Did you know bees have tongues? Today I saw a bee tongue for the first time. I know, you probably haven’t given it that much thought. I know I hadn’t. Before today.
It’s late April. I was sitting at a table in the sun, the table was covered in about 2 inches of slowly melting snow (it’s been crazy weather lately). I heard a buzzing and felt something in my hair, so brushed it away. I have curly hair so flies regularly get tangled up in it, buzzing angrily in their hairy trap. But this time it wasn’t a fly, it was a bee. I was amazed. A friend with fruit trees had recently told me that the bees weren’t out yet because of the late cold snap (hence the snow) and here was this little bee, struggling to find it’s feet on the snowy table. But this bee looked strange… It seemed to have a long nose thing, almost like a stinger or a proboscus of a mosquito. I kept looking. The nose thing seemed to be getting longer and shorter, longer and shorter as the bee stroked it (cleaned it?) with it’s front feelers.
Oh my god, I thought, That’s it’s tongue. It was almost half the length of it’s body. Where did it go inside it’s mouth??? How did it have space for that? It was huge. It extended and contracted and the tip looked remarkably flexible and dextrous. I imagined it flying from bloom to bloom to lap at the sweet nector with that amazing tongue. And I marveled. At nature. At the extremity of evolution. At the delicacy of design. At our extraordinary human arrogance.What are buildings compared to this? What is an aeroplane compared to the fundamental perfection of nature? We humans like to think we’re evolved. We’ve evolved opposing thumbs, huge brains and the ability to extract ourselves protect ourselves from the natural world. So we think. We invent bigger and better machines, we adjust chemistry to be ‘better’ than nature, we transform natural elements into things which fuel our societies to become bigger, faster, more.
But looking at this tiny meticulous creature, cleaning it’s extremely long tongue, balancing on the melting snow, waiting to trigger a whole host of natural dominos as soon as the flowers emerged from the late white freeze… I find it hard to believe that we humans can improve on nature. Nature is perfection.