With dawn, the wall begins to wake and I lie listening to the sounds of stirring. Bumble bees have made a nest under the cottage eaves. In the quiet, you can hear them as they start to go about their working day.
These bees are less intrusive than our previous summer guests – a colony of hornets. While the hornets were placid creatures, we soon learnt to shut the windows when dark fell. The insects were attracted to artificial light, and would parade outside the glass near lit lamps. Similarly, whenever I mowed the lawn, I was aware they might be disturbed by the vibrations, so kept my distance from the site of their nest above our back door. Although the hornets would occasionally emerge to take a look while I was pottering around outdoors, we left each other respectfully alone. All the same, I admit I was relieved when they moved on.
The buildings we live in are home to many more lives than our own, from solitary masonry bees who crawl into cracks between bricks and beetles under the floorboards, to summer’s swifts swooping over the roofs of rural towns. While instinct can incite us to treat some of these cohabitants as ‘pests’, the rewards to be had from controlling our impulses towards them are manifold – from pollinating gardens to caring for the planet.
The buzz of the bumble bees in the wall and the way we react to insects generally inspired me to write the following short piece; I hope you enjoy it:
Inside The Wall
The woman and the man watch the wall
A-creep with beetles, bees and ants.
When, at last, the returning queen
Docks with the insect grace of an airship,
The woman points and the man nods.
In white suit and alien helmet
He cautiously climbs a ladder,
Puffs poison into cracks
And seals the entrance with dead white:
No hornets here this year.
Next summer, she lets a waking queen
Out of an upstairs window,
Then stops to listen.
The bedroom wall humming like a blocked tap.
Outside she spots them circling:
Small bumblebees, black blobs of velvet,
Nesting under the eaves.
Their song is strangely comforting –
As if the stones were alive and
Nothing quite destroyed.
(© Sue Belfrage, 2018)
In other news, Bull Mill Arts near Warminster, Wiltshire are hosting an open studio event on 7 to 8 July, where copies of the new paperback edition of my book, Down to the River and Up to the Trees, will be available as part of the event’s celebration of trees and nature.