The Dance of the Dying Bee


What a beguiling spectacle to behold. Such precise and elaborate movements. The dance, not performed for an audience, but for it’s own sake, with dignity and with joy. The flexing of the wings. The stretching of the body. Up on the hind legs at full tilt. Cleaning the face with the front legs. A rite of purification before the dance begins. Then dancing in circles. First one way then the other, zigzagging across the plain. Life imitating art. Then suddenly an unexpected gust of wind whips the small body 50 feet, 100 feet, 1000 feet in the air and away for ever.

A stunned silence follows. Was it a dance of death or a dance of life? Do any of us know that this will be our last day? Our last hour? Our last minute on earth?

It all started out quite nicely. The warmth of the winter sunshine making it feel more like spring again. My companions and I have had a difficult few months. We had been living together in a small community – about 50 of us – inside a plastic bucket on top of a chimney vent. A small hole in the bucket had given us entry to our new home. An ideal place for the hive. Summer seemed to go on forever. But looking back now it seems so much shorter. That was before the chemical attack. Some of us died outright that day. Others lingered on for a few days more before succumbing to the effects of the poison. Our hive was taken away and we could not find our queen. Later, we regrouped by the same place at the chimney, the place we all knew as home. Since then we’ve been huddled together under the lip of a clay plate placed over the top of the chimney to stop the rain getting in. Over the weeks we lost more of our group as one by one ourĀ friends would leave never to return. There were still about ten of us left. We were the survivors. Holding our own in spite of the hardships of winter, the freezing temperatures, the toxins and the torrential rains.

It felt good just to get out for a while. Basking in the sunshine on the vast empty plain of red tiles which stretches for miles in all directions. There’s a kind of beauty here even although it’s all completely artificial. Life is good sometimes. It makes you want to celebrate a little. Throw off your inhibitions. Live in the moment. Before you know it you are in a trance, dancing like a dervish. Spinning this way and that. Oblivious to everything else but the dance itself. Giving yourself over to the world, to the natural rhythm of your body and the movements of the dance. You could live forever like this. In this moment you are on top of your game. You feel immortal. Nothing can stop you from fulfilling your destiny.

The updraft took me by surprise. It all happened in a split second. It feels like the best high you’ve ever experienced. Imagine rushing through space at a thousand miles per hour. It’s so intense. A great big beautiful feeling of oneness with everything that has ever existed. Then suddenly you can’t take it any more. Your limbs and organs are failing. Your body is beginning to disintegrate. Your mind is collapsing in on itself. A part of you feels like you are still dancing, but something seems to have gone badly wrong. It’s too late to do anything about it. You can’t go back to the safety of the hive. And you will never see your companions again. For a split second there is a feeling that you’ve been here before. Something strangely familiar. An uncanny feeling that somehow you always knew this is how it would end. A sad smile curls around the edge of your lips for an instant. Then pain like fire. Then blackness. Then nothing.

Your companions will not know what happened to you and their numbers will continue to decrease. Soon there will be no one left. No witnesses to the event. No one to remember. No one to tell the tale of the dance of life which is always also the dance of death.

26 November 2018

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