A Preview of Doomsday?
About 36 have, as far as I can ascertain, FREELY chosen to come and die in my house. A few more corpses may be discovered tomorrow, contorted into a fetal position, in the cold light of dawn.
Not one of them called for a priest, a sign, I suppose, of these ungodly times. Some of them protested a bit, but most passed over without a sound. And these 36 were but a tiny fraction of the megadeath that took place here in Mornington yesterday and today.
I personally grieve for the tragic waste, but it became a distinct possibility when they all came trooping along yesterday morning and singled out my house, of all the 9 in this little huddle, for the honour. They were in a very cheerful, busy mood and obviously had high hopes for their new home here. I grieve because the productive lives they were fully entitled to expect will not now bring us the fruits of their hard unstinting work.
It could SO easily have been avoided if only their leader, a towering figure of great girth, had not selfishly insisted on taking up residence inside the house rather than squatting outside. If she (because I am afraid it WAS a 'she') had waited a couple of hours longer clustered with her followers on the outside wall, the special operations man (whom I summoned in an alarm that only my habitual readers can imagine) would have been able to gather them all up, as was his wish, and take them home to brand new housing on his premises. But oh no, in we go, boys, and so all the apiarist could do (apart from tear down the walls of my house) was to position the lethal but (he assured me) very untoxic Oxo cube of the substance that would quickly produce the first of the scenes that I have been describing to you all.
Hence the 3,000 or so deaths. A few forlorn, leaderless bees remain buzzing about around the eaves through which their comrades passed in total obedience to the Queen. But there are many fewer tonight than last night and by tomorrow night I suppose that the remaining bees will have died, not of the pesticide, but of old age - they only have a 3 (or 6?) week lifespan, apparently.
So, for the bees, there is no longer a problem on this earth. The bee-keeper's only discernible problem as far as I can see, in these ideal warm spring swarming conditions is finding spare time to spend the 80 dollars it cost me for his ten minutes of work and advice and those other 80 dollar contributions of the other local householders who are meeting similar hordes of unexpected visitors at this time of year.
As usual, it is me who has to clear up the mess, burying the dead, or administering the coup de grace (especially to those 36 who, in their agony, somehow managed to invade my study and living room). From time to time, I still spot one or two gallantly hobbling across my carpet in obvious discomfort. I also hear the occasional tell-tale high-pitched buzz of a moribund bee furiously attacking the chintz curtains as if they had caused this dreadful calamity.
I have to behave with extreme caution. I cannot make a move without first checking whether there is a bee, and a sting, lurking on the carpet, in a cup or on a plate, a piece of fruit, or in bed! I cannot have any visits from friends or family because of the terrible danger to them if they sit in the wrong place. So, quite alone, I am stoically living on a war footing until the last of the tiny survivors depart for a better world and maybe the chance of a human existence next time round.
Brian Steel (7-10-99)
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