Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

The Grocery Run

   A bee we'll call Gwenynen1 is strolling through the hive when she hears a nearby commotion. A nearby bee (whom we've named Devra) is buzzing her wings and waggling about. Gwen immediately recognizes that Devra is about to regale them all with a tale about where to find blooming flowers, and joins the crowd following her story.
   First the bee turns a 360 degree circle to the right, then she proceeds in a straight line for a quarter of a second 45 degrees off of straight up the vertical honeycomb that serves as their floor. The bees following her story do so quite literally, following behind her in roughly a teardrop shaped crowd.
   Next, Devra turns another circle to the left and proceeds straight up the comb for about four seconds. Then she turns a circle to the right and proceeds horizontally along the comb for half a second. She then stops buzzing and at a casual pace proceeds to the place where she will begin her dance again. Gwen and the other bees that were following the dance only need to follow it once to store the map firmly in their memory..

1 Which is Welsh for "honeybee"

   Leaving the hive, Gwen emerges into the sunlight from a hole near the roof pitch of a suburban house. After a quick look around she spots the sun in the sky, turns right and flies about 250 yards at an angle 45 degrees to the right of the sun, in accordance with the instructions. This takes her between some houses and over a back yard.
   Through her compound eyes you might think the world would be a barely comprehensible kaleidoscope, but of course her mind puts it all together and just as humans (usually) see one image rather than two separate ones, her mind puts together one image in which a very wide arc is all in focus. As she flies she keeps a look out not only for landmarks but for potential predators. Coming over a rooftop she spies that terrifying bird the tyrant flycatcher, a fearsome predator that will catch and devour bees in flight. Gwen quickly dives and takes several detours between houses before emerging on another street and resuming her flight, taking into account the deviations caused by her detour.
   She then turns left and flies straight towards the sun. Every second of travel in a straight line during the dance translates as about a thousand yards of flight, so Gwen travels about 4000 yards (2.27 miles) in this direction. She takes note of the landmarks she passes such as large trees or streets crossed. After about twenty minutes, Gwen knows the next turn is coming up, which she clearly remembers to be a turn to the right and a short journey at 90 degrees to the sun. Sure enough, right ahead she sees a brightly colored flower garden. In the infrared spectrum visible to Gwen, many of the flowers have a bullseye on them specially designed for bees.

   Gwen lands on several flowers, filling the basket-like hairs on her hind legs with pollen and ingesting nectar to be transported internally in her special honey-stomach. Many bees from other hives as well as from her own are also among the flowers, sometimes working side-by-side with her in the same flower. If you're feeling fanciful go ahead and imagine they exchange small talk and gossip.
   Gwen nervously eyes some golden umbrella wasps that are prowling the garden, but they are busy hunting for spiders, caterpillars and aphids -- easier prey than fast moving bees.
   With a louder buzz a bumblebee approaches a flower Gwen is in and she feels an electric shock as the larger bee makes contact with the flower -- fuzzy hair covering bumblebees does more than just make them look adorable, it also builds up a static charge as they fly which helps pollen stick to them when they make contact with a grounded flower. As she finishes with the flower the bumblebee gives it a quick spritz of pheromone, which will serve her as a sort of note to self that she's visited the flower already and won't wear off until it's about time to visit it again.
   Having gathered about 50 milligrams (half her body weight) of nectar and pollen, Gwen lifts off and gets her bearings for the flight home.

   Gwen takes note of the position of the sun, taking into account its movement across the sky (a degree every four minutes), refers to the nearby landmarks for her position in relation to where the memory map she followed to get here left her, and embarks upon her journey.
   She strikes out with the sun on her right side for a brief trip out of the flower garden yard, gaining altitude as she goes until she's just over roof level. Putting her memorized directions in reverse she turns left for the long journey back to the hive. She flies past familiar landmarks, crossing streets and dipping between rooftops.
   She flies about two miles and prepares to make the turn into the cluster of houses in which her home is located. Just in time she notices a dark silhouette above her of a giant (3 inch) dragonfly. It dives towards Gwen and she desperately dives and darts through some foliage hoping to lose the large monster. It is slowed by the obstacles but not lost. Gwen darts over a wall and banks sharply hoping to get around another corner before the green dread-beast. No such luck as it hungrily looms over the wall itself.
   Gwen desperately darts around obstacles and through leafy foliage across several yards but is unable to shake her pursuer. She kicks off the pellets of pollen on her legs to reduce her weight and tries one more mad dash through the air with the dragonfly only inches behind her. Suddenly there is an explosion of turbulence and seconds later Gwen realizes she is still alive and no longer under pursuit.
   Looking around, she sees a tyrant flycatcher perched on a nearby tree with the tail and wings of the dragonfly extruding from its beak.

(this really cool picture is not my own, comes from here)

   Unfortunately, now Gwen is off the map. She looks around for landmarks and recognizes several tall trees and a distant water tower, she's still very close to home. She flies over several houses to the line of identical suburban homes of which one hosts her home colony. Unfortunately, since bees can only count to three, after dismissing the first three houses she must check the roof pitch of each one until she finds the one in which she lives. As Dorothy, the homeowner, installs a birdhouse in the backyard, oblivious to her bee housemates, Gwen enters the nest. She lost the pollen but still has some nectar to show for her trouble, and still remembers exactly how to get back to the food. Maybe she'll try again after a little rest.

Technical Notes

Tags: bee fiction, fiction, honeybees, lj idol entry
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