I heard him before I saw him. As R and I were leaving the house this morning to run errands in Stratford, I wandered across the front lawn (as I’ve been doing every day for the past couple of weeks) to check the pulmonaria patch for solitary bees. As I approached I heard a furious, high-pitched buzzing, and my heart lifted because I knew what it must be: these little bees make a noise that seems to threaten imminent attack, though the males are stingless, and the nearest I’ve ever seen one come to aggression is flying into a rival to bump it away from a female.
This one isn’t in a position even to compete yet, because he’s this year’s first Anthophora plumipes to emerge in my garden – causing me to wonder what it must be like to be him. He has one job, and one only, which is to find a receptive female and mate with her; and I assume that his instinct is primed to detect and follow the smell of the female bees when they arrive. Within a few days he’ll be one of many males hanging about, waiting for the females to emerge, and they’ll all be zooming madly around the place, looking as though they’re trying to be everywhere at once just so they don’t miss their chance with the laydees (each of whom will mate only once). But right now…. how does it feel to be the only one of him?
I know – I’m over-thinking again. Bees don’t go in for existential angst, of course: they just do the thing they do, as well as they’re able to do it, for as long as they can before time or predation ends their lives. But still… it must be strange to be all alone in the world, and he was definitely nervous today. I approached him twice; the first time he zoomed off without me managing to focus the lens, and on this occasion (after we arrived home from our
cake errands) I got just six frames before he left – and given that this pulmonaria is one of a very few plants currently in flower here, that means that he was more scared of me than he was hungry. He needs to eat to keep his strength up though, so once I knew I had some usable images I went away and left him in peace to get back to his foraging.