Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Sentinel Bee
I took a break this afternoon, between walking Rigby and painting the living room to sit outside behind the garage for a spell. It was ninety degrees and sunny, with a cool, dry breeze. Beautiful, really. As they say so often up here in these parts, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity!" So true. I think it could be a hundred and I wouldn't mind it too much as long as the humidity was low. The sheets and blankets I hung on the line were dry almost as soon as I finished hanging them, and they snapped in the breeze, startling my little dog Rigby.
I was sitting in the shade with Rigby, just noticing how green and lush things are getting out there. We have a hedge of forsythia separating us from our neighbors to the west, and right now it is a riot of shocking, brilliant yellow. It's so bright, it almost hurts the eyes. The grass really needs cutting now, and I watched a male cardinal fluttering about in it. His bright red color was so striking against the new grass. Everywhere, the ubiquitous robins were hopping around, or singing loudly from the trees. I've heard that the first settlers named them after European birds with similar plumage, but that our American Robins are really thrushes, and would be more accurately called "black-capped thrush", or "orange breasted thrush". At this time of year, they are by far the most commonly seen bird on suburban lawns in these parts.
A robin suddenly started up an alarm call as I sat there, and I could see him calling from a low branch a few yards away. At first, I thought I was the reason for his distress, until I saw the big hawk rise up and flap away over the treetops. I haven't been able to identify him yet, but he is lightly colored underneath and is pretty large. I've never been able to get a good look at him, except from beneath.
Mac and I have both noticed that there is a big bumble bee that apparently lives underneath the eaves of the barn, behind the gutter. There's probably a bunch of them living in there, but we most often see this one huge, solitary guard hovering around the edge of the roof. It's as big as my thumb, it seems much bigger than other bumble bees I have seen, and the rear end of his body is shiny and leathery looking. It has a habit of zooming down and investigating anything going on in the yard. I don't know much about bumble bees, their habits, or how they live. I've seen them flying up out of holes in the ground, and I'd assumed they always lived underground, but this guy(or girl, maybe), seems very intent on guarding this spot under the eaves. Maybe it's a different kind of bee altogether. Today, the big bee sentinel suddenly appeared in front of my face. It hovered a few inches away from me and I had the distinct impression it was "reading" me...deciding whether I, or Rigby, might be a threat. I looked into those big black eyes and stayed still for a moment. It studied me for a few seconds, then dropped down for a look at Rigby. I was glad that Rigby didn't snap at it - she generally tries to eat any insect she comes across. It hung in the air for a moment longer, sizing us up, then buzzed off toward the barn, apparently satisfied that we weren't any cause for concern. I intend to do some research and find out more about them, because this big bumble has peaked my curiosity.