Our window box of Night-Scented Stock has grown so luxuriously now that it is attracting a lot of bees. I am extra pleased about that.
The blossoms are so plentiful this year that they have been brought to the hive's attention by a scout. If a bee is doing its job properly it will discover a source of nectar, then go home to tell the others all about it, and I mean all about it.
Bee vocals will tell you that all is well in the hive, but the bee dance is more specific. It tells the others the direction of the flowers, the distance from the hive and size of the source. Presumably if the bed of flowers is very large, the whole hive might go foraging in it, but at our window box there is usually no more than two bees at a time.
I imagine that there must have been at least one rogue bee in the hive over all these years. For the sake of the story, let's call him Barry.
One sunny Spring morning, Barry stumbles upon quite a large bed of flowers and begins sampling the nectar by hopping from blossom to blossom. It is the best nectar he has ever tasted in his life, and he cannot help himself from gorging on it until the sun begins to go down and it is time to return to the hive.
He makes his excuses to the others and retires to bed early without joining in with the day's de-briefing session. The next day he makes sure he is not being followed as he furtively returns to the source, then spends the whole time drinking the delicious nectar on his own.
After a few days the other bees are becoming suspicious. Every day he returns empty handed, but his hairy legs are covered in pollen. He no longer attends the scout's dances and he always seems to be sleepy. The other bees begin talking about him in a muted buzz and the hum from the hive takes on an air of unease.
One day he returns to the hive and is met by a worker who makes a bee-line for him as soon as he walks through the door.
"The Queen wants a word with you - now".
Barry makes his way to the central chamber through narrow corridors crowded with hundreds of bees travelling in the opposite direction. They all ignore him as they brush past. The closer he gets, the more nervous he becomes. He has only ever seen the Queen once before when he tried to catch up with her on her vertical inauguration flight, but was left behind by the much fitter and leaner members of the hive, so she flew out of sight within a matter of seconds.
At the door he is met by an attendant who announces his presence to Her Majesty. He is ushered in and finds the Queen lounging on a day bed. She is much larger than he remembered. She stares at him for an uncomfortable few seconds before speaking.
"They tell me that you have not been very successful of late."
Barry does not know if this is a question or a statement, so remains silent.
"I must say that for a bee who has not eaten for a week you are beginning to look like a bumble. Do you know how many eggs I lay in one season? Do you know how much those grubs eat? Don't speak. I want you to go away and consider your position in the hive. If you don't show a bit more commitment to the community very soon, you may find yourself being pushed out of the front door when the Asian Hornet is doing his rounds."
I am sure there is a moral to this story, but I can't think for the life of me what it is.