When we moved into this house in South Florida, we inherited a dead royal palm tree (along with many beautiful and mature palm trees of a few different varieties that are very much still living). The tree had been hit by lightning, and it’s now a sort of pillar stretching up to the sky. We planned to have the tree removed. Then we started joking about paying one of those chainsaw artists to turn it into a tropical totem pole.
After living here for a while, however, we discovered that the tree was home to a mated pair of green parrots. Toward the top of the tree, they had poked a small hole into the tree and hollowed out a portion for a nest. We have watched them cycle through two rounds of offspring in the palm tree, including much drama warding off predators (usually larger birds) and a woodpecker that keeps trying to drill his way into their living room.
A couple months ago, the parrots seem to have disappeared. We thought we saw them when we were walking down McGregor Boulevard – the historic road along the water that leads to the beaches from where we live, famous for its alley of palm trees planted by Thomas Edison back in the day. They were flying around out there with another pair of parrots – their children, maybe -and seemed to be having a jolly good time. Perhaps they had moved on to greener pastures?
With the parrots gone, new tenants moved into the dead palm tree: an entire colony of bees.
Elise, who spends hours patiently watching animals in their habitats, and tends to notice things happening out in the natural world that no one else does, burst into the house screaming, “Come now! You have to see this! Bees are taking over the parrot tree!”
While I loved the green parrots, this seemed like a delightful new development. You see, I had spent months researching honeybees and had been seriously considering becoming a beekeeper. I have this massive garden with thousands of plants, so it seemed appropriate that I help preserve the population of pollinators.
But instead the bees decided to come to me!
I thought about the books I had read about honeybees. Bees have wildly different societies from humans. They have no sense of self whatsoever – everything bees do across their short lifespans is not only in the service of their hive, but toward the preservation of their species in general. It is expected that the hive will send out “scout” bees and start a new hive at a new location. It is a grueling effort, and even foreign hives will provide nutritional support to scouts passing by on such a mission. Yes – honeybees practice hospitality!
Some scout bee happened to pass through my gardens full of exotic blooms, saw the parrots’ abandoned home, and thought it had located Shangri-La. It went back and gathered its friends. I felt flattered to be chosen.
When we first met the parrots, we set up the folding chairs we usually take to sports games in the middle of the gardens so we could watch them nesting with a pair binoculars. (The parrots had much to say about this, as you can imagine.) Now we sat out in the yard with the binoculars watching the swarm move into the entrance hole in a slow, orderly fashion. It really was something to behold.
Well, this afternoon, Elise burst into the house again to report that the parrots have, in fact, returned to their homestead. And they were none too pleased to discover squatters had moved in during their absence.
“What are they doing?” I asked. “Did they decide to move on to a new place?”
“No! The parrots are taking on the bees!”
Sure enough, the parrots had perched on the tree by the entrance, were reaching their heads in and plucking out one bee at a time, chewing it up, and spitting it out on the ground below them. They seem intent on patiently and methodically eliminating the entire hive, working in shifts.
We are wondering if the bees will eventually decide to leave or if they will gang up and attack the parrots. It is pretty hard to watch, having considered both sets of tenants a blessing. I don’t want to think about what will happen if one of the parrots is stung to death, as they seem quite married to one another.
3 thoughts on “Let me tell you about the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees”
Fascinating! What a blessing for your daughter to have an eye and heart for nature . Loved reading this. I used to be a city girl in Houston, but after 19 years of country life, I marvel at all the things . Right now we are battling raccoons . They’re raiding our chicken feed . They had disappeared for a long time and we got lazy about protecting the feed. They’re so smart !
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We had a house out in the country when she was very young (in Kentucky, before we moved to Florida). She keeps begging us to move back to a place with forested land. We had a possum that would come up to the backdoor every night and go through our trash, so we started leaving out a food dish for him in the hopes he would get full and leave the garbage alone. We even made that possum (whom we named Joey) an extravagant Thanksgiving dish. I was going to recommend you leave a dish out for your raccoon as a distraction, but I just remembered how our story ended – with Joey wandering into our kitchen one evening and checking out the cupboards for where the good stuff was coming from 🙂
Ahhh, it’s July so the woods in Kentucky are probably full of fireflies now. We used to have so many fireflies that you could not tell where the fireflies ended and the starry sky began. I hope y’all have fireflies where you are.
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We do have them, but we call them lightning bugs, and so many stars. 😊
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