Crafty bee

Towards the end of the summer of 1992/93 our nights were suddenly disturbed by an intrepid bumblebee that came blundering through the bedroom window one afternoon and got caught against the glass.

Fran found him and fished him carefully out with a piece of card, only to find herself repeating the procedure five minutes later; and then again five minutes later than that. Bemused and at a loss, she blocked the window with the net curtain thinking the problem resolved.

But the bee was not to be outwitted so easily and she was called back to the bedroom when a fierce row broke out, to discover him enmeshed in the folds of the curtain.

Out he went again and the window jammed shut on a sultry day, which finished the business. Or so she thought, until she ran into him in the hallway, on her way out of the bedroom. He came motoring through the open front door, having found his way round to the front porch in the time it had taken her to close the window. He was self-absorbed and purposeful in that distant preoccupied manner of the working bee, showing neither fear nor favour, while giving Fran the uncanny impression that he knew exactly where he wanted to go. But she was having nothing of it and shepherded the recalcitrant bee back out the door, then closed it and returned to the sunroom.

It took the disgruntled insect five minutes to locate the open door at the back of the house, then sail gaily over the chair in which she was sitting, down the passageway and back into the bedroom. Intrigued now, she shadowed him into the room, where he did a couple of loops in his blundering bumblebee way before landing on the top of the wardrobe.

The peculiar aerodynamic design of the bumblebee seems to deny them the ability to steer in a straight line. He had a couple of clumsy attempts at landing as he swung round the room, divining a course through the principles of apian guesswork, which he seemed to use his memory to improve on. Then cast a final perilous loop over the bed to grapple a foothold in a pile of sleeping bags, narrowly missing getting caught in the dangling lampshade in the process.

This was the start of a two-week stay that settled into a regular routine.

Crafty, as our son Kas was quick to christen him, would sleep out the night, before waking about dawn with an ominous rattle. Then he would crawl from the sleeping bags, launch himself, then career off towards the window. If he had not made it into the outside world by the fourth attempt, one of us would climb blearily from bed to help shake him out of the curtain.

Often he would be back within an hour, kipping down again until nine, when he would cruise off for the day, returning for another short kip at four o'clock before heading out to work a twilight shift. Then he would return at dusk for the night.

His short stay brought with it all the anxieties attendant on looking after small children. He would wake in the night to flop prematurely off the wardrobe then lie growling under the bed until retrieved back into his sleeping bags. On one occasion he fell behind the wardrobe itself to conduct a stand-off with a large and rather terrified spider, while I tried to shoulder the wardrobe out from the wall and rescue him.

Finally, desperate for uninterrupted sleep, we tried interring him in a shoebox at two o'clock one morning as he began revving round the room like a wind-up blowfly. He registered such violent disapproval at being shut up in this way that we resigned ourselves to our fate and left him to go on his merry disruptive way.

Our feelings ran the gamut from parental resentment to sentimental affection and engaging curiosity at finding ourselves host to such an absurdly over confident and somewhat surly guest, though such feelings were always qualified, for we knew he might be gone at any time, without explanation . This event we awaited with a sense of resignation as the fate of all such animal encounters. When it came, however, after a fortnight's occupancy, his leaving upstaged anything we might have imagined.

He missed one night, but then flew back in the open lounge window the next afternoon, something he had never done before. He then circled the room three or four times as we sat in our chairs, before flying back out the same window.

He was gone for good, though two days later we located him in the front garden, lapping up nectar from flowers in the lavender bush. At least we imagined it to be Crafty, for how can you tell one bumblebee from another save through guesswork. Our guess, however, was shrewdly informed by the fact that he now had a companion, and the two were working in obvious concert as they milked the blue flowering bush.


True story by Derek Schulz of New Zealand




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Derek Schulz
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