Bees on Earth By Rebecca Woodhead

‘They are dying,’ they said. As the words left television-mouths and buzzed towards my ears, they moved my eyes towards the window and through the window to my little garden. Unknowingly, its end loomed. No more bees.

At once, I knew our salvation lay in books and bulbs and seeds. The garden centre would bring us – the garden and myself - new, better, stronger bees and our future would be secure. If, whilst in this seductive retail Eden, I should happen upon some essence-drenched candles or succulent, hand finished chocolate treats that would be a fortunate happenstance but my quest was to recreate the perfect bee-friendly haven to usher in a new generation of fluffy, Gloucestershire bees.

Bombs are falling. The news is full of ‘if only’s and terror. A perfumed candle flickers hopefully on the table. The weather may turn against us. Guns may end us. Chocolate melts the sharpest edges from the pictures. A new, unseen foe may be pushing up through our society like an angry spot… but I have a garden. I have a little patch of rented earth and in that earth I can plant a new world. I cannot save the people dying alone in foreign lands. I cannot mend a society full of individuals each of whom has their own demons, their own pains, their own secret resentments but I can help a bee. I can make a little, safe society whose border control is hedge and Cotswold wall. There will be no vehicle pollution – I can cross the whole land in two strides – but whole communities will live there in harmony. A rainbow of bees will call it home and I will let them. I cannot fix the world but I surrender my garden to buzz and fuzz and pollen toes.

My husband was informed that we were at the brink of a New Garden Order. He listened.

‘So we’re making it a bee garden?’ he asked.

I saw the pictures in his mind. He was playing through the morning walk from door to car – buzzing borders on each side. He was calling to mind my bee allergy. He was weighing anaphylaxis against apocalypse. He was imagining Cotswold honey melting onto buttered toast.

‘OK,’ he said.

A year has passed: the new country has been built and handed over, by mutual agreement, to its democratically elected government. An alliance of bees maintains absolute harmony over roses, snapdragons, jasmine and geraniums. Huge bumble bees levitate over a lawn which is now home for many months of the year to little blue bees. They have no queen but live in their own little homes in the ground and happily share space with their golden honey bee friends in the borders. When my husband mows over their roofs, they glide out of the way of the blades without a cross word.

Peace on Earth may be a long way off but until it comes, in this little corner of Gloucestershire we are giving bees a chance.

©Rebecca Woodhead
‘Bees on Earth’ by Rebecca Woodhead was first published in the anthology 'Write Around Gloucestershire' - in celebration of the county's 1000th birthday

Charlie  – (18 March 2009 at 11:22)  

Hi Rebecca. I'm enjoying your blog.

Bees! If there's one thing that terrifies me, it's bees. (and wasps) My wife laughs when I run and hide like a little girl if one gets in the house.

I love this... "He was weighing anaphylaxis against apocalypse." That one line speaks volumes. I want more!

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 11:50)  

Oh I'm TERRIFIED of bees and wasps but I know we need bees so I just cross my fingers and pray not to get stung. The blue ones don't sting anyway. They're so fluffy and sweet. When they first emerge, it's a bit freaky though because, if you set things up right, you can have hundreds of them and the lawn just shimmers blue and cream - they spend a long time fairly low to the ground early on so you have to walk through them. It's an odd experience. They don't get cross though, which is nice.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 11:51)  

For legal reasons I should probably say 'from my experience, they don't sting.' Maybe they do sting or there's a particularly narky blue bee species that'll sting you good as look at you but I haven't met them yet.

Eric  – (18 March 2009 at 13:02)  

Wow, what incredible imagery. I've always been a fan of bumble bees for some reason. I don't know why, other than they cause the same reaction in me as looking at a Bengal tiger. The fur (don't know what bees have) looks so soft, and despite the fact that you know the creature would probably like to eat you as much as look at you, you still wish you could sit there and pet it. Would that we could go back to Eden, where one could sit and pet all the animals without fear of losing a limb. Anyway, I ramble. Very nice post, a great way to start my morning off.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 14:45)  

Charlie and Eric. Thanks for the positive feedback. Eric your Bengal Bee comment had me in fits. I actually have a photo somewhere of me, aged about 3, stroking a bumble bee. Mum took the photo and only then realised what I was doing and launched herself at me to stop me getting stung. In the picture, it looks like I've just found a tiny puppy!

Bonnie  – (18 March 2009 at 14:57)  

Yea!! Thanks Rebecca, great story!

Small Footprints  – (18 March 2009 at 15:30)  

What a nice thing ... giving bees a home. They are important "critters" and their numbers have been decreasing. I can't imagine what would happen if our pollinators disappeared. So ... thank you for creating a lovely little oasis for these marvelous creatures. Does your Bee Garden also attract hummingbirds and butterflies?

Lovely post ... your writing totally immerses me in the subject. :)

Take Care!

Small Footprints

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 16:10)  

Hummingbirds? I'm in England - their wings would freeze off! I'm so jealous you get hummingbirds. They're amazing. We've moved so the garden is someone else's now :( There's a garden here too though so we're planting seeds and building a bee-world as I speak. We mainly plant for the bees so the diversity is in bee-types really - blue, red etc - but also there are butterflies and oodles of birds etc. We also made a little bog garden for frogs and toads out of an old bath. All wildlife was there.

Once the garden here is suitably rural (bit too neat at the mo), we'll get more hedgehogs too.

Joanne  – (18 March 2009 at 17:47)  

Love the parallel to Lennon's Give Peace A Chance. We saw Ringo last year in concert, and he performed this song, it was amazing.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 18:46)  

What can I say? I'm an old hippy. Lennon was a genius, literally. Amazing song.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 18:51)  

Small Footprints - just saw the end of your post - after the butterflies. I missed that before. Thank you for your compliment. :)

London Belle  – (18 March 2009 at 19:19)  

I remember last year when bees were in the news a lot because they were dying. I wish more people were trying to help their plight because they are friendly (compared to wasps) and make yummy honey...

Rebecca Woodhead  – (18 March 2009 at 20:10)  

Hi London Belle,

Put some blue flowers on your balcony - they love blue and the bees in the city have a tougher time finding nice blue flowers!

William H. Balzac  – (20 March 2009 at 03:43)  

Thank you, for dropping in on my blog & clicking "Following."

I wish you all the best on your "journey."
You've got a wonderful blog.


Chad  – (20 March 2009 at 16:37)  

A well-written descriptive work, but it was the innocent establishment of the bee-haven community apart from external war that intrigued me. Great job!

Ian –   – (28 May 2009 at 16:45)  

"I cannot fix the world but I surrender my garden to buzz and fuzz and pollen toes."

Very nice imagery.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (28 May 2009 at 16:58)  

Ian, thank you. I appreciate that. :)

I put my creative scribbles up on if you fancy popping across there too.

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