Last year, Fiona Presly formed a very different friendship she won’t soon forget.
She was gardening outside her home in Scotland during the start of spring; Presly noticed a queen bumblebee at her feet, seemed cold and disoriented. Afraid the little being could get stepped on, she bent down to place the it on a flower — not knowing that the bee was very different.
“I picked her up and noticed there was something peculiar,” Presly told. “She had no wings.”
Presly was unsure of how to help, but offered the bee some sugar water and set her on some flowering plant, hoping she would be able to recover and manage on her own. She checked the spot a few hours later; however, she discovered that the bee hadn’t moved.
Suddenly, a heavy storm was about to start — so Presly had to do something now.
“I took her inside that night, kept her warm and fed her more,” she said. “I thought I would put her out the next day, but the weather was bad then too. So I kept her inside.”
Presly contacted the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for help and came to learn that the bee most likely had a virus known to affect wing development. The queen’s chances of survival in the wild were low without the ability to fly.
But seeing that the bee was otherwise healthy, Presly decided to help her live. And that meant thinking out of the box.
“I made a garden for her,” Presly said.
The bee, has now been formally named as Bee, would have to walk from flower to flower to feed, Presly built her a private floral buffet. Using some netting, she built Bee an enclosure full of blossoms where other bees and insects couldn’t reach to deplete the pollens.
Since the bee, now formally named Bee, would have to walk from flower to flower to feed, Presly built her a private floral buffet. Using some netting, she built Bee an enclosure full of blossoms where her winged counterparts couldn’t reach to deplete the pollen.
Presly continued to check daily, bringing her tiny cups of sugar water if she seemed to appear lethargic and carried her indoors if the weather turned rainy.
A beautiful thing happened; a remarkable bond was formed between them.
Soon, each time Presly would drop by the enclosed garden, something surprising began happening — Bee would eagerly appear from the foliage to greet her.
“She’d walk toward me and crawl on my hand,” Presly said. “She seemed so happy to see me. It made me stop and think — there’s something going on here.”
Presly couldn’t explain the reasons but the Bee seemed to really enjoy being in touch with her. She seemed to brighten up whenever Presly was around to hold her.
“It was like her whole being came to life. I think she liked the fact that she wasn’t alone,” Presly said. “I think she thrived on company, even from another species. They are naturally sociable creatures. That would be in their instinct.”
Presly was also in love with the Bee, who seemed to regard her as a real friend.
“We were quite comfortable with each other,” she said. “There were things going on with this bee that were quite something.”
Normally, a queen bumblebee spent the spring and summer constructing a nest, mating and starting a colony — finally dying at the approach of autumn. Under Presly’s care, Bee had lived longer them all. But her time also eventually ended.
Five months later, Bee just fell asleep in Presly’s hand and then never woke up again.