Tuesday 14 April 2009

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Today, dear reader, I can't promise another bumpy journey from Dodie Smith to Messrs Mason, Wright, Gilmour and Waters, but make yourself comfortable for a bit of a ramble. In several senses.

The sun came out yesterday, which was a shock for a Bank Holiday in these parts, so my good lady wife, my naval acquaintance and I had a gentle wander to our local patch for some natural history therapy to aid my recovery.

Spring being Spring, the natural history is starting to get rather x-rated, in a kind of "the birds and the bees" way. It was fitting, therefore, that the Admiral spotted a bee being hotly pursued by a butterfly, which, if I hadn't witnessed a similar incident last summer, I would've treated with a shrug and filed it away under Inexplicable. But when I say "hotly pursued", I mean tail-gating in the outside lane at 90 miles per hour, that sort of "hotly pursued". I doubt if bees have door mirrors (the lack of doors being a bit of a clue), so perhaps it was blithely unaware of the Lepidopteran threat. A bit like James May trundling along in a carefully-restored 1960s Triumph Herald as Jeremy Clarkson appears over the horizon in a testosterone-fueled, Hell-on-wheels-mobile and is suddenly THERE.

Car analogies aside, this got us to thinking on the butterfly's motives.

The Admiral reckoned that the "butterflies and the bees" seemed the most obvious answer, in a crazy cross-species love affair. Pheromones, mixed signals, a misunderstanding, you know how it plays out. They'll see sense eventually and resume normal lives, wondering what might've been if only they'd met on a different flower.

Or perhaps it's about food and the butterfly was betting that the bee was outward bound to the nectar fields. Well, it's a 50-50 chance and you know how they like a flutter. So the aerial chase begins, with strangely un-butterflylike directness, because they can't half shift when they've got the smell of nectar in their...er...noses? All to the tune of The Entertainer from that film, bashed out on a honky tonk piano at breakneck speed. Over bushes, around trees, through the glade, over the hedge and only ending in pollen paradise or hive horror depending on that initial gamble. Jings, where's the BBC Natural History Film Unit when you need them?

For the record, we saw 6 species of butterfly during the afternoon: Brimstone, Small White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Comma. I don't know which species was road raging our apian friend, we didn't even get his number.

No comments: