed in that time. The temperature dropped. The sky darkened. The wind picked up. You could feel the storm in the air. My trug full of flowers, I left the plot. Like losing the plot but without the anger issues.

Part way across the field I realised I had company. A lot of company. I was standing in a bee superhighway. Bees to my left, my right, below me, above me, and if I didn't get out of the way soon there was going to be a collision. I crouched down. A steady stream of my honey bees, some flying high, some flying low, some zipping along at high speed, others taking a more waivering path, but all flying very definitely along the same route, from the same direction in the neighbouring field, to the same destination in our field, namely the apiary. It was as though a bell had rung, calling all workers home, urgently, no shilly-shallying along the way, do not pass Go, do not collect any pollen on the way. Even ducked down I was at risk of getting a face full of bees, so I lay on my back, watching them fly over me, hundreds of them. They knew a storm was coming and bees hate rain. I could see the full pollen bags on some, predominately a whitish colour. Perhaps my girls had found themselves a patch of late summer heather and had been working it en masse in the afternoon sunshine, all available foragers called up, all leave cancelled.

Gradually the numbers died down. The stream became a trickle. Bucking the trend a lone bee headed back in the other direction. What was she thinking? Sent out to find missing workers? Determined to hit her daily foraging target whatever the weather? Did she make it home?

David returned from feeding the pigs to see me lying in the middle of the field, and assumed I had fallen over, as though that is a regular occurrence, as if I am prone to random tumbles. I explained the reason for my position, so he joined me and together we watched the last of the field workers head home as the first rain drops began to fall.

No comments: