Cold rain and fog on Friday, just as the Keiffer pear was coming into bloom. To my mind, blossoming fruit trees are always a little garish in the full light of sun; they look best in fog or moonlight. Then we can make believe that the blossoms are purely ornamental, that they have no connection with insect-assisted sex acts. We can pretend that they are faces full of mystery, however much they drip.
But our willful blindness is nothing compared to the pure ignorance of their faithful servants the hymenoptera. Saturday dawned clear but chilly, and it took this bumblebee half the morning to climb out of the white cup where it had spent the night and scale the daffodil’s warmer backside. Only the slight pulsing of its abdomen gave any indication that the bee was, in fact, readying its thoracic engine for takeoff. Bumblebees are uniquely gifted in being able to “warm up and keep warm while making no sounds whatsoever and while keeping their wings perfectly motionless,” according to Bernd Heinrich in his classic Bumblebee Economics.
Yesterday, like today, was windy, and down in the hollow the few small wasps and bee flies visiting the bank of rue anemones had to fight to stay on the flowers. I marveled as I always do that insects find such delicate things worth bothering about, when they could be visiting cornucopian sugar daddies like the pear tree. This is a flower so self-effacing that it scarcely seems to possess an identity of its own, bearing instead the names of two other plants to which it bears a superficial resemblance, meadow rue (for the leaves) and the genus anemone, also known as windflower. But something tells me that the nectar offered by such a blossom must make up in quality what it lacks in quantity — perhaps that sweetness one finds in the most captivating of faces, tempered by just a dash of acid. Enough to remind you that it has ideas of its own.