I didn’t see the attack coming. She might not have either.
But the piercing pain in my thigh signaled my brain that I had been injected with a barbed venom. Swelling ensued, but at least I knew I would survive. She was dead on impact.
I was attempting to do what I thought was right by moving a 9-foot branch that had fallen from a 100-year-old tulip poplar. The branch was lying on top of a row of five wooden beehives in my backyard, inhibiting the first scout bees searching for pollen in the morning sun. When I moved it, it brought instant death to the girl who drove her one and only arsenal into my leg.
I found it quite ironic that the tree providing hundreds of blossoms for the bees to make honey also destroyed their hives. This same tulip poplar has been home to a litter of baby raccoons and a great horned owl every spring.
Yet the only reason the honeybee stung me and died instantly was because it was protecting its hive and colony. Honeybees are proactive and sting when they perceive their hive is threatened.
So I admit it was one of those mundanely normal and spontaneous decisions one makes in life. I chose to move the limb. Scout bee No. 4,999 — let’s call her “Linda” — chose instant death, her move to protect the hive and her colony.
When I flicked Linda off my pants, I could only think, “Poor girl, she was only doing her job protecting the queen.” Then I quickly walked into the house before the smell of the alarm pheromone was released to alert the other workers in the colony — resulting in other bees recruited to the area to defend the colony.
Once inside, I started to think about this little honeybee.
I wonder if Linda was leaving or returning to the hive? Did she have a load of nectar to deliver? Was she leaving the hive to search for more pollen? Did she have any premonition that today would be her last day? What made her react so swiftly and decidedly?
Did she have any idea that when she pierced the skin through my cotton workout pants, her barbed stinger, connected to her digestive tract and venom sack and other parts of her honeybee body would be ripped out and left behind — basically she chose a suicide mission to protect others.
Marcus Aurelius, considered the last of the five good emperors who kept the Roman Empire safe from the Parthians and Germans (161-180), wrote: “What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.” This gives new meaning when I think about my honeybee Linda voluntarily giving up her life for the swarm.
And this weekend we celebrate Memorial Day and honor all those who died serving in the United States military. It is a day of remembrance of those who have sacrificed their lives in service to the Unites States of America.