Until we decided to become bee keepers and invest in a garden beehive, the only contact I had had with bees was purely observation from a distance.
Insects are the most successful of all life forms. Insects of all types, have been on the Earth much longer than most other life forms. They have changed little over the years and they are immeasurably successful because they always place the entire group as a priority over their own life and wellbeing. When living in a group or colony they reside in some type of nest and they have one purpose and that is to breed.
Since having the beehive, I have been privileged to experience the wonderful richness of the life of the honey bee. Many of the things that I have seen in this secret world of bees I have found to be both intoxicating and magical.
During the Autumn, a worker bee (the nurse bees are the younger worker bees that are not let out of the hive – the female bees just after hatching are referred to as the nurse bees) flew just in front of me. She was carrying a package with her front four legs. She gently laid the package down on the path, then proceeded to slowly turn the little bundle left and then right. She did this a few times, then with one of her front legs she softly poked it. She turned it over then back. Eventually she flew away and left the little bundle on the path. Curiously I went over to it and found that it was a swaddling bee – a bee that had been pulled out of the brood chamber – probably it had died in the cell. I picked it up on a sheet of paper so that I wouldn’t damage it and checked it over under a microscope. It appeared to have no wings. I was amazed by the tenderness of the worker bee and the way that she appeared to double-check for signs of life or to see whether a mistake had been made but she had to eventually give in.
Life is both beautiful and cruel.
Swaddling bee (the baby bee formed in the brood chamber)
Close-up of swaddling bee baby
Swaddling bee – under side
Swaddling bee – close-up of leg
The first picture that I took of a swaddling bee within a couple of minutes from being abandoned
The head of a swaddling bee
Close-up of the swaddling bee flesh
Detail of the skin and hair forming on the swaddling bee
The swaddling bee – aborted from the brood chamber and carried some distance away by a worker or nurse bee