The bees are floating, here in Britain. They’re high on life.
This summer has been benign until now, with mediterranean sunshine and the occasional heavy shower; and every pollen-producing flower is one big party. Lavender bush in your garden? Go and take a look. It’s like a bee opium den. Bees hanging out on gorgeous blousy overblown blooms, high as kites.
I was trundling across the top of the iron age fort when I found one such bee. It demanded you stop and look because it was hugging a luscious purple thistle like a wino hugs a bottle of whisky. It was enamoured of it. It was taking long, lazy drafts and I surmise that if I had tried to take that flower of that bee at that moment it would have taken a large crowbar.
I took a picture.
I have been taking a lot of pictures of bees lately because right now they gaze in a spaced-out manner at the lens and say “cheese”. And it has come to my attention, finally, after half a lifetime on this planet, that there are more kinds of bees in heaven and earth than I had previously dreamt of.
To start with, every bee rolls its compound eyes every time some vacuous wildlife tourist says “It’s making pollen so that it can go home and make us honey!”
The International Honeybee Collective would like it known that only honeybees do this, and a large number of bees are not honeybees. The whole ‘bees co-operate together’ thing is a little askew, too, following pro-honeybee propaganda by Dreamworks: honeybees do, it’s true, and they live in great sociable hives which have been cultivated by man since Egyptian times.
But the rest have small comfy hobbit-like holes in the ground and prefer a solitary life.
So before you pause in your walk to marvel at Nature’s professional pollinators, perhaps it is only courteous to be well-informed as to precisely which bee you are gawping at.
Of course, you have to get it to show its bottom.
I issue this warning because I neglected to get the bee on the thistle to show its backside. It’s not the first thing which occurs to you when you’re nature-gazing, marvelling at the complexity of mother earth and her inhabitants. But the best bee identifier on the web starts with the bee’s bottom, and if you can’t see it, you’re sunk.
You can find the Natural History Museum’s identfier for all British species here. And it starts with everything below the waist, another part of the anatomy I had no idea bees possessed. So I got out my bee pictures:
And was there a bee bottom in sight? There was not.
Looking back over my phototgraphs from Kew gardens, the bees were all bottom-baring. I was able to identify thic chap:
And this lavender lover, despite his blur:
And now I am a bee-geek. A bombus-spotter. I cannot see a bee without peering impertinently at its bottom and scurying off to identify it. I am bee-P-C: a politically correct bee appreciator.
And there has never been a better Summer for it.