I spent much of the early part of the day today shampooing the carpets in this house. I haven't done this in a while, and I believe that will be the last time I use this carpet shampooer. It is quite old, but considering the number of times I have actually used it its cost-per-use is surprisingly high. In any event, it is breaking at several points - something made of plastic is only designed to last for so long.
I headed over to the house later to continue my mortar work. I used the remnants from a 10 lb. two-year-old bag of mortar to mix up a base layer for a large-ish
section of wall that is missing. Unfortunately, when I went to open my second 60 lb. sack of mortar - I used the first one yesterday - I discovered that I didn't have
a second 60 lb. sack of mortar; what I had was an 80 lb. sack of cement that I am going to use for the sidewalk repair. So. No more mortar. Need to slide a new module into the "mortar the wall" spot. But what?
Well, this time I had come armed to mow the lawn and whack the weeds. But it felt early - too early to start on that. I decided to give scraping, sanding, and painting the garage doors a shot.
This was not something I should have tried. I have received some, shall we say, complaints
- threats, even - from certain neighbors regarding my sanding, scraping, and painting activities around the garage. I need to tread carefully because these are neighbors I do not want to irritate and annoy too much. I think that the best way to avoid this issue is to restrict these activities to the early morning, when temperatures are cooler. Bumblebees are cold-blooded, like all insects, and are less likely to attack when the temperature is cool.
But I tried anyway. It didn't seem so hot this afternoon, but there were still two bumblebee scouts hovering outside the garage, keeping a cautious compound eye on me and my activities. As I set myself up to begin scraping they hovered directly overhead, as if to say Are you sure you want to be doing this?
The sun was to my back, and it cast the shadow of my head on the weatherbeaten
doors. I watched the plump shadows of the bumblebee guards drop down to just a foot over my head. Ahem. Perhaps you did not hear us the first time. Are you sure you want to be doing this?
(A week ago one of the bumblebee guards that was monitoring my activity did in fact attack me. Fortunately for both of us, I was wearing a thick canvas hat at the time and it bounced off without leaving its stinger embedded in my head, which would have been painful for me and lethal for the bee.)No
, I thought. No, I don't.
I quickly packed up my stuff and put it back in the garage.
So now what? Only one option. Mow.
I pulled my mower off the back porch and got ready to begin as the opening music of "A Prairie Home Companion" began to play from my open kitchen window. Hmmm, 6:00
, I thought. Later than I thought it was.
And that was when I saw it.
A single honeybee was alighting on the Violets* under my grapevine.
Something is happening to honeybees worldwide, and nobody knows what exactly. Hives are being found empty. Bees are not showing up where and when they're expected. From the reports I have read, this is something which has only been noticed since last November.
Mass bee deaths have happened before. Respiratory parasites have taken out large portions of the U.S. honeybee population in the past. Again, from what I have read, this one seems different. Honeybee bodies are not being found, as if they are being spirited away by alien abductors who have grown bored with cows and humans. Speculations as to the cause are rife, but most of them do not fit the observed timeframe
There is quite a bit of concern here. Bees are the major pollinators of most fruit crops. Without them we can expect fruit yields to plummet. Without them our whole agricultural system could very well collapse.
According to this month's National Geographic
, the native Powhatan people who lived in the vicinity of Jamestown came to look upon what we now know as the common honeybee as a harbinger of doom. These are actually European Honeybees, far more profligate pollinators than their native American counterparts; they were introduced intentionally as part of the colony-establishment project. To the natives, the appearance of European honeybees meant one thing: more damned European colonists. And that usually meant trouble. More trouble than the natives realized: honeybees and earthworms, which were also a European import, were responsible for much of the ecological transformation of the American landscape from the one which the native inhabitants knew to the very different one that quickly took its place.
For me, the appearance of a single honeybee among the wildflowers and weeds under my grapevine was a cheering sight. So small, so much smaller than its big bruiser bumblebee cousins. A single stray step could end its life. But there it was, kissing each Violet in its turn, collecting some of its pollen, inadvertently
transferring some to the next flower, and the next. And all alone. None of its sisters were there by its side. Are you the last one in this area?
, I thought.
It moved on, and so did I. I had a lawn to mow, and weeds to whack. But not under the grapevine. I would leave those untouched.*OK, maybe it was on the Dandelions. I'm not sure. But the Violets sound more poetic, don't they? Truth is beauty, beauty truth, right? And I'm pretty sure it was the Violets. It probably was. I think.