Saturday, September 19, 2015

You make my heart beat faster: thanks for the scare, you big, black bee

Since discovering the amazing beauty of the flowers in our garden a couple of years ago and finding myself fascinated by the various insects (namely, butterflies, moths and caterpillars) and the way they quietly carry out their "work" day after day, I've come to see the natural world as yet another mirror that reflects God's wisdom. The minutest details have been taken care of, even the ones to which human eyes are oblivious but which are there for reasons only the Creator knows. I have also come to appreciate the little creatures that don't exactly exude breath-taking beauty but which -- so I learned later -- play an indispensable role in the grand scheme of things. Here's one such creature:

After seeing a couple of photos of bees I posted on Facebook, my friend Stef gave me a link to a BBC documentary on just how vital the existence of bees (in this case, honeybees) was to ours. It was mind-blowing. It's here if you'd like to watch it.

Well, a recent experience led me to appreciate these formerly-thought-of-as-ugly creatures all the more, though fear had something to do with my change of heart..

One morning about a month ago, I decided that I would continue my quiet time out in the garden amid the lantana hedge, atop a ladder. The brightly colored flowers were a-plenty, and butterflies and moths had been "visiting" more frequently again, making for a marvelous sight that could probably prompt even the most hardened heart to contemplate the beauty of the natural world. It suffices to say that it can be an immensely tranquil scene to witness.

Top of the world: More accurately, top of the ladder

Done with prayer inside my room, I headed out the front door, set the ladder near the hedge, and tucked my phone securely in my pocket (I figured taking a snapshot or two of a pretty butterfly would be a nice bonus). As I climbed the steps, I already admired the sight before me. Sure, the vibrant colors of petals please the senses, but greenery can be magnificent, too, in its simplicity. Reaching the top of the ladder afforded me a view of the entire hedge. I slowly turned and settled into a comfortable position from where I could continue my quiet time. Things sure look different from up here, I remember thinking while bringing out my phone and setting it on camera just in case some pretty butterfly happened to land near enough.

How relaxing it was. By this time I had grown accustomed to seeing things like hairy caterpillars around our garden that rather than being irked or agitated by the sight of the creepy crawlies, my reaction would be pure fascination.

I snapped away with each remarkable sight. "Now that's something you don't see everyday," I muttered as a hairy caterpillar slowly made its way toward a smaller, non-hairy caterpillar on a neighboring leaf. Would this constitute a petty quarrel in the insect world? A "Match of the Century" of sorts? Caterpillar Armaggedon?

I was content with sitting on my post, savoring the quiet and watching as butterflies zoomed past but none sticking around long enough to photograph. Perhaps I had been there for some 10 or so minutes when a bee appeared at the far end of the hedge. From flower to flower it hovered and landed for a few moments, doing its thing. I wasn't really concerned because I had seen bees all the time, though I admit I was always on the ground and they were up there, far from the ground.

As the bee slowly grew closer, I started taking photos... until I realized it was much too close for comfort. At this point I had visions of being stung by the creature, which of course sent me into a semi-panic (the bee, after all, was not your average bee but a huge, black, furry one. In a span of, oh, 15 seconds maybe, I thought of how best to fall from the ladder so that I don't sustain a broken leg or hip or any of my precious limbs: Wait, should I fall foward, that way I land on these santan bushes, thereby cushioning me a bit? How do I avoid those pots? Should I lean back? Yikes, that will tip the ladder over.  Ack! Here it comes.... oh my God. Maybe I'll shut my eyes so it doesn't sting me there. I don't want to go blind! Oh no.... were the thoughts that raced through my head as the bee hovered closer and the buzzing sound grew louder.

At one point, the bee seemed to stare right at me, and I -- with phone a few inches from my face and trying to maintain my balance on top of the ladder -- sat still and all the while wondering if my racing hearbeat would send a warning to the menacing-looking thing. I remember starting to utter the Memorare softly in a pleading tone (and quite rapidly) and then cutting it short to say "Oh, God..." because I thought the bee would actually fly straight toward me.

Well, it didn't.

It turned its attention on the flowers again, hovering over some that were on another part of the hedge. Best moment of the entire experience. My pulse rate decreased and for a few seconds I just sat there.

I think I'm invading their space, I concluded, and with that I slowly made my way down the ladder, still dazed that I escaped a possible stinging from a very big, very black and very furry bee.

"Hindi ka naman aanuhin basta hindi mo sila sasaktan (They won't do anything to you as long as you don't hurt them)," was my mother's casual remark after I related the nerve-wracking incident that left me all sweaty (not from the sun exposure or humidity, but from nervousness). Well, I didn't know that. Besides, I had made up my mind to let the winged creatures frequenting our garden have their own space. You know, respecting the fact that they have their own jobs to do and that I might be interfering even when I think I'm simply admiring them and their realm, and trying to capture them in photos.

Well, now that I think about it, I've captured enough images of the wondrous sights I've been fortunate to see in our small garden. And what ultimately counts doesn't lie in perfectly composed pictures or witnessing butterflies and other little creatures carry out their part in the ecosystem. If I'd ask myself if seeing all this has been keeping me on the path of a virtuous life directed toward Heaven, I would definitely want to be able to say a resounding "Yes!"

But then, keeping hundreds and hundreds (more like over a thousand) of photos of flowers and insects from every angle in my computer doesn't sound very virtuous, so let me share some of them here before I delete them for good.

One sunny day at the lantana hedge

Looking up from under the hedge, this is what I see

One of several kinds of Amata wasp moths

The Common Lime Butterfly, one of the pretty pollinators in our garden

Not so common: lavender hibiscus ("gumamela")

This Philippine Common Snow Flat (I have no idea why it's called that) is pretty rare; I've seen one in our garden only twice so far

The lantana hedge was bursting with color on the day after a thunderstorm

Such pretty leaves providing a resting place for this Great Eggfly butterfly

I see a lot of these wasp moths flying around our garden. This was taken right after it rained.

Army Green caterpillars love the plants in our yard

When the Army Green caterpillar changes color, that means it's ready to pupate soon.

An Army Green Hawk-moth, the morning after emerging from its cocoon!

A bee busy at work, oblivious to any observer like me

I find butterflies and moths with tattered wings truly fascinating as the injury doesn't seem to faze them. This is a Great Eggfly butterfly, which I see a lot of in our garden.

A hairy caterpillar that, I'm told, does not transform into a butterfly or moth but simply remains a caterpillar all its life. Boy, I shouldn't have believed that.

A hardly noticeable honeybee among the santan petals

Charming light-colored lantana

These Skipper butterflies can test one's alertness and patience in photographing them, since they dart from place to place and their rapid movements are quite unpredictable.

June 4, 2013: the first snapshot that got me hooked on these winged creatures

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