26th May


She found the bumblebee crawling across the bedroom carpet. It must have come in through a window but it wasn’t capable of flying any more.

She watched its laborious progress with unwished-for recognition. There had been so much on the news lately about diminishing bee populations. Some virus was causing it. They were being killed off by insecticides. Climate change was responsible. She didn’t know what the truth was, but she kept finding bumblebees, inside and outside, behaving just like this one. The bees looked fat and healthy but moved like old men on their hands and knees. The bee on the carpet seemed to have a purpose, a determination to get somewhere, but she knew it was dying. She wondered if it was in pain.

She fetched a sheet of paper and a glass and put the paper in front of the bee. It kept going, straight on to it. She placed the glass over the bee and went downstairs, out into the garden. By the time she got there the bee was pushing against the edge of the glass. She removed it and the bee continued on its relentless journey, onto the lawn.

Her husband was weeding one of the flowerbeds. He came across.

‘Another one,’ she said.

They watched the bee together. A blade of grass was almost too much for
it to negotiate. It managed a few more centimetres, then stopped.

‘What is happening?’ she said.

‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘but it’s not good. Not for the bees, not for us.’

The apple tree was covered in blossom. But it had been like that last year, and they hadn’t had a single apple from it. Not one. It had been a bad year for fruit generally. People had blamed the rain, the cold, the lack of sun, but what if there weren’t enough bees? What if there simply weren’t enough pollinators left to do the work?

The bee hadn’t moved for a minute. He bent and touched it with the tip of his finger.

‘Don’t,’ she said. ‘Don’t torment it.’

‘No,’ he said. ‘I wanted to help, that’s all.’

He stood up, shaking his head. She reached for his hand.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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