The sun came out – finally. That’s all it took to raise the temperature enough for the bumblebees. Apple and peach blossoms in the nursery were fragile ballerinas on high branches, and the fuzzy pollinators finding them were clumsy bears just out of hibernation. My heart kind of ached for them, their cuteness, their simple purpose. Bumblebees belong as stuffed animals in the center of a 9-year-old girl’s double bed despite their 30-million year pedigree. Alas, nature has seen fit to make them star pollinators, workhorses for hothouse tomatoes and high bush blueberries. I watched them at work and considered that Savannah, Georgia’s weather might be toying with them. The last frost date was three weeks off.
The waxy blooms of Pieris japonica appeared, and I was surprised to see the bumbles take an interest. The clustered flowers are too small to be entered, but the bees reached between the petals like curtains. In fact, the bees were so devoted, I was able to carry a bush from the back of the nursery and have a bee follow all the way to the front of the property. At that point, I found a bush of the same type and flung the bee in its direction. My customer didn’t want a bee in her car, and I took joy in showing her my little trick. It may sound self-righteous, but I wanted to show her it was okay to care. As you’ll see, we may have taken it a bit too far.
Just as soon as the sun had come out, the weather turned. In a 24-hour period we went from the low 70s to covering the citrus trees with huge tarps. The mercury was falling fast, and I kept finding stunned bumblebees struggling in the pea gravel. It wasn’t fair. It was a nasty trick, and, well, a space heater was handy. I picked up the bees and brought them into the office for the night. The store manager called it bee-hab. What did the lives of a few bees matter? Why did we care to save them when their short lives would end quite soon anyway? I can’t say, but they stayed in the office over night. I misted a fallen camellia blossom and placed the bees on it. It was like they had found the round bed in a cheap honeymoon suite. I felt a little like I was arranging Barbie furniture, but soon they started moving a bit. They were little lives in which we felt compelled to play a part.
Later that day, we placed the bees outside. We were rewarded by seeing one fly high into the sky. It was a gift really. If it was to be eaten by a bird, or to take a deadly dive in the parking lot next door, we wouldn’t know about it. Perhaps, just perhaps, the bee would thrive and open a Star Bucks – far surpassing even the lofty expectations of its district manager. The others were retrieved.
Tonight, I pulled the bees out of the china cabinet, and my five-year-old son took out his giant magnifying glass. We talked about them, turned them over, counted their legs, and noticed darkness of their eyes. “You and your friends tried to save them, but they are dead,” he said. Our curiosity honored them. His dad took a turn with the magnifying glass too. I call it being foolishly compassionate, and there are times when it’s required.