Today's date marks, by one definition, the end of summer (by my own, swift-based definition, summer probably ended last Saturday, when I saw what I'm pretty sure will be my last swift of the year). It certainly feels like the end of summer, as August draws to a close cool, grey and dismal - in the Southeast it has been, they say, the coolest summer since 1993 (ah the paradoxes of global warming). Once again, though, the bees - honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees - seem to me to have been as busy and numerous as ever this summer, for all the warnings of impending Swarmageddon, to be followed in short order by the end of human life on Earth. The industrious bees seem always to have something to teach us - but do they? Here's the great idler Logan Pearsall Smith, in an early Trivia piece, The Busy Bees:
'Sitting for hours idle in the shade of an apple tree, near the garden-hives, and under the aerial thoroughfares of those honey-merchants, - sometimes when the noonday heat is loud with their minute industry, or when they fall in crowds out of the late sun to their night-long labours, - I have sought instruction from the Bees, and tried to appropriate to myself the old industrious lesson.
And yet, hang it all, who by rights should be the teacher and who the learners? For those peevish, over-toiled, utilitarian insects, was there no lesson to be derived from the spectacle of ME? Gazing out at me with composite eyes from their joyless factories, might they not learn at last - could I not finally teach them - a wiser and more generous-hearted way to improve the shining hours?'