The mango with a dab of unsweetened grape Koolaid solution to keep the birds away. The ants were starting to be a problem on the flowers; I sprinkled cinnamon around the base of the trunk and over one flower cluster where one was being obstinate about not letting go and they all disappeared and have not come back.
We learned about honeybees when I was a kid, complete with a field trip to a building that had an active hive going and a bee tunnel to outside at the back of the place so as to keep kids who have no sense and might have allergies and any possibility of stingers as far from each other as possible.
I learned that insects, of all things, dance to talk. Honeybees, anyway.
And so here I was Sunday night, flashlight in hand, looking for the center of the frost cover to get it up and positioned over the Alphonso mango tree just so when movement below caught my eye.
I got down on my knees to see.
There was a honeybee on the ground, looking, frankly, dead. Or maybe it was just too cold. But there was another one walking in rapid ovals or figure eights, I’m not sure, and wiggling just so at intervals while another honeybee circled in the air a little above. I remembered that the longer from one end of the dance to the other, the farther away from the hive the coveted flowers that had been found.
I watched. It was a very short back and forth, back and forth. Here be food (or maybe a good place to swarm to, I’m not sure). Come.
And I noticed that it was doing its dance right next to a clear white Christmas light resting against the ground looking brighter than I had noticed before. But then how often do I stare at the filament part in the dark. It offered concentrated warmth as the temperature dropped around it.
I shined my flashlight at the dancer and seemed to distract it a split second but it went back to its important work. I wondered if my tree lights flicking on automatically had confused the bees as to when the sun was supposed to set.
That morning I’d found I think four honeybees in a tight faces-in-together cluster on that cover with another coming in to join them and another over thataway. Whether I interrupted the early stages of a swarm or not I don’t know, but they didn’t mind my sending them away by, as always, patting the back of the fabric as gently as I could to help free their legs from it.
I continued covering the mango for the night and at the commotion of the movements above the ones that had missed nighttime roll call at the hive moved along to places unseen.
They say that honeybees are placid and not inclined to sting. Finally, having seen it again and again right in front of me (not to mention my hand hitting where those stingers are), I believe it. And I feel privileged to have been the wallflower watching the dance in the night.
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