I met a girl on Thursday.
Her name is Melissa.
And I brought her home with me.
And she is a honeybee.
When a swarm of bees moves on (from somewhere they've rested while searching for a new place to establish a hive), bees that were out scouting miss the boat. They return to the former location of the swarm and wait, and wait ... and wait...
As you may recall, I moved a swarm on Wednesday. So on Thursday there was a clump of those "residual bees."
Knowing what I know about bee psychology, I knew they were in a mind set of waiting for a swarm that would never come. So they'd be sitting tight where they were. And they wouldn't be stinging anything either.
So I put my finger in front of one of them, and she climbed on. I drove home with her on my hand. And I named her Melissa.
Bees in a residual cluster usually die within a few days. Probably from hunger (they don't conduct any food gathering or production) or exposure. So I figured she was probably hungry, but I didn't know if she'd eat "in captivity."
Honestly, my first thought for some reason was to give her sugar water (I guess because that's what we feed the bees out in the field when there's not enough natural forage for them in winter). But then I was like, wait, I have honey, duh.
So I put a dab of honey on my hand and, sure enough, she walked over to it and I could see her lapping it up with her little bee tongue.
All Thursday evening I went about my business with Melissa on my hand. She was walking around pretty constantly, so I became worried she'd tire herself out. Turned out the lights (and laptopped just by laptop light) and she slowed down and shortly appeared to actually fall asleep.
Previous to turning the lights out though, at one point she fell off my hand (onto my desk) and starting shaking violently. I was concerned by bee was going berserk! ): But I put my finger in front of her and she crawled on it and stopped shaking. I think she missed me <3 (:
Overnight I put her in a cup with a piece of paper over the top so she wouldn't roam my room while I slept.
I took her to work the next day and let her crawl around my desk. She made a surprisingly good office pet (though I'm guessing most offices wouldn't welcome her *sadface*)- she just roamed my desk and if it looked like she was going too far away I'd put my finger in front of her and she'd climb on.
(Sorry the video mode on my camera absolutely fails at getting things up close)
Around noon coworker Jeremy came in to inform us that Dave had lost the lawsuit. Melissa was on my hand at the time. For about a minute we stared at Jeremy waiting for him to say "just kidding." He didn't, but while we were distracted I didn't even notice Melissa crawl up my arm and onto my neck. At literally almost the exact moment it dawned on me that Dave really had lost the case, I felt a stinging sensation in my neck. ):
Now I was pretty distracted at the time, and so was everyone else. So I waited a minute or two before asking "guys, um, did my bee just sting me?" "um... yes she did" "is she okay???" ):
Amy gently picked her up from my neck and handed her to me. I anxiously examined her for the extent of damage to her. The stinger had pulled out but I couldn't actually see any damage to her. Someone has suggested maybe it broke off sideways and therefore didn't rupture her abdomen?
"Aren't you going to take the stinger out of your neck?" someone asked. Oh yeah, that. sure.
Now the fact that she stung me at that exact moment I find very interesting. I've always kind of suspected that bees can sense mood. That might sound like hocus pocus, but mood effects your tenseness, blood pressure, body temperature, any number of things that bees can probably sense. My boss Dave, who has much much more experience beekeeping than I do, gets stung more than I do, and I've kind of attributed it to this. He usually gets all riled up about one thing or another, and the bees start stinging him. I can walk right through a cloud of bees from a disturbed colony without getting stung, because I'm usually as calm as buddha out there. Actually I'm more than calm, I'm probably giving off loving vibes towards the bees. <3
When I'm walking through clouds of bees that should be defensive, and they're not stinging me, I feel so trusted and loved by the bees.
So my mood suddenly changed dramatically and it freaked Melissa out and she stung me. Either that or I just turned my head and pinched her. I think it's probably a combination of both -- I'd accidently pinched her before (when she'd crawl between two of my fingers while typing) and she hadn't stung me, and I doubt if she was on my hand and I got mad about something she'd immediately sting me.
I was very concerned that she would now die, and carefully monitored her condition.
At first she seemed very worked up, walking around fast in an agitated fashion, but then she calmed down to her usual demeanor.
Shortly I went to lunch and took her with me. In the car on the return trip she flew off my hand onto the passenger side window. This was the first time I'd seen her fly any distance. So it was a good sign for her health but also kind of made me think "aw she wants to fly around ): "
My plan at this point was to keep her alive until I visited where I'd moved her swarm to. Then I could reunite her with her hive and feel like I'd accomplished something. It would also be interesting to see just how long I could keep her alive, but I thought that seemed cruel -- bees are members of a hive of thousands, and she must be incredibly lonely on her own (it may seem silly to ascribe too many human emotions to something like a bee, but I'd imagine it makes sense that not being around other bees would cause her to experience actual stress).
Walking back through the parking lot towards the office she took off, flew around me twice, and landed back on me. <3
Then I went back to the car to get her cup, since it had a dab of honey in it for her to eat, and during this trip through the parking lot she took off and flew off into the sunny afternoon air.
I was sad to see her go but I'm going to go ahead and wildly assume she flew off and went on to have exciting adventures and be adopted by a new hive (:
Once again this provides an insight into bee psychology though. Previously, as I noted, her life mission was to hang tight. I think stinging probably erased that mission statement (since stinging is usually a life changing experience for bees of course) and she thereafter no longer felt the obligation to sit around waiting for a swarm that would never return, and flew off to seek her fortune.
As a beekeeper I of course meet lots of bees, and experience a lot of bee behaviour. But one never gets the opportunity to observe a single bee as an individual, so this was an extremely interesting experience for me.
Also you might be wondering why I would name a bee "Melissa." The answer is of course that "Melissa" was the most obvious name in the world. Melissa, you see, means honeybee.