A Tale with a Sting
Old Tudor hated bumblebees! Why this should have been
so is anyone's
guess. After all, a nice fluffy bumbler is a wonderful creature. It
flies busily about fertilising flowers, has beautiful hairy legs that
dangle about whilst the insect circumnavigates your astonished nose and
it produces a reassuringly low-pitched hummmmmmm as it fulfils its
What may have started Tudor on his crusade to exterminate any bumbler that came his way must have happened when we were out shopping one day. We returned to find a strange dog in our garden. The creature had the same markings as Tudor and the same silly expression but the features were totally different. This definitely couldn't be /our/ Tudor. After all - you know what your own dog looks like, don't you? We approached the stranger carefully because his teeth were just as large as Tudor's.
"It must be Tudor."
"No it isn't, he looks quite different."
"It must be Tudor, look at the markings."
"Don't be silly, look at the face. It's totally different".
The strange dog looked back at us and transmitted in his mysterious doggy way: "Would you two idiots please make up your minds!"
After discussing this for a while we decided to do the obvious and called:
The stranger looked at us and flicked his tail - it was Tudor after all, though he looked as if he had had a face transplant. Later on we deduced that he must have been stung by a wasp or a bee - possibly both. His nose had swollen up and this changed his features completely. We never found a sting but the swelling went down after a while and Tudor seemed none the worse for the experience. At least this is what we thought, but from that day on Tudor was filled with a burning hatred for anything that goes "hummmmmmm" and as bumblebees fit that description and are also the slowest fliers of the breed, they made the best and easiest target for a ruthless campaign of extermination. Henceforth Tudor would kill anything that flew, but members of the genus Bombus (what a wonderfully apt-sounding name) were his favourite prey.
I first learned this when I came home one day and found the dog lying near the front gate surrounded by about twenty or thirty dead bumblebees. At first I thought that an itinerant insect sprayer might have come by - finding victims everywhere he went. I searched the rest of the garden but there were no dead insects anywhere except in a half circle around the dog. Suddenly all was revealed. A great big fat insect bumbled past on the way to the fuchsia and a good meal. Tudor jumped up, quickly snapped at the creature and withdrew instantly. The poor bee crash landed and then crawled around the pavement looking for some dogs to kill. Tudor didn't bite it again but went over to it and squashed it with the underside of his nose.
The job was so expertly done that it must have taken weeks to acquire such skills. Now that we knew what to look for, we could watch him at work. Any bumblebee, wasp or bee that came near him was a corpse within seconds. Tudor had decided that it was his life's work to rid our garden of all flying insects. Honey production in the surrounding countryside plummeted. Much as we like bees, we didn't dare stop him because his technique was so refined that any distraction from us might well have ended up with another revengeful sting to the nose.
As far as I know he never got stung again, but there is a cautionary end to this tale nevertheless. Tudor liked to lie and sleep on top of his house where he had a little balcony. He usually dragged his favourite toy up there and watched the garden, killed some bees, had a little snooze, killed some more bees and so on. An idyllic existence - for the dog, not for the bees.
One day we came home and there was no excited welcoming ceremony - the dog was gone. Tudor often went for walks around the town but he always took great care to be home just before we did - like most border collies he was a perfect sneak and a liar. We called for the dog and I thought I heard a squashed little grunt or squeak from the direction of Tudor's house. I went over but saw no sign of him. I called again:
The same strange sound effect came from behind the hut. I looked over and there he was - stuck upside down between the hedge and the woodwork and giving me such an embarrassed oldfashioned look that I had to sit down and wait until I stopped laughing. Then I reached in and pulled him up by the hind legs. He was perfectly okay though very ashamed of himself. Obviously he had been hunting bumblebees from his balcony - lost his balance and tipped over into the hedge - with the head down and the most vulnerable part sticking up into the air - unable to move and get himself free.
If I had been a vengeful bumblebee and found him in this fix, I know where I would have stung him!
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