Monday, 23 May 2011

Formation Flying

It's been very windy here today - of the weather variety, I hasten to add; nothing to do with beans and cabbage - and on my return home, I potter into the back garden to check for wind damage.

The net shade for the greenhouse had come adrift for starters, and a couple of the taller herbs were looking a bit wind-blown. But other than that, all was well.

'My feathers are all asunder,' says Mrs Pumphrey, who is a big chicken and therefore makes a big and highly effective wind-break.
'True,' I say. 'But nothing a set of feather straighteners can't put right.'
'Humph,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'That's all well and good except Mrs Slocombe has my feather straighteners, and I can't think they are going to be fit for purpose once she's finished with them.'
'I dread to ask, ' I say, 'but what exactly is Mrs Slocombe doing with your feather straighteners?'
'She's ironing her home-made tagiatelle,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'She put the crimping attachment on the pasta machine...'
'Ravioli?'
'And you... and her strands have come out wonky...'
'Right,' I say, because of course I understand fully what's occurring in a chicken's brain, especially the one that belongs to Mrs Slocombe.

Anyway, I meander up the back of the garden to observe the goings on in the top bar hive.It's been very busy in the top bar - I think Queen Olga must be running a very tight ship in there - and activity has been on the rapid increase since the swarm.

But what is this? I say to myself. Not an incoming bee to be seen. Oh no! Well, you can imagine what I thought, and it was with swear words, too.

And just as I was well into having a good huff 'n' puff about bloomin' bees, there approaches from the right hand side of the garden a bunch of bees, altogether in a..well...bunch... and they enter the top bar with their enormous trousers. And then there is nothing...and then there is another bunch of bees...and then there is nothing... and then there is a bunch of...

'Yes, yes, get on with it!' snaps Mrs Pumphrey.

It seems, and I could be wrong about this, but it definitely seems that because of the gusty wind, the bees are coming in to land in little groups, rather than their usual individual fashion. Like geese flocking together on flights, to cut down on wind drag - safety in number and all that.

Can that happen? Do bees work like that? I imagine it's quite difficult being a little, light and not very aerodynamic insect buffeted by the wind and trying to aim for a small hive entrance. P'raps the collective approach helps with aim and approach and aero-dynamics? (Is it aero-dynamics? I'm not a very scientific person, as you know.)

But if that is what they are doing - formation wind flying - then bees are more clever than I originally thought.

And you already know how clever I think bees are.

'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'You do bang on about it somewhat.'

'Oh shush,' I say. 'Go and straighten your feathers.'

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