As I stroll to the backdoor, the throng of bees congregating on our fountain stops me in my tracks. In the years Mary and I have enjoyed this fountain, this is the most of these gossamer-winged visitors I’ve seen. What’s the buzz?
Curious, I head to my office, sit at the computer, and Google “bees at water fountain.” The first page of results has ten links, the ones most searchers have clicked. Surprisingly, eight focus on how to get rid of bees. Only two describe why the bees are present and important: Bees need water as much as we—or our pets—do. And while drawn to our backyard watering hole, they pollinate our abundant flowers, an essential ecological service.
I grab my camera and return to the fountain. I use the telephoto as much to observe as to photograph. I’m captivated. Once a bee winds its way to the fountain, it lands and shakes its body. The bee inclines its head toward the fountain’s moist surface and a protrusion, like a drinking straw, as long as the head is deep, emerges and touches the surface. Moments later, the bee twitches a few times, lifts off, and flies north, perhaps to a neighborhood hive.
While observing these bees, I find myself thinking of wolves. Though I think of wolves a lot, why now while photographing bees? Intrigued, I slip back to the office and look again at the links, most of them about getting rid of bees. The connection jumps out: for hundreds of years we humans have been trying to get rid of wolves.
At the heart of that drive to exterminate wolves lies fear. America’s colonists feared that wolves would harvest their life-sustaining livestock before they could. So, with government help, they eradicated wolves. Today, ranchers fear that wolves will eat into their profits. And to make matters worse—from the point of view of some ranchers—the government reintroduced wolves against ranchers’ wishes and even protects the predators.
Like it or not, wolves are here to stay. We have to learn to coexist with them. This is especially true for ranchers who run livestock on public land that wolves have every right to call home. Wolves may kill some of their livestock, even with nonlethal deterrents in place. And in states where ranchers are compensated for their losses, the money may not make them feel less violated. Adjusting to the presence of wolves will challenge; but can be done. Some ranchers, much to their credit, coexist now with wolves—and still make a profit.
Well, it’s the weekend and I’ve gotten deep into wolves—again. Time to stop writing and go back to the fountain. I want to thank the bees for all they do and make sure they have enough to drink.
(Note from Rick: I posted a version of this essay four years ago when Mary and I still lived in Oregon. That bee-supporting backyard fountain was sold with our home and did not come with us to Montana. What did come is my deep respect for bees and wolves and a strong desire to help others see the value in coexisting with these essential creatures.)
Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes to protect wildlife and preserve wildlands. His award-winning book, Deep into Yellowstone: A Year’s Immersion in Grandeur and Controversy, is available signed from Rick at http://bit.ly/2tIEt62, or unsigned on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tgPU3E. His best seller, In the Temple of Wolves, is available signed at http://bit.ly/1gYghB4, or unsigned on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Jpea9Q. A signed set of both books is available with free shipping at http://bit.ly/2uYTtsU.
Photos of bees on fountain and wolf at water by Rick Lamplugh