“Some have affirmed that bees possess a share Of the divine mind and drink ethereal draughts; For God, they say, pervades the whole of creation.”             Virgil, The Georgics

I took this photo today of a particular bee that caught my attention.

This time of year I love to walk past my bee hive. It is the very picture of contented busyness. With orderly ease and purpose, legions of bees criss-cross each other coming and going from the entrance to the hive. It is as though the same fifty bees are ceaselessly descending and taking off. The activity on the outside is a mere intimation of the activity on the inside. One can feel the energy of the countless motions in and around the brood and the honey cells.

Today I noticed this lone bee. Standing at an opening on the outside corner of my (unacceptably) weather-worn box, her wings were beating a consistent pattern. Her body was motionless other than that steady beating. Cooling the hive. Once the temperature within the hive gets above a certain temperature on a hot day, certain worker bees–bidden by who knows what call–take up the job of cooling the hive by providing ever so slight a breeze. By their own labor.

It is perhaps no wonder that, as Virgil notes, some have thought that bees have a unique share in the divine mind. They pass their days in almost uninterrupted labor, each doing its own part, with seeming unconcern whether anyone notices. Today I noticed this little, faithful bee. I will try to remember her, and to drink of the ethereal draughts of which she has drunk.

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

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