Monika R Martyn
Willie flew in hot pursuit, flying backwards and keeping an eye on the hives to find her way back home. Becky was faster and very agile.
"Wait!" Willie buzzed. She didn't know where Becky was going. And the temptation of promised nectar was difficult to overcome. Every night she'd contributed her portion of nectar to make bee bread for the expected babies, but now Willie deserved a treat.
"Be Careful!" Cindy frantically cautioned in the hive, but Willie didn't hear a word above the buzz.
Once they reached the small creek, Becky veered farther away from the hive, and Willie chased. While flying above the meadow, Willie kept track of the landmarks. Willie noticed the broken turnstile, the trio of spruce trees, and the mailbox with upturned wings when Becky suddenly dived into an unexpected garden below. The aroma of basil in bloom was thick like syrup.
"What took you so long?" Becky teased while gorging on nectar. The garden was smaller than the one at the mansion, but Willie had never seen such variety. Carnations, oregano, lilies, roses, petunias, daisies, and dahlias the size of dinner plates.
"You cheated! You never counted to ten." Willie reprimanded Becky, who rolled in a bath of yellow nectar.
"Yum! So delicious," Becky smacked her mouth. "That wasn't my fault. You're so slow at counting. In my head, I was already at twenty." Becky sported a growing purple pollen beard and grinned.
Cindy didn't trust Becky. She said she was reckless. But Willie loved the adventuresome spirit of her newest friend. Becky—everyone agreed, had been to places. Willie giggled, been —that word never got old.
"Follow me. Have you ever tasted carnations?" An array of multi-coloured dust-covered Becky's bum. "There are so many flavours; it's like an ice cream shop."
Willie took another lick and lifted off; Becky was already high above her. Becky was the most popular bee in the colony. Everyone loved her sense of humour. Cindy was cautious, and Willie suspected unfounded jealousy.
Willie logged the new flavours in her memory; she also noticed the garden drew all kinds of characters besides bees. She saw many new butterflies, flies, beetles, ladybugs, snails, and dragonflies. Remembering her manners, Willie remained courteous and said hello. She was busy feasting on an orange lily when she bumped into a very furry bee.
"Goodness me." The furry bee said.
"I'm sorry, I should have been more careful." Willie knew to mind her manners. She didn't giggle over the word been.
"I haven't seen you around here before?" The furry bee came closer.
"No, it's my first time." Willie giggled. Seen.
"What's so funny? Are you laughing at me because I'm furry and plump?"
"No. No. You said seen. That's funny. I thought all bees found ee words funny."
"I'm not just a bee."
"What are you then?" Willie stopped eating.
"I'm a relative like an Auntie. I'm what's called a bumblebee. The differences are obvious, aren't they?"
"Yes, you're much larger. And your stripe is wider. You definitely have more hair. But why is that?" Willie reached out and touched.
"Genetics, my dear. What's your name? I'm Trudi."
"Trudi, I'm Willie. I'm here with my friend. So which hive do you live in?"
"My swarm and I live below ground."
"You mean no one built you a hive?"
"Nope. My group is much smaller. There are only 398 of us. That's until our brood hatches."
"But how do you make enough honey?"
"We don't. We make enough to eat. You're a honeybee; I am a bumblebee."
Willie giggled. Honey. That word just tickled every stripe on her tummy.
"Bumblebee? You don't eat us like wasps, do you?"
"No. It's complicated. Wasps follow their ways, but they're our cousins. As are ants."
"If I had more time, I would love to share all I know about this wonderful planet, but I have a long way to go home. I wish you a lovely day."
And just like that, Trudi lifted off, her legs swollen with baskets of nectar and pollen.
Willie flew to the next flower, a beautiful aster, and everything that Trudi was telling her was coming back to her. Her complex memory bank slowly released bits of stored information. She wished she could have spent more time with Trudi, but it was also time to head home. She glanced around for Becky and realized that the garden had become quieter. Becky was gone. The human came out of the house wearing a large-brimmed hat, and gloves and turned on the garden hose. A shimmering rainbow cast its beautiful colours in an arc.
And Willie was getting worried. Without Becky, she'd have a hard time finding her way back. She lifted off and saw the familiar rear end of a bee in flight and followed.
After several minutes, Willie panicked. She couldn't identify the landscape below. Out of breath, she caught up to the bee and yelled, "excuse me." The bee dropped lower and landed on a bluebell swaying in the evening breeze.
"What's wrong? Did I do something?" The bee asked, and Willie saw her mistake. She didn't know this bee at all.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I knew you."
"No worries. You lost? You look lost. Don't tell me you're lost."
"I am. I think. Lost."
"Well, I don't think I can help. I don't know you. I've never met you. I have never seen you before." The bee giggled.
Willie giggled too.
"I'm Willie. I'm from the Oak Colony. Do you know it?"
"Ah! Yes. Fly back that way. Look for the fallen log and turn right. Then fly a little higher, and you'll see the oaks in the distance. Be careful."
"Thank you. Which hive do you belong to? Willie asked.
"I'm a renter bee. I live alone in an abandoned house? But I have to hurry. I must go. I'm late."
Willie took flight, found the log and buzzed her wings higher. In the distance, she recognized the familiar cluster of oaks, the sunlight filtering through the leaves. She couldn't wait to see Cindy and share her adventure.
But first, she needed to chat with Becky. It wasn't cool to leave a friend behind.
Snug next to Cindy, Willie had questions. Each day among the hive was joyous and full of adventure. But as Cindy was explaining, also full of danger. The log she flew over was full of wasps, and she came dangerously close.
"What's a renter bee?" Willie waggled.
"They live alone and have babies alone. They move into the spaces between cracks, pithy stems, or shells. Although it seems impossible, there are more solitary bees than hive honeybees. And like Trudi was explaining to you, we're like a chocolate box assortment. There are so many kinds, perhaps thousands. But you know what?" Cindy stroked Willie's legs.
"What?" Willie couldn't believe how lucky she was to have a 🐝 friend like Cindy.
"Nobody's as special to me as you are."