On bees, spiders and hornets
by Robert Parker
In the plantless space on our patio, between the Virginia creeper on the railing and the common ivy along the eaves, a leaf curl spider has tethered its home between both of these climbers and a dogwood tree. It has been in this residence for a couple of months, building a new web each night.
The ivy is flowering now at the start of Autumn. With the choice of other flowers diminishing, the bees have decided that the ivy is the nectar of choice. I suspect there are two hives competing for this resource, as I’ve seen bees leave their feast to pursue and harass an incoming bee.
Given the proximity of the spider, it’s no surprise that bees regularly stumble into the previous night’s web. After lots of tossing and turning, the bees miraculously free themselves and buzz off for some intensive grooming.
I watched another bee blunder in, and was tempted to go to its assistance as it thrashed about and turned somersaults. If I did, then it would likely be left in a hopeless tangle on the ground. So I waited in suspense.
When the bee had twisted the threads to the point where only one strand of web held a e limb, a single black leg appeared from within the spider’s home, and touched the line leading to its captive.
I’m not quite sure what happened next. There were two massive jerks on the leash holding the bee. Was the bee making an almighty effort to free itself. Or was the spider testing the response of a possible victim?
Either way, the bee suddenly broke free and drifted downwards, out of sight.
I need to make a comparison between this experience and another.
Just yesterday I saw the terrible might of the Australian airforce on display. An RAAF Hornet Jet Fighter thundered down the length of our local lake, orange flames flickering from its exhausts. The shock of the raw sound slammed into us – hands raced to cover delicate ears. Oh, the fury and the glory of it.
This display lasted for four more passes, and then the fighter soared skywards – as I have often heard said – like a homesick angel and disappeared.
It was wonderful, and yet, before we had even reached the car, I could no longer remember it. Not truly. And I love aircraft. I could remember being in awe, but not the awe itself.
Here is my comparison.
In a weeks time, I will still remember the bee freeing itself, but the poor hornet will be almost forgotten.
Acknowledgments to: J Willis Sanders, Jakob Blackwell, K. P. Wayne, Philip Folk and Charlotte September
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