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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

FaceTime: Bumblebees

Air Date: Week of

A bumblebee on a milkweed plant. (Photo: (c) Mark Seth Lender)

One of the joys of gardening is getting to know the beneficial visitors in your yard, including the hardworking bumblebee. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, describes a singular encounter.


CURWOOD: One of the joys of gardening is getting to know the beneficial visitors in your yard, including the hardworking bumblebee. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender has more.

Bumble Bees, Long Island Sound
© 2020 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

The hurricane did not amount to much. Not by the standards of New England where we have history, of great storms, that take lives, and sink ships, and tear away the land. This one brought more water than wind. Even so. Here close to the sea it was enough. Surrounded by debris, a single hydrangea, sole survivor among what once were many is in flower and covered with bumblebees. One to every stamen in the dense white array of blooms.
How important to them, this one living plant, the difference between extirpation and continuity. They go about their business at a low contented hum. Like a punctuation mark in her warning colors of black and yellow a guard bee leaves the others, straight up, straight towards me. She stops eight inches from my face. Right between my eyes. Below and behind her the others continue in their work. Not her. She flies out and around me returning to the same place. And again. And again. And does not touch me but only hovers, perfectly balanced, unwavering and too close, her impossibly small bumblebee wings beating to a transparency. I know what she wants.
She behaves as if she knows that I know, or at least that I should. But I wait. To see. What will she do? How long will it take before her patience wanes and she stings me. Five hundred million years of evolution separate us. Her ancient compound eyes are not the eyes by which I see. Her brain is not like mine, nor her form except for the fact of a fundamental symmetry we share, that the left side is the same as the right. And yet perceives what and where
my eyes are and that this is how to get my attention. That I live behind my eyes. Me. I am there. This is where my consciousness abides. That I am a Sentient Being. How can she know? It can only be a projection. One she would not make if she were not conscious of her own Consciousness and its same location. Perhaps this is why rather than harming me, she waits. Until, I take my two steps back - She pauses for a fraction of a beat - Then dives into the flowers where she disappears.

CURWOOD: That’s Mark Seth Lender, Living on Earth’s explorer in residence.



Mark Seth Lender's website


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