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  • Writer's pictureM. Linda Graham

CoronApocalypse, part II: Murder Hornets

Updated: May 6, 2020

Not lost – just searching

The hummingbirds are returning. Their bright, iridescent sparkle delights our deck. They come with the tulips and Mother’s Day. Now retired, this is the first time in 36yrs I am without heavy academic obligation at this time of year, so I truly get to enjoy their return. Granted, some of the novelty went sideways when the novel coronavirus shut everything down, but I had no complaints – until I heard about Murder Hornets. What new insanity out of science fiction horror is this? Hairy, bright orange hornets the size of a man’s thumb, who can decimate an entire hive of sweet little bees in a matter of minutes, decapitating them before plundering their thoraxi to feed to their evil hornet young!? Stingers that can go through bee-keeper’s protective gear!? The coronavirus had us running to the hills, only to find giant deadly hornets that even LOOK super evil waiting for us in them thar hills. Edible too – a feisty addition to any cocktail. What is a mere human to do?

Sitting on the deck, memory served up images from three other times when a distinctive “hummm” rocked my little boat. Each time, I found myself in an unexpected, potentially perilous, unique, impossible to prepare for situation. Kind of like now.

August 1970: Lost in Piatt County, Illinois:

A 12yr old me followed a creek off of our property – wandering too far, I’d panicked on the way back, took the wrong fork in the creek, and found myself lost in the woods facing a setting sun. In a rare moment of clarity I decided to go to the top of a hill to get my bearings. Sitting down to look around and catch my breath, a distant “hummmmm,” coming from the direction of the setting sun, caught my ear. I froze: bees? Suddenly, glancing reds and greens flashed by, low, fast, and with absolutely no care for my presence. Time stood still as a charm of hummingbirds seemed to pass through me – I was a ghost. The hum diminished. I exhaled. Amazed in the moment, I no longer felt lost. Coming from the same direction as the hummers, I heard the calls of my family. Lesson: In times of freak out: freeze – exhale – a moment, please - I was not lost, just searching.

Saturday- May, 1975: Champaign, IL: My plants, including one with a cocoon on it, had been in my room all winter. I was curious to see what kind of beautiful butterfly would emerge, but soon learned that other things come out of cocoons, too. That particular Saturday morning I awoke to see a creature on the tip of my nose – waggling its wee little forearms and glaring at me. I froze. Populating my face and the counterpane, hundreds of delicate bebe praying mantis genuflected and gestured, tilting their tiny triangular heads this way and that. I swear, they were made of silk thread. Gulliver in the land of Lilliputian mantis, I was pinned to my bed in fear of damaging their fragile newness. I began to wail “mooommm! MOOOOMMM!!!” My mother appeared, assessing the situation like only a mother who raised six active, creative, devious children could: “Oh! Look at that!” and disappeared, returning shortly with an empty coffee can. Carefully picking her way to my bedside, she set the coffee can down within reach and said “So THAT’S what was in the cocoon. So cute. I have to run some errands. Good luck.” And she left. I exhaled. I was on my own. I reached for the can and carefully swept the mantis on my face into it, then slid myself out of bed like a letter coming out of an envelope, trying not to damage the wee bebes. Slowly, gently, I scooped more into the can until it could hold no more, carried it to the driveway, and gently shook it until they all tumbled out. Then the real show began. These fierce, brave little tykes opened their delicate, thread like wings, and, like bebe spiders, caught the wind, wafting away on the sweet May breeze. “Goodbye! goodbye!” Lesson: In times of freak out: freeze – exhale – a moment, please. All is not lost; keep searching.

June 10, 2016, somewhere along the Kalamazoo River, MI: Mid-morning- returning from the River, looking down as I was coming up the stairs, I heard a distinctive buzz. Lifting my head, I saw a bee, suspended in the air, 5inches in front of my nose. I froze. I peripherally scanned my surroundings: there were so many bees, too many to count, suspended like black and yellow jewels hanging from a mobile- floating around me in a loose ball, facing east and aligned like magnetized iron filings. A swarm. Their energy was distinctive, electric. The hair on my arms and neck rose. I remembered the words of my wise organic farmer daughter Molly, about how to move safely around bees: "go total zen." I exhaled. Moving with slow, deliberate collection, I pressed forward like I was passing through a beaded 1970s curtain. In retrospect, I realize I was never afraid- freaked, yes, but not afraid – because they were not aggressive, so it was up to me to keep MY peace. The hair on my arms DID stay lofted for about an hour. Later I talked to Molly, who said they were likely looking for a home- consequently, with no home to defend, they are not aggressive. She added that this was an unusual experience, as true swarms are rare- to walk into one even rarer and amazingly lucky. They were not lost, just searching.

Lesson: In times of freak out: freeze – exhale – a moment, please.

You are not lost – just searching.

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