Non-Human Narrative

The Future a Carpenter Built

 

           

            It’s springtime in the forests of Ohio. The sweet smell of dogwoods and magnolias fill the air. Their petals grace the ground below and their aroma tickles the noses of every creature around. The scent lures in unsuspecting pollinators for an easy meal. The hustle and bustle of spring is awakening those who rest in their long winter slumber. Tucked neatly in their nest, the carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, begin arising. They slowly emerge and rest on leaves and flowers to let the April sun warm them up and harden their wings.

           

            Everyone searches for their long lost friends to catch up. Lauren gossips to Charli about what happened at the dandelion patch last fall. They reminisce over childhood memories when they were “cell mates” wriggling and long awaiting their next sweet meal. A springy new addition, Virginia is ready to start her own journey like her mother before her. After feeding on nectar and pollen balls, she’s finally grown into adulthood. She’s eager to make a nest of her own. She finds the perfect spot, an older log cabin tucked neatly into the forest of Yellow Springs. The light from the sun shines perfectly below. The rays dance along the budding leaves of every tree surrounding. Plenty of flowers scatter around, blues, purples, yellows, and reds decorate the floor. Asters, clover, primrose, and other wildflowers are on the menu for all to enjoy. The old wood is soft enough to burrow through but secure enough to hold shape for the den and cells. She begins making a half inch den with her mandibles.

 

She drills and drills, only taking breaks to feed. She flutters and dances below to an inviting

flower. The fresh spring flowers make it seem like a sweet treat. A fluffy yellow center invites Virginia in. Fresh scents of daisy is hard to resist. The delicate white petals flow in the soft breeze. Sailing through the air, pollen scatters hoping to make its own new family of seeds. Virginia is happy to assist the spreading of pollen as she gets a delicious meal in return. After her long awaited lunch, it’s back to work. More drilling and digging.

 

This log cabin seems to be awakening from winter as well. The windows below open to allow

the fresh spring air to flow through and release the stale air of winter. The smell of fresh cut tulips pour from the windows, a treat for the Mrs. of the family inside. Miss Virginia is intrigued by this new scent. She flies below to get a better look. Mmmm… She quickly glides through the window to the prized tulips. She’s taking her fill of nectar by using her maxillae to penetrate the corolla to get to the sweet sugary liquid. Suddenly Mrs. realizes Virginia is stealing part of her gift. She screams and swats throwing Virginia into the air. Virginia tumbles to the table top and struggles to get her wings going again. Mrs. swings again, but Virginia barely escapes. She has enough strength to maneuver through the window back up to her den.

 

Mrs. calls for Mr. and points to Virginia’s tiny hole above the window, shaking her fist and making

commotion. Mr. shakes his head, walks away, and soon the incident is forgotten about. Life goes on for Virginia. She stays outside taking her fill of nectar and pollen from outdoors. She’s perfectly content with the wide selection mother nature brings. She’s nearly finished drilling her den. She makes a series of twists and turns. Finally, she prepares a room for her eggs to be laid later in July. She carefully constructs a five inch long tunnel. She fluffs up the edges and discards the wood shavings and erects walls to separate her brood. She brings in bits of pollen to make it more inviting and cozy for the young.

 

            Once the final touches are complete and her nesting is satisfied, she’s ready for a potential mate. About a dozen eager males show up to win her approval all bobbing and hovering around. They strut their stuff and exhibit why they should be the lucky one. The smaller males get knocked out one by one and move on to the next female. The largest one catches her eye. Kenobee is successful and fathers all nine of Virginias eggs. They hover together in the air and buzz around each other in a unique courtship dance before settling down for the night.

           

Virginia feeds to nourish the eggs before they are laid. Every day she does the same thing. She

forages the flowers below and the intoxicating blossoms above. Then back to the nest to renovate and out again. She constructs individual cells before laying her eggs. Each cell will have food for the new bundle of joy. She works tirelessly. Her sisters guard the nest while she forages. Raising a nest is a communal activity.

           

Rather than gliding through the air like she used to, she flies in small bursts. With every exit she

makes, Virginia is getting tired. It is now time to lay the eggs after her final meal. Dandelion seems like a perfect choice. She finds one that Mrs. forgot to pluck from the garden. After one last sip, she flits up to her little hole above the window to lay her eggs to only find out her hole is nowhere to be found. Maybe she is mistaken. She flies window to window trying desperately to find her den. She checks the last window only to come up empty handed.

 

She goes back to where she’s sure she drilled all spring. She walks the perimeter of the window,

checking every crack and crevice. Caulk, still wet, plugs the hole of Virginia’s den. Her wings droop as she realizes her efforts have been wasted. She desperately tries drilling into the caulk, only to get her leg stuck. She jerks away, but can’t get out. After what seems like an eternity she’s able to break free, but unfortunately loses her leg in the process.

 

She rests on a flower. Virginia realizes her time is near finished. She has limited time to lay the

eggs. She makes it to the shed out back to where she grew up. Her mother’s den still stands. No caulk to be found. Tirelessly, Virginia uses the last of her strength to lay her eggs in the spots her mother set up last year. If it wasn’t for this abandoned den, Virginia and her young would not have been this lucky.

 

Virginia struggles laying egg number nine. Her head droops and her legs cease movement. The

energy escapes little by little. She stumbles to the outer edge of the den to rest. If she’s going to raise the young through the rest of summer and beginning of fall, she will need to feed to regain her strength. The comfort of a powder blue aster invites her in.

 

She patiently awaits the hatching of her brood. Finally, August comes and brings life to her

young. The larvae wriggle, eager to feed on the sweet pollen nectar balls Virginia prepared for them. Back to foraging she goes to gather food for her young. Stevie, Rachel, Grace, Bailey, Bella, Emily, Dawn, Stella, and Clementine all anxiously await their next meal.

 

Virginia comes back to the den to find a bombyliid fly is hovering outside and it quickly escapes

before Virginia is in range. Tiny little eggs sit at the entrance of the den.

 

Before long, the fly’s eggs hatch into larvae of their own. The carpenter bee larvae are in

unknown danger.  Virginia continues to feed her brood of nine. Day in and day out. Eventually three of her nine are consumed by the larvae of the fly. The other six begin to pupate, but the larvae of the bombyliid fly are growing stronger and more hungry.

 

Before long, only one of Virginia’s young remain, Bailey. The end of August comes, and Bailey is

now an adult. Virginia is gone. Where she is, nobody knows. It’s Bailey’s turn to do as her mother and grandmother did before her. First, her wings must harden. She exits the den to let the fall air harden her wings. Three days go by, and her wings are finally functional. She steps to the edge of the den and tries it out. She flutters and sputters but finally makes it into the air.

 

Only a week old adult, she’s feeding on nectar and no longer pollen. She rests on a flower and

inspects the center to understand how to get the nectar. She hops to the side to pierce through to rob the nectar. Before her maxillae fully penetrates, Bailey, the last of Virginia’s brood, is snatched by a praying mantis hiding below the petals. She buzzes and struggles trying to escape. She kicks and attempts to sting but the grasp of the mantis is just too strong.

 

Chewing and gnawing, the mantis eats Bailey alive, and just like that, it’s as if Virginia and Bailey

both never existed. Their memory left behind with the holes bored in the wood above the window. Their history sealed with caulk. The remnants of life which once was is now drifting away into the autumn night. The bright, crisp yellow and orange leaves carry the pieces that are left of Bailey far away.

 

Mrs. is satisfied that no more bees will come in through her open window, but Bailey’s cousins

will overwinter in their own dens and emerge in spring. Maybe there is a chance Mrs. will see the beauty of pollination and spare the next generation of eager pollinators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Jones, S. C. (2017, July 3). Carpenter Bees. Retrieved from Ohioline: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-2074

Potter, M. (2018, September). Entomology at the University of Kentucky. Retrieved from UK Agriculture, Food, and Environment: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef611

Image 1 (window)

Image 2 (on flower)

Image 3 (mantis) *click for cool video

window.jpg
on flower.jpg
Screen Shot 2020-10-04 at 11.55.01 PM.pn