Too bee or not

Twenty years in this house and I’ve never before seen a bee.

Inside, that is. But now the basement floor is scattered with them. Conveniently dead of course, but more than I could possibly count.

Before continuing with the bees, I should make one thing clear.

I have lived in homes — old houses — where the cellar is something better avoided. Few lights, generally damp (and smelly) with stairs open in the back so “it” can see you coming while you only sense an unwelcome presence as you reluctantly descend.

A decision to be avoided whenever possible except you’re the woman — wife, mother — and that’s where men of yore figured the washer should be. Were there even dryers back then? My first washing machine had a wringer, definitely a new experience among the many as a newlywed. (My daughter lived for a while in a house like that. She made it into a perfectly charming home . . . but I never ventured beyond the first two steps down into her basement. No thank-e, ma’am.)

My basement is not like that. It’s dry and very well lighted. There’s even a ping pong table (rescued from the leavings of earlier owners and never functional beyond holding extra food and dishes — and, mostly, just stuff), a couch, table and chairs from former houses (also so loaded as to be useless) and more. Much more. But no bees.

I’ve encountered a couple snakes down there (BIG black snakes) so do look carefully when going down (though I long ago stopped setting the mousetraps — they don’t come if they are there) but never a bee. Not even a fly.

So where did they come from? And why? Who, for that matter, are they?

I think we are all aware of the rapidity with which these little — and very useful — insects are dying out. Florida, in a spraying effort to eradicate the Ebola virus, wiped them out by the millions.

I am not an expert on bees and, to be honest, really don’t want to become one. Clicking on the topic, however, led immediately to pictures of the honey bee which, just as immediately, looked very, very familiar. It was the brown and black striped back end. The site says their venation is the best identification mark, a new word to me meaning the pattern of the stripes on the wings. I’ll stick with the tail and hope I’m right.

When turning to Research (with a capital R) I learned enough about the lives (and loves) of bees that I suspect there may be a future Musing. For now, it’s the end game I wanted to learn more about.

Only, of course, I didn’t.

“Bepocalypse” the Sierra Club calls it. The dying off is for real and we should be alarmed for we depend on those bees to pollinate our strawberries, peaches, pumpkins and more than 140 other vegetables and fruits. This adds up to one of every three bites of food we consume and represents an estimated loss of $15 billion (yup!) on agricultural revenue.

Probably all of us have seen the blame placed on insecticides. Parasites are blamed for some of the deaths and climate change is now being given more consideration. The loss is so severe that it’s acquired initials of its own: CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder.

Even stranger, however, is the case of the disappearing bees. The U.K. called it the Mary Celeste syndrome after a merchant ship found off the Azores with nary a soul on board. Hives, in other words, are not stacked full of dead bees. They’re just empty.

So why did some end up here? Where did they come from? How — and why — did they die? And now: where did they go? My basement floor is empty … again.

I wish I had a clue.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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