The Bees of Danpung Forest Park -- creative nonfiction by Boyoung Kwon
Every time I pass by the signpost of “Danpung Neighborhood Park”, I'd often hear the sound of the dried maple leaves, crackling, under the weight of laughing children running around. I’d hear water hissing from the fountain, and the buzzing honey bees hovering over it. I sit on the bench under the tallest tree and take a small bite of the popsicle I bought near the park. My grandmother told me she used to walk by the tallest maple tree every morning on her way to Suyu Elementary School. Besides the tallest tree grows another against which a hive blends into the bark of a trunk. A swarm of bees darts in and out of the hive and hovers over the bush beside the tree base.
I notice that the bees are loud as I hear the buzzing sound several steps away from their hive. I also notice that there are different shapes and details of bees in this park. Among various types of bees, I am the most familiar with the worker bees which usually stay out of their hive. I see their yellow and black stripes, fur-coated front body with six furry legs, and sharp edge at where the tail would dangle if bees had tails. I spontaneously look around to check if bees are around me when I hear the buzzing of their wings. Some days I walk around a beehive closer than usual, I can see dead bodies of male drone bees on the ground. Drones have slightly bigger bodies and darker stripes which makes them look ‘fatter’. I remember that the first glance at drone bees reminded me of chubby worker bees, and my grandmother told me they are the drone bees which fertilize with the queen. She added that they do not have stingers, pointing out the rounder edge of drone bees. The most fascinating part of the bees’ world is that a female sovereign, the queen bee, rules the colony. I have only seen the queen bee, not alive but taxidermied, once at the school lab. The mother of all folks has the largest body which makes it noticeable among droves of bees. It barely comes out of the hive as it reproduces and takes care of larvae. While the queen reproduces new eggs with drone bees, worker bees do the housekeeping, construction, forage for food and even fight against enemies and predators.
During Jangma, Korea’s rainy season, my home and the park get inundated with heavy rain and howling wind, so I can barely spot honey bees hovering over the sunflower field. While feeling the weight of the raindrops dribbling against my umbrella, the thick stem of sunflowers and trembling leaves which seem about to fall take my attention. The image of black disc florets snuggling in yellow foliage reminds me of a yellow-black striped abdomen. I step closer to the sunflower field and notice a worker bee hiding itself from the heavy rain under the leaf. Then, I bend my upper body to cover a cluster of sunflowers and the bee. Soon, the rain lets up ousting storm clouds and the sun sets. Sunshine heats up the cold air into mild temperature which is perfect for the small organisms to resume their work. The bee under the sunflower leaves shakes its body as if it has just woken up from a long sleep. It crawls on the disc florets, rubs its on the anthers, and leaves. I chase the path of the bee and reach the tallest Danpung tree. I notice the worker bee I chase, crawling on the surface of the hive surrounded by other worker bees. Soon after, it starts drawing shapes – circles, eight-figures, and straight lines while waggling in between the crowds of bees. A single bee initiates the moves but soon other bees copy its behavior, until all the bees on the surface of their hive have unified, singular movement. Then, some of the wriggling bees leave their hive and flit toward the sunflower field. Their organized swarm mesmerizes me, so I can not take my eyes off them until they get further away and invisible from my sight.
Today, in this park, I see a guy holding his daughter’s hand and a net on his left hand skipping toward the sunflower field. I have seen a lot of people prioritize their personal interests over other living organisms rather than the life of small insects to slake their curiosity. This must be the fate of bees, and all the small winged insects, that they have to endure and overcome since humans have invaded their habitat. As the attacker approaches the swarm of bees, the bees disassemble and start moving in random directions to confuse him. As the offensive swings of the guy attempting to catch continue, the conflict between worker bees and the man gets tenser. I know that I am one of the bystanders who do not want to stop the guy but watch him with concern. Soon, a sharp scream ends the war as one worker bee stings him, penetrating its barbed stinger pieces into the man’s flesh. The bee succeeds in keeping its hive safe, but falls to the ground. I sympathize with its death while hearing the bumble sound of a trembling bee. The poor worker bee of the beehive has ended its life with its torn lower abdomen.
This is how our nature is designed. When we shift the point of view from ourselves to the microorganisms surrounding us, many things change. In a small society under the maple tree in the park, offsprings are born. They build their colony, collect food for newborns and themselves, form a system, and work as a whole, sometimes sacrificing themselves for the good of all, communicating using their bodies in artistic ways. The community interacts with its environment and creates an ecosystem, biome, and further biosphere. When all the micro, invisible rules and living organisms collectively interact, it becomes our world and life.
Boyoung Kwon is a junior at International School Manila. She has published a research paper and is currently working on some creative non-fiction writings, showing her great interest in Biology and Environmental Science.