The ostentatious orange petals catch your eye, and soon you’re rocketing toward the flower with a new sense of purpose: collect pollen. Feed the family.
Your wings, paper-like but strong as scales, carry you through the viridian field of wildflowers, and you are naturally one to get easily distracted. That sun-yellow coreopsis smells nice as you pass by, so you take a short detour and rest your velvety body onto the collection of wide petals at your feet. You frantically stuff whatever pollen you can into your pollen baskets, or “corbiculae” as some humans call them, on your hind legs before lifting off once more into the air.
But again, your flight does not last very long. A nice white aster with bright anthers beckons you, as does an azure lobelia. Your pollen baskets are already feeling full, but you’re so determined on getting to those orange buds of butterfly milkweed. So, you drum your wings and take off once again, the heat of the beaming sun and the hum of your flight energizing your every fiber.
After carefully circling the entire stalk of milkweed, you hover over your perfect choice of flower when, quite suddenly, a flash of orange and black whips past you.
You’re disoriented for a moment, for the color matched the flower, but the odor reeked “competitor.” The flash returns with a wide flap of wings and a flourish of black antennae.
You stare down the monarch butterfly with rage. Though he may be bigger than you, you know you have brute mass on your side.
You hum aggressively toward the scaled wings of the butterfly, but he simply flits away more quickly than you can fathom. The next time you see him, he is drinking nectar from your flower! Fuming in indignation, but more so driven by the need to feed your family, you drone to a bud on the opposite side of the stem and settle for second-best.
You’ve stuffed so much pollen into your near-bursting pollen baskets when you are suddenly and inexplicably shaken to the core, as if the earth below your milkweed had groaned and snarled in agitation. Startled, you beat your wings and propel your body into the air as the bud you’ve just visited is overtaken, drowned in the striped bombastic body of a hungry monarch caterpillar.
You think angrily, Why’d she come all the way up here? Doesn’t she know the leaves are down below? All these monarchs. But that’s what you get for hanging around milkweed. With an annoyed hum, you turn away from the stalks studded with bright orange flowers and begin your flight home. Why waste your energy on a confused caterpillar when your family needs to be fed?
Now, with your corbiculae brimming and spare pollen floating to the flowers below from your furry, bumbling body, you follow the scent of your own flight path, and the path of your fellow bumblebee drones, through the wildflowers, which are no longer distracting now that you have a new goal in mind. Finally, tiredly, you drift and settle to the ground and shimmy your way through a familiar hole in the dark, cool dirt.
Down, down, down you go, pollen jostling in your corbiculae as you maneuver your way through the intricate tunnels of your colony’s underground hive. Your family, hundreds of brothers and sisters, all mill around you, dropping off their own pollen or scurrying on their way to gather more. You all share the same scent, the same pheromones. This is home, and this is family.
You make it to your destination, a burrowed hole with your brand-new brothers and sisters, just larvae right now.
But you aren’t allowed into the hole, for your mother, the Queen, drums in front of the nest protectively with a clear message ringing through the corridor: she feeds your young siblings, not you. So, you empty your pollen baskets peaceably and scurry back through the way which you came, head down and inconspicuous.
The summer’s colorful coneflowers and happy black-eyed susans gradually give way to the goldenrods and sunflowers of fall, but you, little bee, stay busy, collecting pollen and delivering it to the newest batches of your little brothers and sisters. There are so many of you now, hundreds and hundreds of your family members buzzing through the hive every day, every night.
The days are shortening, and the chilly air makes you feel a bit more fatigued. It makes all of you fatigued. You and your siblings have been feeling a tad lost since The Queen has died, but the final push before winter drives you out of the hive and into the frost-threatened field once more. You know that soon, one of your baby sisters will rise to the throne. And she needs pollen to survive this winter.
The whole colony does.
You valiantly thrum your wings and scan the field, searching for any bright petals, any flash of color. But to no avail. Your search becomes frantic, and you even attempt to land on the amber seed heads of the wildrye undulating mesmerizingly in the chilled wind of oncoming winter. However, as you struggle to hang on with your tired legs, you’re knocked aside, sideswiped by a giant grasshopper too busy munching on leaves to watch where he’s going.
Frustrated and tired, you hum away dejected, turning back toward the hive with empty pollen basket—
Way off in the distance, near the edge of the field, a bright spot of xanthic relief! A tickseed sunflower, the last of its batch, brandishing its petals bravely in the wind!
Filled with new energy, you rush to the flower and land haphazardly, already busy stuffing your corbiculae full of the beautiful pollen. As you lift off from the vibrant petals and head back to the hive, you see a few of your brothers and sisters heading for the same flower. Good. The colony needs all the food they can manage to collect.
You shimmy through the hole in the dirt, back to the nest, to your little brothers and sisters. After this year’s work, the hive has enough honey to make it through the winter.
Then, with your work completed, you huddle closely together with your siblings and drift into a peaceful, restful stillness.
Heat. A glorious warmth.
It makes its way through the tunnels and burrows, just enough to stir you and your siblings from your rest.
But that can’t be. It’s too early for spring.
You drearily begin to drum around the hive, aimlessly meandering toward the surface. However, you quickly realize that the surface is hot. Too hot. You retreat down into the burrow once more, into the safety of the cool earth just a few inches deeper.
Then, you realize, and a brief burst of relived energy settles in a single flutter of your wings.
It’s fire. Only fire. The field above burning so that new growth may abound in the upcoming spring.
Fire means more flowers. And down here, you and your family are safe.
The heat is gone as quickly as it had come, and by the time you rejoin the humming huddle of your siblings, you are already drifting once again.
This time, when the heat wakes you, it feels right. You and your brothers and sisters slowly buzz back into existence, and an excited energy rips through the entire colony.
Overtaken with the need to get outside, you sidle your way through the tunnels, through the webbed, dusty burrows. As you inch your way closer to the top, the gentle warmth causes your wings to flutter. Your siblings feel it too as they line up behind you.
Almost there. Almost there!
Then, with a final burst through the thin layer of ash still resting on the ground, your head emerges into the warm spring sun. You shake the ash off your furry body and scuffle along the ground for a moment, collecting your bearings once again.
You, wonderful bumblebee, have made it to spring.
Now, it’s back to work.
~*~ Author’s Note: Thank you for reading my short story, “A Bee’s Eyes”! I hope you enjoyed and possibly learned something about the life of a bee!
This story is based off the typical year of the Common Eastern Bumblebee, a ground-nesting bee native to the eastern and central United States as well as southern Canada. These bees are generalist pollinators, meaning that they will use almost any native flowering plant they can to collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony. In return, as with every pollinator species, extra pollen falls from their bodies and fertilizes surrounding plants! This new plant growth is SO important, as it provides food and shelter for other wildlife species such as deer, quail, numerous songbird species, rabbits, and more! I wrote this with the hopes of raising awareness to the importance of native pollinators no matter where you live, as well the significance of *prescribed* fire toward the end of the story!
This is my first attempt at using second-person point of view, utilizing scientific knowledge in creative writing to this extent, and writing from the perspective of an animal. I am always looking to improve my writing, so please leave any feedback you may have! Thank you! ~*~