The Death of the Bee

It was a glowing summer morning, the kind when you wake up with the natural sunlight streaming in your window and you have the most delicious tingling sensation of being alive. The three bird families who lived in our yard were chirping in their bright enthusiasm as the wind caressed the fluffy clouds with an airy grace that created an effect not unlike van Gogh’s The Wheat Fields.

A brisk staccato on the paving stones of our garden path drew my attention. A furry little bee was frantically beating on the unmoving stone. A closer look revealed that the stinger of the bee was gone. The pathetic creature had foolishly stung some innocent neighbor, I thought, turning back to the leaking bucket with which I was watering droopy basil plants.

Yet somehow, I could not draw my eyes for long from the struggling bee before me. There was something intriguing about this desperate confrontation with Death that attracted me.

The bee’s frail front legs tapped the rough stone, as if beating out its own death roll. It seemed that some external unearthly power possessed him. Around and around the paving stone he spun with a feverish dervish-like vigor. He strained to reach yet another corner and another of that pale pink slab of stone. By and by, the incessant tapping like a clock slowed, lapsing into a weak staccato on the edge of that slab.

Suddenly his body was wracked by awful spasms. The bee repeatedly flung himself into the air, only to crash onto his back, waving his spindly legs in agony. He shook violently, his short little body arching and then collapsing into the stone. A huge shiver convulsed him, and he seemed to lose the thread of vitality that still tethered him to life.

I turned away. Had the bee known that he would die if he stung someone? And if he did, why would the bee panic and sting someone to protect himself even when one little prick led to inevitable death? Why suffer so much for a moment of panic and defense instinct? Or was it some spiteful revenge in the moments of what he believed was imminent, inescapable death?

He caught my eye once more. With a desperate flutter, he flung himself with almost human strength back on his legs. He made a tremendous effort to regain his former drumming. Now, it was as painstakingly slow as the ticking of a clock. It eerily counted down his remaining seconds of life.

A queer mixture of emotions made me feel repulsed and yet simultaneously attracted with a sort of morbid fascination to the valiant but futile grapple with Death. Everything was still so alive and vibrant when the ticking ceased and the bee flopped down limply on that paving stone. Death was taking away his life energy and giving it to the rest of the world. The bee was nothing but one node out of millions in an infinite parallel circuit of life. What did his effort count in the face of overwhelming humanity?

A final spasm shuddered through the bee. Its legs waved weakly one last time and froze in the stiff posture of death. And it was over.

Does one still fight a battle one is destined to lose?