Abe Mero and Buff
Night Flight and Fright
By an old olive tree was a good-meal-sized bumble bee. She looked exhausted and was easy prey. A delicious morsel if he could bash her against the branch to remove her sting. She didn't buzz away. Was she the bumble bee that made all that fuss at the Meeting of the Many? She wanted to go north. Abe Mero went against all bee-eater bird instincts. He did not bash her but snatched her within his beak. She did not try to sting him, just lay limp as he flew off. He wanted to go north too. He would try to follow the passing flock of young bee-eaters on their way north, perhaps find a mate. She could find a home in the northern coolness. At first it seemed easy.
Abe Mero found a route to a nearby river and rested there, realising he was lost and hungry. Buff, as he found out, was a buff-tailed bumble bee. She was happy to forage among flowers but he was faced with an eating dilemma. He needed to eat bees, bumble bees and any similar insect. These gave him muscle power which would be needed on a long flight to the cooler north. But he could understand her bee mind and there was a flow continuing between them as would happen in the Meetings of the Many. He must help her survive. He must not eat her but instead fly her the distance needed so she could live away from the summer heat. Soon she must lay eggs and establish a new colony of her kind of bumble bee. There was no time to lose. But he didn't know which way to go.
At first, he followed the river. He got used to flying with Buff tucked under his stomach feathers. She would grip onto his skin and it felt prickly. When hungry he would fly high in search of smaller insects and she would fly low among the spring flowers. But he was lost and other birds would come and mock him. This was scary and they would have to move on quickly not knowing which way. Suddenly, when skimming through the tall poplars by the river, he came face to face with the giant beak of a large bird.
It was the Valdelarco stork from the Navaselva Meeting of the Many. This was alarming but thankfully there was that flow of understanding. The stork had left the general rabble of noise that erupted at the meeting where the peaceable plant kingdom lost its peace when the animal kingdom was blaming the plant kingdom. This was all the bee-eaters fault because the flycatchers reported seeing him flying away with Buff the buff-tailed bumble bee. Those flycatchers had such sharp eyes for insects and made a lot of noise about their sighting. The silent knowing of the Meeting of the Many had for a time been lost in a simmering tension.
Strangely, the wise old stork did not want Abe Mero to return to Navaselva but she was willing to give advice on how to get to the north. She knew of the route Old Lobo, the wolf had taken and shared this. Buff the bumble bee’s navigational abilities were super detailed but not able to understand directions for such a long journey. Bumble bees, it seemed could only manage short distances because of their heavier and furrier bodies. Abe Mero was ready to learn and be responsible for the life of the bee. The stork understood this was important and that urgent changes must happen for all to adapt and survive. She was adapting as she no longer needed to fly far south because of warmer weather cycles. But she still needed to recall other flight paths in case food or water became scarce. Abe Mero was relieved to be given her knowledge.
Abe Mero must feel for his inner north but must also recognise great rivers and landmarks. The stork knew all the rivers and their names. Their starting point was the Murtigas and she could guide up this river to the great Guadiana; this river they could follow till its furthest point north. It was flowing down from its source on the high Iberian plateau to the wide waters of the Atlantic.
The stork warned of a great stretch of white rocks stacked high into Outsider homes near the Guadiana. These places were best to avoid but could be a landmark. From this landmark they were to fly north to the ancient rocks of the Sierra Mamede. These were ancient rocks that resonated with the history of the living earth. Swifts and swallows can help from there with a short flight north across the mighty River Tagus.
The stork carried on with direction after direction just in case there were too few messenger birds to help.
Keep to the east of the great mountains of the stars.
Keep northward and find the third great river, the daunting Douro.
Follow the river to its furthest point north. It will turn south again so beware.
Leave the Douro River and head straight north to the Cantabrian Mountains where Old Lobo headed to. This should be a route without too many Outsiders and their deadly tracks.
There was to be the time of moonlight and night flying might be safer.
Use the moon and stars too instead of the arc of the sun. The great bear in the sky should lead to the bears of the north. Perhaps even to Old Lobo.
The stork finished the directions with certainty about the way but uncertainty if Old Lobo still survived there. There had been no news for far too many settings of the sun into the dark sky.
For Abe Mero, his bee-eater view of the world was changing rapidly. He was beginning to understand stork and bumble bee views too. He was used to flying during the bright light of the day. Could he make the change to flying long distances on his own? Without the safety in numbers of a flock, he needed to be wary of danger from birds of prey. He made the change to night-time flying. This also needed senses on full alert but more for direction than fear of hovering wings, ready to strike, except for the silent killer glides of the most dreaded owl, the Eagle owl.
At first the changing positions of the moon and the stars confused Abe Mero but the forces drawing him north were getting stronger. This dark was not the deep dark but shone with silver brightness as the moon rose higher and higher in a blue velvet sky. Scattered higher up were the most luminous of the distant night lights. Some cloud formations were moving lightly in a gentle wind. Perfect conditions for flight. Abe Mero was grateful for this and for all the different viewpoints.
Buff was grateful to Abe Mero and the stork. She felt there was the chance for her kind to survive in the north but she was also amazed by the beauty of the bird and the skies. The night had been unknown to her prior to this journey. She would always return to her hive before the greater dark fell. Buff the bumble bee knew that even if all failed in this journey to the north, the beauty of the night skies soothed her buzzing brain and gave her compound eyes a glance into the infinity of the deep dark dotted with light.
From her point of view, this journey with the bee-eater was essential for the survival of all her future colonies. She had flown off early in one of her huffs and hadn’t heard how the other bumble bee species were going to try and help her. The Valdelarco stork neither encouraged or discouraged her to return but did point out that the white-tailed bumble bees agreed to change their timings. They seemed to have a longer period of flowers to live off in the early spring. She could have returned but deep down she did not think that white-tailed bumble bees would change their habits. They were quite different to buff-tailed bumble bees and were known as the nectar robbers. Not to be trusted.
In fact, she knew there were many different types of bumble bee, all quite distinct and not capable of being together, each to their own hive. They just didn’t mate as they couldn’t produce any offspring. Distinctly different species. However, she had heard to beware of the cuckoo bumble bees. They could take over the hive and make the whole colony work for their youngster’s survival. There could be so much competition between the many different species of bumble bees. As for the bees, well there were many of them too but they were too small for her to take too much notice of and were easy to dislodge from a good flower.
For her, the Many had not listened to the constant tales of the difficulties the buff bumble bees were going through. No one, until the bee-eater flew forward and offered a helping wing, had taken her reports seriously. This was the opportunity she had to take. She may have seemed to others a big buzzy and rather haughty bumble bee. She could be very bossy. However, she saw herself as a great big fat bumble bee who was rather clumsy on the delicate flowers. Pollen dust would fly everywhere when she landed on a flower. Enough to almost make a bumble bee sneeze. She wished she could turn into one of these magnificent winged and colourful messenger birds, like the bee-eater. They could fly so high and over such vast distances. Then she shuddered. She would have to eat bees.
Truth is though, she was rather scared of the bee-eater and in awe of his strength and beauty. She only seemed full of bluster as she had never needed to be a humble type of bee. Other bumble bees were supposed to work for her. She was just a very determined bee personality and used to her own company before creating a new colony. Her genetic codes determined her queenly role but now there was something within her pushing her forward into new territories.
Building up her food reserves, after the winter hibernation, was now very important. She needed a lot of food but was very fussy about what she liked to drink and was not interested in small flowers. Early spring flowers were opening but the wild ones needed to be simple and sturdy as there could still be intense cold overnight. Buff liked to search for the biggest and brightest. In reality she longed for her favourite, the large and very bright pink of Ms Peoni Broteri, the wild peony of Navaselva, known from an old story as the flower of the wolf. A reminder that when the wolf comes the bees should buzz off.
It was in the light dark of early dawn that some swifts flew around them. These were the messenger birds who could fly fast and far and bring news so quickly. It seemed the group had heard about the attempt of the bee-eater to fly north with a bumble bee. Buff was not sure she was safe with all these insect-eating birds around her. These swifts nested on a rocky mountain. Or so it seemed in the light before the sun came over the horizon. They guided Abe Mero there to rest, feed and regain strength on the mountain rock they called, Marvao the Marvellous. The swifts called out about its wonders. It was a a place of marvels for insects but also for a bumble bee as there were so many flowers close to the clouds.
Buff with the
bee-eater spent a moon and a sun there. The swifts directed Buff to a place
called a ‘jardim’, full of wonderful large flowers and small low bushes. It was
promised that no birds would fly over there while she fed. Of course, the
swifts knew the last insect they would try and eat would be a large bumble bee.
They did not even dream of attempting to deal with a large sting unlike the
bee-eaters. Abe Mero was adapting to different kinds of insects but was
thankful for a large dragonfly or two near some water. Life was taken and life
All seemed well for Buff until these strange and large two-legged beasts came into her sight. They wandered around the flowers but then some focussed their eyes on her. Their sounds, their smell unnerved her and she left the calm of the flowers to investigate. She flew close by to their flowerlike colours. There were high-pitched sounds and quick movements brushing at her through the air. One was flapping so much it should have been able to fly. But Buff did not give up her buzzing around this animal even though she could get bashed by the strange thing waving about. There were more wailing noises. Sounds of fear? Such so-called big-brained beasts frightened of a bumble bee. And yet she was buzzing ferociously.
She felt Abe Mero was watching her and warning her. These were Outsiders. There was danger being so close to them. She felt his fear for her life and his fear of these strange outsider beasts.