a discovery of bees: part one

On an early, abnormally hot spring day, I sat outside reading. The clouds occasionally absorbed the heat of the sun and offered short reprieves from the heat. I stopped reading often; I had just started a new book, and it was taking some time getting used to the characters and pacing. As my eyes wandered the little patch of green I called my yard, I noticed many insects flying quietly just above the grass. At first glance they looked like flies, but they were oblong and hovered with purpose, unlike the irregular, spastic routes of flies that have no regard for personal space. These insects came close to my feet, but never touched. Their bodies, I noticed, were furrier than flies and were a dull grey colour. When one finally slowed enough for my eyes to be able to take a longer look, my chest fluttered in excitement. Bees? Were they honey bees? I panned over towards my apartment building and saw dozens more buzzing around about a foot off the ground.

Part of me froze in fear, suddenly alarmed at the number of the stinging insects. As much as I celebrate their existence, I still take care around bees, and my initial reaction is to tense up and to stay clear. But, as I took in the sight, my fear dissolved into delight.

From ten feet away, I studied the bees that were flying above the sandy, rocky area of my building’s dripline. As I observed, my excitement rose. I saw a larger bee rise above the rest and tangle with another in midair. I thought I was witnessing a honey bee mating ritual. I quickly Googled whatever crossed my mind: “honey bee mating,” “young drones in spring,” “color of young honey bees.” I read that queen honey bees mate in the air, about 25 feet above the ground. Then I saw several large bees. I searched for “bees in my yard” and found results about “mining bees.” After some very quick reading, I determined I probably did in fact have mining bees in my yard and the males were the ones I had seen first. The bigger ones were indeed females and only the females could sting, but wouldn’t unless threatened. I opened the camera on my phone and slowly walked towards where the bees were hovering the thickest, snapping pictures and videos only inches from the bees.

Male and female

Female mining bees of this species are larger than males. They are orangish in colour and have black abdomens. Males are much smaller and are grey in colour.

It’s quite beautiful that such small creatures are unperturbed by a giant walking among them, holding a large red and white phone in front of them. Yet we, large lumbering beasts, feel threatened by such peaceful insects at the first millisecond of a buzz we can hear. As I walked among them, I thought back to an article I wrote on urban bees when I was in college. I can’t remember when I first learned about how important bees are to the well-being of the world. I think it was a botany class earlier in my college years. Or maybe a friend told me. Anyway, the science journalism class I took in my last year of school offered me the chance to write about something more exciting than politics or campus news, and as I contacted local beekeepers, grad students, and geneticists, I fell in love with bees. So much so that I believe any friend I had that semester became annoyed (although they did not all express it) at my constant–and unsolicited–presentation of bee factoids. But these were not honey bees in my yard and I was thrilled to learn more about what sort of native bee species found its way to me. I began referring to them as “my bees.”

My book quickly forgotten and the sun slowly sinking, giving off its final and strongest rays of the day, I sat in the rocks outside my ground-floor window, mesmerized by my bees. They barely made a sound as they flew around. Doing what, I still had to figure out. I saw a female brush briefly with a couple of males, but they didn’t mate. All the bees seemed to be relatively preoccupied with their individual missions. I fell in love, and I watched as they tested the ground and began to burrow into it. Looking around I saw many openings of what I assumed to be the beginnings of homes. How many were occupied, I could not tell, but it was clear the insects were aptly named. After a few more clicks of my camera, I gathered my things and let them be, anxious to learn more about my colony of mining bees in the coming weeks.

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my annual hello

I read today that “if you announce your goals, you’re less likely to succeed.” I don’t completely agree that that’s true for me. If I tell people I am going to do something, I want to make sure I do it. I have this fear of disappointing others that’s up there in my list of fears. Like, Fear Number Three, following just after the death of family or myself. So, when I tell people my goals, I want to make sure I achieve them. If I only tell myself, I know I’ll be all right with the failure. But there’s a lot to figure into the equation of setting and achieving aspirations. A goal needs to be realistic. A goal can remain a goal for a long time. A goal can be not reached and still not be a complete failure. But maybe I am saying that because I pretty much proved that research true if you look at my last post.

Almost a year ago, I radioed back in and announced I was going to keep up with my blogs (both of them) AND have art to sell by the end of the year 2014. Well, that didn’t happen. Was it because I announced it publicly for the world to see? Considering the “world” for my little blog consists of basically me and the few kind people who like my Facebook post that announces a new entry is out but who don’t actually click on the link, I don’t know if this counts as announcing it to others. Ha!

But, I could just say “ditto” to my last post. I have continued to create a long list of posts to write. Some are drafts. Some are still a mental outline. I suffer from a gold and green personality combination. My gold side needs to try to do a thousand things at once, convinced that I can do it all, (just give me five more minutes) and then stresses when it doesn’t all go the way I had hoped. My green side is meticulous and needs every thing planned out and researched to perfection. It’s the perfect recipe for procrastination. Gold me says it’ll get done just let me do these other twenty things first and Green me is content because it wants to be sure that what I do get done is absolutely perfect.

My point is, I don’t have any art to sell. I haven’t kept up with either blog. I didn’t do anything I said I was going to do a year ago. But they’re still goals! And I will achieve them, but I am at peace with the understanding they may not unfold the way I originally hoped. I’ve also come to the realization that some changes have had to take place in my life in order for me to ensure the most important goals will be realized.

I’ve recently resigned from one job, an extremely difficult decision, but one that I know is healthy for me to make. I’m sure I’ll still be putting in 60 plus hours a week working, but only 40 will be at a physical workplace. The rest will be spent on working on the many goals I’ve laid out for myself. (Do I dare share them, or should I keep them a secret so that they actually happen?)

Bah. There’s always an exception to everything. Here goes.

I decided before I moved back to Central Wisconsin that I would work a lot, save a lot, pay off student loans, and then go travel the world. I did some thinking and thought that teaching English somewhere would allow me to live in a foreign country, travel around the place I taught, and still make–some–money while doing it. At first I figured I’d still wait a few years, you know, after all my loans were paid off. They are probably not going to be paid off in the five years that I hoped, (was it because I told people I was going to do that?) so if I continue to wait for that to happen, I may never get to see the world, and we only live once, right? I can’t imagine just working and staying put forever (for me personally, that is), and I have heard from so many to do this now, before I do get too comfortable and more things happen to make it more difficult to leave. Besides, there’s too much to experience in the world. Too much to learn. If I could be paid to learn things, I would do that. I would love to be a professional learner. Teaching is pretty close to that. So, I’m aiming to be somewhere in Central or South America come January 2016. I’m working on an online course that will certify me as a TEFL instructor. This goal terrifies me, but in the best way possible, and I know all the anxiety and sacrifice will be worth it.

Keeping up on my course and trying to pursue my freelancy-type projects and working at two jobs finally began to burn me out after a year and a half. And I’m excited to have found a way to make time for me to do more editing, more design work, volunteer to teach creative writing, to try to use my certification before I go, to make time to actually apply for jobs, to create art, read, write, and to spend time with my friends (newfound and old) and my family, etc.

So, here’s my annual hello. I’m not saying I will keep up weekly; I don’t want to jinx myself. But it won’t be another year before you hear from me again. I am giving up time with a family at a wonderful workplace to provide time to explore what makes me me, to experience what I want to define me. It’s the beginning of a new journey, and I expect I’ll be sharing a few words every once in a while about it.

Thanks lovely few for tuning in. Until next time.  . .

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But really,

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