Why not?

Why bees, though? was always the question.

 

And he would smile in reply.

 

Why would he travel around the world, scouting for every research project, conference and summer semester – only to work a half-paying job, live off cup noodles and black coffee and toast and honey, only to break his lease and leave just as he was making friends?

Because he loved the science behind it, because they were as complex as they were beautiful, because they were vital to the world’s ecosystem, because they were entirely self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-sustaining. Because he liked being the only person at a party who knew anything at all about 17,000 species of insects. Because the community of apidology was broad enough and large enough that he felt included, but sparse enough to still feel weird and wonderful.

And, after the coming storm of Colony Collapse Disorder – where entire populations of bees vanished without a trace – he felt needed, and important, and knowledgeable. He felt he could help.

Why bees, though? He asks himself, with a roll of his eyes, while he writes up an academic paper, applies for another research project, or rereads a chapter of his worn textbooks. Because you can make mead. Honey-wine, it’s called, at home. Home – in Oslo in Norway – where he hasn’t been for five years.

Because it’s alright if you’re lonely when you work with bees. It’s easier to get lost in the subtleties of bee behaviour and pheromones and hierarchies and the reigning queen than to attempt to decode the language of human behaviour. And all its inferences on culture and gender and sexuality and socio-economic politics.

Because Latin is a beautiful language, and sometimes he likes to close his eyes and pretend that it’s not dead, but merely archaic. There are 17,000 species of bees and wasps in the world and some of them are honey bees, and bumble bees, teddy bear bees and ground-dwelling bees. Some of them are solitary bees, and some of them are stingless bees and some of them are native bees.

In parts of the Southern Hemisphere, after the drones are driven out of the hives in the winter, instead of dying in the bitter, bitter cold, they seek shelter in the flowers and sleep. It’s little things like these that help him decide that maybe he’ll wander just a little bit longer.

Why bees, though? was always the question.

And he would smile Why not? in reply.

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