There’s nothing quite like making friends, especially with animals. The bond between a human and a creature is truly special. That’s exactly what Fiona Presly found last year.
It was a relationship that she wouldn’t soon forget. It all started while she was out gardening at her home in Scotland at the beginning of spring.
Fiona spotted a queen bumblebee at her feet. For some reason, the bee seemed quite disoriented. Presly decided to inspect the little bee and put it by a flower so it wouldn’t get stood on.
However, Fiona had no idea that this queen bee wasn’t like the others.
“I picked her up and noticed their was something peculiar, she had no wings.”
Unsure of how to help, Presly gave the bee some sugar water and placed her by some flowers. She hoped she’d be able to manage on her own. But when she checked back on the spot a few hours later, she noticed the bee hadn’t moved from the spot. What made matters worse was that there was a storm approaching!
Fiona decided to take the bee inside to keep her warm and fed. “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 there she found out that this bee likely had a virus known to cause problems in wing development. The queen’s chance of survival in the wild would be slim at best without the ability to fly.
Other than this setback, the bee seemed completely healthy. Presly decided to give her a chance at life and with a bit of creativity, that’s exactly what she did!
Fiona made a garden for the queen bee, now formally named as Bee. She could walk from flower to flower to feed. She had her own private floral buffet which was protected from other creatures thanks to some netting. This little enclosure helped Bee get all the pollen she would need.
Bee truly was living like a queen! Presly continued to check on her daily, bringing tiny cups of sugar water if she looked lethargic and when the weather went downhill, she would bring her back inside for refuge.
At this point, the pair had formed an unlikely friendship. When Presly would lower her hand, Bee would walk right over and place herself upon it.
“She seemed so happy to see me. It made me stop and think – there’s something going on here.”
Fiona couldn’t explain what it was, but Bee seemed genuinely happy to be in contact with her.
“It was like her whole being came to life. I think she liked the fact that she wasn’t alone, I think she thrived on company, even from another species. They are naturally sociable creatures. That would be in their instinct.”
Friends and family of Fiona were shocked to find that she had formed an incredible bond with Bee. It was evident that they were both comfortable with each other and enjoyed the company.
The average life of a bumblebee would involve spending spring and summer building a nest, mating and starting a colony, then finally dying at the approach of autumn.
But like a miracle, this disadvantaged bee, under Fiona’s care, managed to outlive them all!
Sadly, however, Bee’s time eventually ran out. Five months after being rescued, Bee fell asleep in Fiona’s hand and never woke up again.
“I was sad when she died, but I knew it was going to happen. She was already older than she should have been,” said Fiona.
“It had been very special to stay with a wee creature, like Bee. The fact that she lived more than just a few weeks amazed me. That was rewarding in itself.”
Fiona buried Bee in her garden with her favourite flower.
The experience Fiona shared with Bee and the phenomenal bond they formed was unexpected. However, it opened her eyes to the idea that the world may be filled with more fascinating things than she first imagined.
“Now I view all insects in a different light. It’s changed my perception of what insects are like, I think there’s an awful lot we don’t know.”
Though Fiona admits that she doesn’t truly know what Bee actually felt in her heart, she believes that there was something strong to be learnt from their time together.
She decided to contact Lars Chittka, a professor of sensory and behavioural ecology at the Queen Mary University of London.
Chittka stated that Bee’s example could change our understanding of creatures like her as a whole: “Sometimes it takes an outsider’s careful observations, such as Mrs Presly’s to generate fresh views and prompt important questions.
I don’t know about you, but this has to be one of the most unlikely yet whimsical friendships I have ever seen. What an incredible bond Fiona and Bee had formed, and it’s such a shame that Bee only has a short lifespan.
Next time you spot a bumblebee, you may have a different outlook. I know I certainly will.