A Bee’s Breath Away From Death

It’s a hot day in July and the sun is beating down on everything beneath it. Over a hundred degrees and the trees are sighing hot winds, dreaming of misty mornings. A bee has just left the confines of an orange trumpet blossom, stepping around a stray ant to achieve flight. Far below, the glimmer of water beckons.

Because of the heat, it knows the brood nest needs water droplets to fan to cool the queen. Called by duty, it drops towards the glittering blueness, looking for a place to land. It is cool near the surface and for a moment this pleasant feeling distracts it. The next moment a hot down gust of wind pushes it feet-first into the water – the worst feeling for a bee. The water has its grip on the tiny paddles of its feet.

It furiously works its wings, driving for lift to break the water’s grip. In its fervor, it tips to the side and its left wing dips into the water. From bad to worse. It begins working its six legs to try to free the wing, slipping and sliding as if on ice. There is no purchase, nothing for its feet to leverage against. It is frantic and keeps fighting despite the instinctual knowledge of doom that grows with each passing second. It senses the failure of duty and worse, the rapid weakening of its life force.

Until the thing. The thing under its feet. A solid bar rises to the surface and the bee has three, then four, then all six feet gripped to it. The glimmering surface recedes, hot air whooshes around the bee, and then the heat of the ground envelopes it. The water is draining from its microscopic hair, the sun is warming its wing and it can now flutter both wings freely. Relieved, it crawls on the bar, back and forth, assessing damage and finding none – only the remnant wetness of a fateful collision with water.

Through its two bulbous eyes made of thousands of lens, it sees a massive animal squat down and peer at it. At the periphery of its being, a sense of connection flutters past its collection of instincts but fails to process into experience. It almost knows that doom was avoided because of this animal but the linkage is too weak. Instead it focuses on drying its wings and feet, a far more productive use of its time.

With the animal now standing and watching, the bee finishes its recovery and launches into the air, its wings lifting satisfactorily. By accident or by some other cause, it flies right up to the top of the animal, hovers for a split second at the two orbs gazing back, and rises quickly into the sky, free to fly and be once more. With the three small eyes on top of its head, it orients itself to the sun and heads back towards the brood nest.

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