This summer, while my friends were traveling or working or laying around and playing video games like people do during their summer vacation, I watched bees poop.
Okay, so that’s a little misleading. I watched a bee poop once. But it really was interesting and something I never thought I’d ever see.
One day, I went to clean out my dog’s water dish and discovered a large clump of grass with what looked like a dead bee on it. If you’ve seen anything I post online, insects, dead or alive are my favorite subjects. I was ready to take a photo until I realized that the little bee wasn’t dead, just soaked to the exoskeleton.
I rushed him over to a table that was warm from the afternoon sun so that he could dry out. He was moving very slowly at first, swiping his front legs over his eyes and antennae. He bit at the blades of grass to help him move to get more sun. It was like my own nature documentary. I could see the details of a little bee in perfect focus.
After a moment, he would clamp down on a blade of grass and test out his wings. The fuzz around his thorax and head was starting to dry out, too.
The most impressive and distinctive of his features, though, were the bright orange pollen collecting hairs, called scopa, under his abdomen. These hairs indicate that the little bee I found was a leafcutter bee. Leafcutter bees or bees in the megachilidae family, use leaves and soil to build their nests. They’re typically solitary bees and are among the world’s most efficient pollinators.
So after a while of drying out, the bee looked like he wanted to take off, and he to sort of pumped his abdomen in and out. As if he were a cartoon airplane and little puffs of smoke are going to come out and he’d just put-put-put away.
And he did this for the longest time. Just buzzing his wings and put-putting. And then, he pooped. He just pooped out a little bit of yellow liquid. The liquid dried into a yellow powder before he was ready to take off.
In a sort of unceremonious fashion, he flew away. Just like any bee might fly away from any patch of grass. I felt so much pride, though. I saved a bee. Not only that, but I saw a biological process of a bee that I probably wouldn’t see ever again. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.