The bee which you see, flitting for forage on a row of orange-throated crocuses, is not there by accident. She has been sent.
Or rather, steered. In the deep dark of the beehive, the “waggle-dance” is not recreational, nor even remotely procreational. It is informational: a sat-nav download by a successful returning forager transmitting the co-ordinates of its food source to its followers. As the bee rehearses its tight figure-of-eight rushes, intercoded with a blurring belly-dance anchored to the comb, she is narrow-casting data to a mob of antennaed apprentices, turning them into winged barcodes. Never doubt that the bee which you see is on a mission.
Just standing and looking at the hypnotic, baton-swinging intensity of a bee working a parade of blue crocus, I had a flashback, like stumbling down a rabbit-hole of recollection.
And there I was, bare-kneed, pushing at a garden gate and stepping past the soldierly rows of crocuses, marching, uninvited to a stranger’s front door. A penknife-sharp retrieval, a slice of memory, back to a time when, as the eldest child of political activists, I was conscripted into the ritual of “hedge-hopping” .
The term “hedge-hopping” describes a leaflet-drop to all the letterboxes along one side of a street. But to my boy-brain, we were the shock troops of the garden path, parachuted with pin-point accuracy deep into the enemy territory of a marginal Council ward. And we were programmed to perform a single goal : Distribution was our thing.
And as my left hand held open the flap, my right hand would thrust the two-tone glossy through the letter-box. This routine was repeated hundreds of times and might seen mundane, almost boring, to the uninitiated. Not so.
There was a delicious scintilla of surprise each and every time my hand pulled back through the letter-box: it extracted a puff, a snuff-pinch, a whiff of the living smell which inhabited that house.
Each house had its own astonishing respiration: spicy, sweet, smoky, sometimes seductive, some downright disreputable. But each breathed an authentic aroma, unquestionably unique. And when all the pamphlets were gone, we left, joyously empty-handed. And we returned home. Back to our own scent.
And here was my revelation: a shared experience with the bees. Honeybees hedge-hop, too, as post-code-purposefully as I did. Man and insect, dutifully skirmishing, lucky-dipping at each map reference, tasting the difference of their brief hosts.
But for the bees, delivery is not their intention. Their goal is to extract a pot-pourri of early pollen – and when brimful, to haul the harvest hivewards. Accumulation is their thing.
Homecoming bees fly straight, intent on the landing-board. Like an elongated letter-box, the hive entrance exhales the home-aroma, the honeyed hum of warm wax, and in they go, fully laden, scampering, breathless, their mission accomplished!