It’s late February and the hairy-footed flower bees have defied the Government and broken all the lockdown rules by emerging from their nests. The boys fly out first, all fluffy and bright ginger with hairy-legs, and an exuberance that says ‘Hello! Look at me’. They are a delight to behold and a true sign Spring has arrived. The flowers have yet to unzip themselves, and the bees whizz through them, darting around our parks and gardens getting a feel for their territory. They are inquisitive, getting to know the neighbours and generally being seen.
A couple of weeks later the girls fly out, looking fashionably dressed in black tunics and bright orange trousers she uses to collect pollen. By now the comfrey flowers are open for business and she tentatively sups on the nectar with her long tongue. She has a long list of things to do: find a place to nest, go shopping for pollen, start a family, pollinate some flowers and generally do things the boys are incapable of.
Mating is her first challenge and there is no shortage of suitors sniffing her out and harassing her while she goes about her daily life. She has to bat them away, out-fly them and fight them off before conceding to the strongest boy, making her the perfect calendar girl for the #BeeToo movement.
Then she has to find a hole to build her nest, preferably in a housing complex of soft mortar near other flower bees, which makes it very noisy. She will live in her own flat, crafting cells to fill with pollen where she will lay her eggs. It’s hard work!
And that’s not the only moan. The mourning bees have taken over her nest, redecorating the cell walls and chucking out anything bought from John Lewis. They have replaced the flower bee eggs with their own, commandeered the pollen larder and are now buzzing loudly about squatters’ rights for cleptoparasites.
By mid-May the boys are looking old and faded, a trip to the nectar pub is about all they can muster. The girls are still out collecting pollen and weeks of hard work have left their wings in tatters. She has nearly finished her jobs. They have been meeting the new late-Spring bees who have just emerged, like them before, all looking dapper and pimped-up ready for World Bee Day. And it is with a sense of pathos that the flower bees won’t be looking at their best as they come to the end of their season just before the world spends a day celebrating them.