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The Forager

Shuttering Perceptions

By Shelby RiderPublished 2 years ago 8 min read
Photo taken by the author: Shelby Rider

My internal alarm clock wakes me up to another early morning; I stretch as I rise. I move past my sister who is just stirring. We both have a lot of work to do today, as we did yesterday and the day before. I move quietly through our home as I prepare to leave, not wanting to wake anyone.

Out of habit, I count the hexagonal tiles I cross on our floor. My job can be a little unpredictable at times, but counting helps me ground myself. Our rooms are bright and sunny with many shades of golden yellow, which reminds me of the way the sun beams down on fresh flowers. Especially now that it is summer again-my favorite time of year.

I head out on my own, wanting to get an early start. The air is crisp and fresh, and I’m excited to get to work. We don’t live far from the downtown area, so I like to go down main street on my way.

My siblings and I were all born and raised in Fairhope, Alabama, down on the gulf coast. It’s always warm and sunny-even in the winter-which makes my family very happy. Our town is picturesque. Beautifully filled with all manners of plant life and biodiversity. We live close to the bay where many wooded areas overlook the water, and all of the main intersections have large seasonal flower beds planted on each corner.

Being such a lovely place to visit, there is a steady flow of tourists in town year round. I often find myself observing them. Wondering what it’s like where they live. What flowers they grow and how their weather treats them.

They don’t notice me.

I don’t mind. I'm always very busy. I have a lot to do in order to help support my family.

Today, as I meander through the downtown area, I pass many tourists on their way for ice cream or a trip to the bay. I find it hard to relate to how much downtime they have to sit and relax. They rarely look in my direction. Sometimes they hear me humming and give me a weird look, but most are too distracted by their activities to pay me any mind. Sometimes it’s better that way. I’m left to my own devices and get my job done more efficiently.

The sun shines bright overhead, and I look to it for which direction I should go next. The sun yields the best plant life, so I follow its shining rays around the corner. I am not disappointed. For in a small town, down a small alleyway, a flowering vine attracts even smaller creatures.

As I approach the plant, several forager bees are already buried within the plant’s stores of nectar. I can smell the sweet aroma wafting through the breeze from the flower’s stamen, and feel the electric field of the flower pulling me in. The bright petals look sturdy and the pollen grains are large-an inviting place to start!

As I land on the edge of the flower, I let myself slip down inside it. The shape of the petals wrap around me as I’m able to syphon the nectar I need into my crop. I can feel some pollen collecting around my hind legs as well, but I’ll need to visit more flowers to have enough to return home with.

I wriggle out of my first flower, and fly over to the next. As I land on the petal’s edge, I feel some of the pollen loosen from my hind legs, which I know will help to pollinate this flower. Another part of the job. I look around at the bees from my colony, and a few strangers I don’t recognize. It is always good to find a fresh pollen source that hasn’t been picked over yet. And what’s good for the hive is good for all!

I start to crawl into my second flower, but I get distracted by a shadow that falls across me. The bright sun that lit up the little alleyway is being blocked by a large figure nearby.

The contrasting dark silhouette of a human stands over me, and I watch to see what they might do. I was used to being swatted at, and sometimes people even ran away from me. It was something I never understood, seeing that I had no intention of harming them. I actually help them by pollinating all the beautiful flowers around town that make it such a tourist destination. We bees do a lot for the environment and encourage biodiversity, so I can’t figure out why humans don’t like us. But this human seems different somehow. It doesn’t flee or try to shoo me away.

I first assume it’s one of the many tourists in town. But then I recognize her as one of the younger humans who owns the restaurant across the street. I pass it most days on my search for new pollen sources, and she usually places fresh flowers on the tables out front. I’ve stopped there on several occasions to drink the sweet nectar before the cut flowers die. I often think what a shame it is to kill flowers like that, but the humans don’t use flowers for food. They stop at these large box shaped buildings called restaurants to collect their nectar-each one with a different aroma. One smells spicy, the next one sweet. I often wonder if they choose their food source using scent as well as sight like we do.

I have noticed that the human girl is only around in the summer season, and is sometimes sitting at the outside tables when I stop by. She likes to draw the flowers on her break. It’s nice to relate to the human’s in their appreciation for the beauty of bright colored petals and sweet smelling bouquets. I wonder if that’s what she’s doing as she stands over me now.

The human girl lifts a large black object from the strap around her neck. She moves very slowly, almost as if it isn’t she who is moving, but the world around her. Statuesque in how she watches me. I stare back, not sure what she wants as she stands with her large object pointed at me. It’s an object I often see the tourist humans carry around with them. They usually put them very close to their faces, but I don’t know why or what they do.

I see her hand shift in a circular motion, and the front cylinder moves, zooming slowly closer to me. I know that I should probably fly away, but curiosity keeps me there as I stare into the object. It takes me a moment to figure out what I’m looking at, but it finally dawns on me: that’s me! I can see my reflection in the large, domed piece of glass inches from my face. I’m not sure what it means or how I feel about the exposure. Part of me wants to slip my whole body into the flower's protective petals, but I am too busy studying the human to move.

There is no sound beyond the gallery of bees buzzing around me as they collect their nectar. I wonder if they’ve noticed the girl too since she has been so quiet and still. She adjusts her lens once more, and I am suddenly surprised by a bright flash and a shuttering sound that almost makes me jump. I quickly blink my five eyes, trying to refocus my sight on the girl. I see little blue spots of light, but as they quickly clear away, the human is gone.

I shake off the feeling of being ogled at and finally lean into the flower I am perched on. I take a sip of sweet nectar, and I’m off to the next one. Flitting through the flowers until my stores of nectar are full and my corbiculae are heavy with pollen. I follow my normal flight pattern back home carrying half my body weight in resources for my colony.

As I re-enter the hive, I count the hexagon tiles on my way back to our pollen cells. I fly over them so often that I have each one memorized. There are more hexagons to count in this direction, and I get excited as I know I’m close to reaching the last tile. I stuff my pollen into the nearest empty cell, and head to the indoor bees to transfer my nectar. There, they will pass it back and forth to remove it’s moisture and create honey. We work in unison for the survival of the hive.

I fly back outside for another load, but I can’t stop thinking about the human girl. I wonder what her object did and why I could see myself in it. I also wonder if she recognized me from the restaurant tables, and if she ever eats the honey my hive makes. I don’t understand how the human hives work, but I do often wonder if they observe us as much as we observe them. It felt odd to be noticed for once, but it gives me confidence to feel truly seen and appreciated by the human girl. Maybe her observations could change the minds of the humans around her. Because if humans just had a snapshot of the beauty of a bee’s life, maybe we could all live more cohesively!


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