Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Social (Bee) Isolation.
Thursday 2nd April - Australia - 5137 cases - 201 per million population

Late last year, we "rescued" a slightly misguided hive of tiny Tetragonula hockingsi (a species of Australian native stingless bee which measures about four millimetres in length) which had happily set up  home below ground in what appeared to be a vacant ant nest, digging out as much as was possible, as the first big storm of summer was inundating their abode,

We put them in a nice new hive and gave them a splendid spot in our backyard where they have lived happily ever since alongside our other hives, apart from the odd skirmish with intruders, or as has been the case over the last few days - the angry spectacle that is a mating swarm.   

Every now and then when the old queen is on her last legs, one of the new "virgin queens" is appointed as pretender to the throne.  All of the males (the drones) who have until that time contentedly lived a wastrel's life, enjoying the largess of the court, are unceremoniously booted out of the hive to await her ladyship's pleasure.  They are forced into what these days we'd call social isolation.  

Homeless and alone, except for the other five hundred or so blokes who are all trying to pull the same chick, they spend their days in an agitated swarm around the hive and its environs and their nights huddled together on any nearby branch, trying surviving as best they can until the new dawn.

When she emerges, young and fresh to offer herself to the bloke that can catch her, there can be only one winner, and it's not going to be one of the drones, but they chase her anyway until the strongest and fittest of them has his wicked way with her and she returns home, presumably flushed as she realises that everyone in the family knows what she's been up to. The blokes meanwhile, all of them, face a short, bleak but entirely predictable future, huddling each night in successively fewer numbers, flying more lethargically each day in the futile hope that she'll be back, but she's made no promises, has had her fling and she's already in there putting her stamp on their next generation.  

While those who value even the most microscopic of life forms may be disheartened at this tale, it's not all bad. We can all rest content in the knowledge that one of them died happy!

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