Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Footnote to "The Bite of the Humblebee"

The day before our planned departure was one of the first warm days of the season.  I had the living room windows open.  There are no insect screens in our windows.  That seems to be the European way--perhaps because more of the land in developed and  there are fewer winged critters.

In general, we love this no-insect-screen business. It allows more light into the apartment.  It allows a us to commune with nature by sticking our head out the window.  (This is no small luxury! Many is the morning, that I restrain myself from breaking in "Who will buy this wonderful morning" from Oliver Twist when I stand before one of our open windows).  

But on this day, our having no insect screens, allowed a bumblebee to fly unimpeded into our living room.  I was crossing the room when I felt a sudden burning in my little toe.  I let out a screech and looked down, expecting to see a shard of glass.  I was surprised to see the great wooly insect, looking ruffled and indignant after her run-in with my foot.

Did you know that bumble bees could sting?  I didn't.  I'd always pictured them as the gentle giants of the bee world.  Well they can sting (though they don't do it very often), and unlike honey bees, they aren't harmed by the act of stinging.

I trapped my attacker in a measuring cup.   After running cold water over my little toe, I went back and took a good long look at her. I even took some video.  She seemed none the worse for our encounter, and set about probing the carpet fibers with her proboscis. If my toe hadn't been smarting so much, I probably would have thought her beautiful.

Eventually, I let her go and got on with my packing.

Well, you know the story of the next morning. After our return from the airport, I thought over the events of the preceding days, and mentally knit the the bee sting with our travel misfortune.  As the day went on, my foot began to itch and swell.  By evening, my little toe looked like a cocktail sausage, and I could add "not walking around Rome with swollen foot" to my list of silver linings.

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