Bees play a crucial role in the life cycle of plants. Without bees transferring pollen from one flower to another, those plants wouldn’t be able to reproduce. That makes bees downright essential when it comes to the world around us.
Still, while most people can agree that bees are critical to the natural world, not everyone enjoys spending a lot of time around them. Preconceived notions about insects—not to mention, the very real fear of stings—keeps people away from bumblebees, who are totally harmless! But one woman just might change all that with her unusual story…
Fiona Presly had been gardening outside of her home in Scotland one afternoon when she noticed something a little bit unusual. At her feet sat a very large bumblebee. The poor creature seemed confused and disoriented. As an avid nature lover, Fiona wanted to keep her safe, so she scooped her up.
Fiona realized that this wasn’t just any bumblebee; she was the queen of her hive! Worried that someone might step on the queen, Fiona delicately placed her on a flower. Then she noticed something strange about the bee: “She had no wings,” noted Fiona.
Fiona hoped that the bee would find her way back to her hive, but when she checked on her a couple of hours later, the queen had not moved at all. Still wanting to help, Fiona brought the bee some sugar water and considered her options.
Others would have left the bee to die, but not Fiona. She knew there was a storm coming, and she couldn’t leave the flightless bee exposed to the elements. She made a bold move that many would never even think of: she invited the queen into her own house!
“I took her inside that night, kept her warm and fed her more,” Fiona said. “I thought I would put her out the next day, but the weather was bad then too. So I kept her inside.” Clearly, Fiona was more worried about the queen’s well-being than about getting stung!
The next day, Fiona contacted the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. She wanted more information about this queen’s condition. They speculated that she’d caught a virus early on in her life, which inhibited the growth of her wings. The chances of the bee surviving this way in the wild were very slim.
After learning about the bee’s sorry state, Fiona decided to do something pretty amazing. “I made a garden for her,” she said. As this friendship began to grow, Fiona also gave her new pet a name—Bee! A name fit for a queen, of course.
In order to get the pollen she needed to survive, Fiona learned, Bee had to walk from flower to flower. Fiona created an enclosed garden with netting to keep other winged creatures from getting access to Bee’s private slice of heaven.
Every day, Fiona would check in on her new friend, Bee. On days when the little queen seemed a little sluggish or out of sorts, Fiona provided her with a small cup of sugar water to perk up. Then, something totally unexpected began to happen…
Over time, as Fiona began to approach the garden to check on her new wingless pet, Bee would emerge to visit her. Soon it was clear to Fiona that Bee was actually looking forward to their visits!
“She’d walk toward me and crawl on my hand,” said Fiona. “She seemed so happy to see me. It made me stop and think—there’s something going on here.” Was Bee really able to recognize her loving caretaker?
“It was like her whole being came to life. I think she liked the fact that she wasn’t alone,” Fiona said of Bee’s behavior. “I think she thrived on company, even from another species. They are naturally sociable creatures. That would be in their instinct.”
It wasn’t just Bee who loved Fiona; the feeling was mutual. “We were quite comfortable with each other,” Fiona said. “There were things going on with this bee that were quite something.” She loved observing her little friend at work in the garden each day.
In the wild, a queen bumblebee spends the spring and summer building a nest and doing what queen bees do—mating and starting a colony of her own before passing away in the early autumn months. Thanks to Fiona’s care, Bee lived for much longer…
Although Fiona was able to extend Bee’s life, she couldn’t make the creature immortal. After enjoying five months of each other’s company, Bee passed away in her sleep while resting on Fiona’s hand.
“I was sad when she died, but I knew it was going to happen. She was already older than she should have been,” said Fiona. “It had been very special to stay with a wee creature, like Bee. The fact that she lived more than just a few weeks amazed me. That was rewarding in itself.”
Fiona made sure to bury Bee in the place where they met—her garden. She also made sure that one of Bee’s favorite flowers was buried along with her. It was a touching testimony to their unique friendship.
Bee made a lasting impression on Fiona. “Now I view all insects in a different light. It’s changed my perception of what insects are like,” she said. “I think there’s an awful lot we don’t know.” How incredible that these two souls could form such an intense bond!
Behavioral ecologist Lars Chittka thought that Fiona might’ve been on to something when it came to bees’ potential for emotional attachment. “Sometimes it takes an outsider’s careful observations, such as Mrs. Presly’s, to generate fresh views and prompt important questions.”
While science still has a lot to learn about bees and how they relate to human beings, it’s clear that the bond between Fiona and Bee was absolutely real. They were both so lucky to find each other!
Isn’t it amazing how fate has a way of intervening in everyday situations? If Fiona wasn’t gardening that day, she and Bee might never have met. Thank goodness that they did—and this unique friendship got the time it needed to flourish!
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