One hazy April day I went to our garden looking for worms for a tiger salamander we had found the previous fall. As I dug my shovel into the black soil, a yellow object popped out of the ground. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a large bumblebee.
With gloved hand, I carried it into the house to show our two young children. Wide eyed, they cautiously touched its furry body. My husband Gary wondered if it had hibernated in our yard throughout our frigid Michigan winter.
I placed the bee in a quart jar while he poked air holes in the lid and screwed it on tightly. Our son Jason placed it on a bookshelf in his bedroom. We peered through the glass several times throughout the day, but the bumblebee remained curled in a tight ball.
The next morning, when I awakened Jason, I heard a loud buzzing sound. We hurried over to the bookcase. The bee’s wings flapped furiously as they transported its striped body round and round in the jar.
Jason carried it to his sister to show her the bee was awake. He and Janell were so intrigued I had to pry them away from this fascinating bug so they wouldn’t be late for school.
They couldn’t wait until their dad came home from work so they could show him their bee. At dinner, we discussed what we would do with it. We didn’t want to leave the bee cooped up in a jar, but it was too cold to put the insect back outside.
We learned our bee was a queen. This industrious insect had burrowed into the ground to sleep for the winter so she could start a new colony in the spring.
We decided to make a home for her in our large terrarium. Janell and Dad got grass while I groomed our Persian cat for some soft fur. Together we made a nest for the bumblebee to burrow into. Jason pushed two halves of a small plastic egg into the soil and poured honey into them, since we didn’t have the nectar and pollen she would usually eat.
When everything was ready, Gary unscrewed the jar lid while I lifted the top off the terrarium. He quickly placed the jar on its side and snapped the terrarium lid back into place. We all gathered around to see what would happen.
The bumblebee slowly crept from the jar, took flight, and perched on one of the plants. After she flew around and explored her new habitat, she landed on the soil and walked to a honey pot. We watched her little red tongue lap the honey for several minutes. Once she was satisfied, she flew over to the nest, crawled inside, and fell asleep.
Over the following weeks, we referred to her as Mrs. Bumble. Our children often brought friends to see their yellow and black striped bee.
Twice a week Gary caught her in a jar so Jason could refill the pots with fresh honey.
Weeks passed, the air warmed, flowers bloomed, all signaling the soon release of Mrs. Bumble. None of us wanted to see her go, but we knew she needed to start her colony so they could do their important job of pollination.
One sunny afternoon Gary carried the bulky terrarium out and set it on our cement driveway. We gathered around and said our goodbyes to the amazing bee God had given us to care for. There were a few sniffles as Gary lifted the lid of Mrs. Bumble’s temporary home. It took a while for her to realize she was free to leave. Soon she spread her wings, and we watched her soar high into the sky. Although we had tears in our eyes, we still felt blessed because we had learned so much from this little queen.
After that, whenever any of us saw a bumblebee, we would wonder aloud if it was one of Mrs. Bumble’s babies. We chose to believe it was.