Thursday, August 08, 2013 • 6:38 AM Post a Comment

Bees

posted by Caleb Rounds

After a week away my already ailing raspberries have been overtopped by bindweed. I’ve only seen a few flowers and it hasn’t set seed yet, but the roots and plants are bad enough. I have set out early a few mornings this week to rid the patch of the scourge. There really isn’t much hope that I will win; but I might keep it at bay. If the raspberries can get big enough to set fruit before the fungus that has infected their roots kills them, I will be happy.

I make it sound unpleasant, but it isn’t. Ground ivy, bindweed and quack grass are my three worst weeds and tearing them from the ground roots and all stimulates my brain’s pleasure centers. An hour in the garden flies by as I fill a few bins with the tattered remains of my enemy.

This morning I happened upon a solitary bumble bee as she waited for the sun to warm her. Usually I can’t snap a shot of a bee as they are far too busy flitting from flower to flower, but this lovely lady was immobilized. Arthropods (bees, crabs, dragonflies, ticks, millipedes etc.) don’t regulate their body temperatures the way we do. Instead they depend on a combination of external heat and waste metabolic heat to keep the chemical reactions in their body functioning optimally.

So when Ms. Bee found herself out a bit late servicing flowers, she was overwhelmed by the change in temperature. She could no longer power her flight muscles and just settled down to wait. When the sun returned her muscles would warm up and she’d be able to fly home. Luckily, she’s not married and doesn’t have to explain her whereabouts to an irritated spouse. Sadly, nobody missed her: she’s just like all the others.

When the sun hits her this morning, she’ll start flexing her flight muscles; muscles made from the same proteins that form our muscles and the chicken and beef we eat. Eventually the temperature will be right and she’ll be off.

The bee does all this because she’s hard wired for it. We are not blessed with this simplicity. My mother likes to say that the problem with my generation is we have too many choices. When she was a girl, a boy could become a priest, a lawyer, or a doctor and a girl could become a teacher, a nurse, a librarian or a mom. I think she’s oversimplifying, as I believe there may have been some other professions in the fifties.

Unlike the bee, we must find jobs that fit us. Many of us struggle. I’ve found that the work that brings me most joy, gardening, doesn’t pay the bills. Worse, it covers me in dirt and bug bites. Some are luckier. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to work in my old research lab with my mentor of many years. He “retired” a decade ago, but still works every day. This is no job, it is what brings him joy and purpose. We should all be so lucky.

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