The Maiden Flight

Whilst Amy G wrestles with her dilemma, here is a short story for the interval:

The sun rose high as the hour went past noon in the midsummer sky.  Birdsong paused in the heating air and a buzz of excitement could be heard growing louder in a small clearing at the edge of the woods.

The young queen clambered over the mass of almost identical hairy bodies, each one intent on her own business though serving a collective aim.  Her big day has arrived.  The others seemed to have sensed this as well and the excitement spread with the oscillating dance begun by one, gradually shared by another and another until it reached that critical point when they began pushing this young virgin queen towards the light.  In the familiar darkness she had thrived and matured – her slim body now strengthened and made ready for the rigours ahead of her.  As she approached the airier atmosphere at the edge of the hive she flexed her wings in preparation.  Her antennae quivered as she picked up the new sensations from the outside world.

There was some preparation before she actually set off.  Cautiously she edged outside and her eyes adjusted to the light.  She began calculating and measuring light and shadows, getting her bearings as she danced up and down and round what had been her home the last nearly three weeks when she had emerged from a tiny egg and chosen by the collective, nurtured into a queen.  When she emerged three or four days ago from her pupating chamber, piping and calling her entrance into the bee world, there had been no rivalling response.  She was the only one of her kind.  Normally there might have been another or two like her and they would have had to battle for supremacy.  For some unknown reason, perhaps interference from a benign force a week ago, she had been selected and all the hopes of this being and the future survival of her colony rested on her.

She returned inside and took a long deep drink from a honey cell.  She needed all the energy she could muster for her first flight.  Her sisters clustered around her as she went out again, this time she flew straight up and as far away from her colony as she could.  As her pheromones were released, drones from afar picked up her scent and came after her.  Their larger eyes pick her out and follow her.  Higher and higher she flew towards the sun and in mid-flight the strongest of the drones in pursuit grasped and straddled her from above with his long legs;  within seconds the first mating was over.  Even as he ejaculated, he flipped back and away from her to fall dying to the ground.  Yet another was already close behind eager to take his place, oblivious to what fate would befall him should he succeed.  The queen did not wait but swooped further above.  If he wished to fulfil his role as nature intended he had to give chase swiftly.  In that afternoon the queen would mate with as many drones as could find her, returning to her hive for sustenance and going back out again, repeating this exercise as long as weather permitted and until she had enough sperm to last her the next five years. 

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