The Last Bee of Summer

A few weeks back, on one of those unseasonably balmy evenings that October brought this year, I watched a lone bee feeding on the buddleia. It occurred to me that I don’t really know very much about bees (and the son of a beekeeper too!), where they live and how they spend the winter. Honeybees hibernate, warm in the collective heat of the colony, but what of the larger solitary bees? Who keeps them warm at night?

I watched my bee in the gloaming, the gentle buzzing more redolent of lazy summer afternoons than late autumn, as it calmly visited the purple flowers. Were there other bees out there, or was this the last bastion, gathering food in the tail-end of autumn before it too hunkered down in a nook or cranny somewhere quiet and warm.

Soon it was too dark to see the bee. But I could hear the odd buzz and grumble as it worked its way round the shrub and, stupidly, I found myself worrying for its prospects over the forthcoming winter. Had it left it too late? Or would this extra meal give it the advantage over its colleagues and rivals when it came to waking up in spring, all ready to begin repopulating the world with bees? I hoped the latter and, cheered by the thought of the sap already rising for the spring to come, I headed inside.

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