When Fiona Presly found an injured bumblebee in her garden, the insect plucked at her heartstrings. As a result, she took it upon herself to nurse the animal back to health. However, over the course of the insect’s convalescence, the pair established the most unlikely bond.
Presly lives in Inverness, Scotland. In spring 2017 she was tending to her garden at her home in the city. At the time her outdoor space was undergoing somewhat of an overhaul. As a result, Presly wasn’t paying much attention to her yard’s insect inhabitants.
However, as the library assistant made her way around her garden, she noticed something at her feet. It was a bumblebee, and it didn’t seem to be in a good way. As far as Presly could tell, it looked confused and a little chilly.
Later, in March 2018 Presly explained to the Daily Record, “I found her when we were getting work done in the garden. It was lucky I didn’t stand on her. She must have just come out of hibernation.”
Not wanting any harm to come to the insect, Presly decided to give it a helping hand. Explaining how she assisted the bee, she said, “I put my hand down and she crawled on to it.” However, that’s when Presly noticed something wasn’t right.
While the bee sported the usual distinctive yellow and black stripes and appeared to have all its legs in tact, something was missing. And it didn’t take long for Presly to realize that the insect appeared to have no wings whatsoever.
Having never seen anything quite like this before, Presly was unsure of how to help the bee. So she gave her some sugary water and placed her down on a nearby heather bush. She hoped that this would rejuvenate the insect’s health, but it didn’t seem to work.
When Presly returned to check on the queen some hours later, the insect was in the same place. The bee appeared unable to move very far at all. And to make matters worse, a storm was blowing in.
It was then that Presly decided to undertake extreme measures. “I took her inside that night, kept her warm and fed her more,” she told The Dodo in March 2018. “I thought I would put her out the next day, but the weather was bad then too. So I kept her inside.”
To make the bee comfortable, Presly constructed a makeshift garden inside her home. She took a crate and filled it with fresh flowers so that the insect had something to feed on. That way, she could just concentrate on getting better.
However, beekeeping wasn’t exactly Presly’s area of expertise. As a result, she reached out to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for some advice. But sadly, experts had bad news for her and her insect patient.
They revealed that the bee’s lack of wings was probably down to a virus that caused development issues. Since the chances of her sprouting wings in the future were slim, she would probably perish shortly after being released into the wild.
That was not the prognosis that Presly had hoped for. It seemed such a sad fate for an animal that was completely healthy other than their lack of flying apparatus. So Presly decided to take matters into her own hands.
She decided to take on the bee as a kind of pet. Presly placed a net over a specially made garden so that the insect could move from flower to flower without the need to fly. So even without wings, the queen – nicknamed Bee – managed to live the high life.
As time passed, Presly kept daily tabs on Bee. She would offer her sugary water whenever she seemed low, and would even bring her indoors in inclement weather. And over the course of a few months, the pair established an incredible relationship.
Before long, every time Presly came to check on the insect, Bee would emerge as if to say hi. “She’d walk toward me and crawl on my hand,” Presly explained. “She seemed so happy to see me. It made me stop and think – there’s something going on here.”
In her interview with the Daily Record Presly continued, “She made buzzy sounds when she was in close contact with me and was happy to sit and groom, eat and drink and sleep on my hand. We were both comfortable with each other and many people admired this bond.”
Presly’s fascinating relationship with Bee eventually caught the attention of Lars Chittka, a bee psychologist from Queen Margaret University of London. And he believed that Presly’s experience might change the way scientists think about insects’ emotions and ability to form relationships in the future.
Unfortunately though, like all good things, Presly and Bee’s relationship had to come to an end. After outliving the usual lifespan of a queen, Bee passed away five months after her rescue. “I was sad when she died, but I knew it was going to happen,” Presly later told The Dodo.
However, while Bee may have perished, Presly will never forget her. And perhaps she will eventually live on in scientific history. “People have a bond with their dog or cat and even their hamster. I think I’ve proved here that you can have a relationship with an insect,” Presly told The Scotsman.