Emerging From Hibernation

Hibernation is a difficult time for Irish bumblebees. For one thing, only one bee gets to survive the entire hibernation period – the new Queen is the only bumblebee that eventually emerges in Spring or Summer. All the female worker bees, the old Queen and all the male drone bees will have died, leaving the solitary new Queen to re-start the entire process and build up a new nest, having mated the previous season.

I feel right now that I might understand a little bit of what the Queen bumblebee goes through. 11 weeks of hibernation have left me pale and weak. I have become a Zoombie (a term I thought I had uniquely come up with until a Google search showed that I am not as original as I had thought!) – eyes perpetually focused 18 inches from my face, right hand periodically reaching out for the cup of tepid coffee that constantly sits to the side of my screen.

But as Phase 2 of the Re-Awakening starts to approach, I am beginning to venture out more, blinking against the sunlight, foraging increasingly confidently for food, gardening necessities and social contact. My children are beginning to see their friends again – not in the way they used to yet, but at least it is in person and not just over an online game of Fortnight.

It is apt that this phase is occurring now, as we move from Spring into Summer. Traditionally a time of re-birth, this is a time where so many will need to start again. Businesses have been forced to close down, staff have been laid-off or made redundant, whole industries now have to re-assess how they can continue to work. For so many people it is going to be a matter of taking stock of what we have and re-setting our goals so that we can start to re-build.

And re-building can be incredibly difficult. It is estimated that after waking from hibernation a Queen will need to visit up to 6000 flowers each day in order to get sufficient nourishment to generate the energy needed to hatch her first brood of young bees. Of course, as the numbers of flowers and hedgerows across the country decline this becomes more and more difficult for the bees, and populations are declining. Yet still, generation after generation, the bumblebees return to do what they can with what they have. And after thousands of years, they are still here.

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