Sunday, August 19, 2012

Saving Polly

We keep the windows and blinds open later than usual on cool evenings. Any of the day's heat that has accumulated in the house is tempered by the nighttime air. During these times it is not uncommon for winged insects to congregate on the screens; they presumably feel the warm air emanating from the house. Though small, the bugs aren't able to fit through the tiny wired squares and into the heated sanctuary.

This particular, remarkably cool, August evening, I saw a dark oblong shaped object on the patio door screen while I was standing on the opposite side of the kitchen. I walked over and found myself staring at the belly of a honeybee. She wasn't moving, just hanging on with all six legs. Sometimes her antennas wiggled a little. I called the kids over to take a look.

I told the kids that she must have gotten too busy buzzing from flower to flower and the cold sneaked up on her. She probably realized she wasn't going to make it back to her sisters or mother and so she sought someplace warm. The kids peered at her alternating gold and brown stripes and skinny black legs. I suggested we rescue her and let her sleep in the house for one night. Julia was all for it, but Finn wasn't so sure.

We scrounged for a small plastic container and, after we found one, poked holes in the lid. Julia and I went outside while Finn stayed and surveyed the scene from the safe side of the screen. Julia called out while we were walking on the deck toward the side of the house.

"I need to get some flowers for her!"

"She'll only be in there one night, she probably doesn't need any."

"She might!" Julia picked a few small yellow flowers from amongst the grass in the front yard.

"Okay, that's fine," I told her.

Once we were on her side of the screen, we examined the bee again from the new angle. I gently gave her a pet on the back with one finger. Julia watched me nudge her with the lid and into the container. She then placed the flowers inside and I pushed the lid on tight.

Back in the house, we set the temporary honeybee living space on the counter. We needed a name. Julia suggested "Pollinate". I suggested the nickname version, "Polly". The latter stuck.

Polly wasn't sure about being trapped in such a small space. She tried climbing the sloped sides but kept falling. She eventually calmed down and just sat still.

Before the kids went to bed, we checked on her and while it was difficult to tell for sure through the plastic and amongst the flowers, Polly looked to be laying on her side. I was afraid she wasn't going to last til morning.

The next morning Julia woke me up twice before I got out of bed. Back in the kitchen, we looked carefully at Polly through the plastic. She at least appeared to be sitting upright. The temperature outside was only in the fifties, but the sun was bright. We took our little buzzer outside and set the container on the deck table. Finn went back inside before we opened it. Within seconds of removing the lid, Polly starting moving a bit. She was using her front legs and pulling on her antennas. She looked like a cat cleaning its ears. Julia and I looked at her close. We commented on her large eyes and fuzzy back. I told Julia she could pet Polly if she was gentle. I demonstrated with one finger and Julia followed suit.

After more antenna fiddling, Polly began climbing up the sides of the container and falling over. She had a much better time of climbing over the flowers. I praised Julia for her flower idea as they helped provide our little friend some needed traction. After a short while longer of moving around, Polly fluttered her wings a few times and buzzed a bit back and forth in the container. I indicated to Julia that she might take off soon. Seconds later she buzzed straight up past us and into the sky. We watched her flit up higher and higher until she veered toward the sun and we weren't able to keep track of her any longer. Julia had a huge smile on her face and was truly excited that our plan to rescue the bee worked out perfectly. I was pretty excited too.

Though we didn't get to see which way she flew, I would like to think Polly made it home safely and got to experience more days of looking for flowers. But I hope from now on, she heads home a little bit sooner.