Fiona Presly was out in her garden in Scotland when she nearly stepped on a bumblebee. It would be the start of an unusual and touching bond with the insect, one that could change the way she would look at bees forever.
Fiona noticed the queen bumblebee was disoriented and likely cold. When she reached down her hand to place her on a flower, the bee walked onto her hand instead. She right away knew there was something wrong with the bee.
“I looked at her and thought ‘something’s not right here, she’s got no wings,’” she told the Scotsman newspaper.
Fiona reached out to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for help and they told her Bee had likely caught a virus that thwarts a bee’s ability to grow wings. The queen did not have much chance of survival.
Noting that the bee was healthy with exception of her wings, Fiona decided to keep her. Fiona made a special garden for the bee so that she would have flowers to feed on.
She made sure the enclosure had lots of flowers and she put netting over it so other bees would not take Bee’s pollen. It even had a tiny house.
Over the following days, Fiona observed that Bee seemed happier when she visited. Bee seemed to want to greet Fiona whenever she’d come by to check on her.
Bee would walk towards Fiona, as if excited to see her. She didn’t mind being picked up by her either.
“She made sort of clicks, buzzy sounds when she was in close contact with me and was happy to sit and groom, eat, drink and sleep on my hand,” Fiona told the Scotsman.
Bee liked her company and the two formed an unexpected bond.
“We were both very comfortable with each other, and many people admired this bond,” Fiona said. “She was totally relaxed with me.”
Bee’s behavior doesn’t come as a surprise to bee psychologist and professor of behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, Lars Chittka, who says bees are sociable by nature.
“The desired state for a bumblebee queen is to be surrounded by other bees, therefore it seems plausible that such an individual should feel something rewarding from being surrounded by living beings,” he remarked.
Fiona made sure to check on Bee daily and bring her sugar water if she needed more food or bring her indoors when the weather got too chilly.
Fiona and Bee continued to enjoy each other’s company for five months until one day Bee passed away peacefully in Fiona’s hand.
Adult bumblebee queens usually live through Spring and Summer, so Bee lived much longer under Fiona’s care.
“I was sad when she died, but I knew it was going to happen. She was already older than she should have been,” Fiona told the Dodo. “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.”
Bee was buried in the garden alongside her favorite flowers.
Fiona continues to marvel at her friendship with Bee. People can form bonds with insects, and Fiona says she has a new appreciation for insects.
“Now I view all insects in a different light. It’s changed my perception of what insects are like,” she said, adding. “I think there’s an awful lot we don’t know.”