(Yes, Mr. Squirrel. Again. Religious persons trying to solve the “sin” problem are just like Bullwinkle trying to pull the rabbit out of that damned hat. The trick never works, but they keep at it anyway. I sympathize.)
The question came up: is the urge to sin innate in humans, or is it planted there by, you know, the red-skinned guy with the horns, the hooves, and the pitchfork. No, sit down, Hellboy, I’m not talking about you.
I argued that sin must be innate, because we humans are descended from other creatures, and the lives of those other creatures are full of sex, lies, and videotape. OK, maybe not videotape. Or DVDs, either, if you must know. I confess, the next beetle I see with a microphone or a camera will be the first. Despite what you’ve heard about insects making their fortunes in porn. But, said I, I could tell a tale of sin among the bumblebees that would well and truly wrinkle your nose.
They didn’t believe me.
And, truth be told, they were right not to believe me. I don’t have a tale to tell. I have two, one (the one below) on the sin of thievery, and another on the sin of envy. So far.
Yes, bumblebees really will steal. Because they get lazy just like everybody else. (Hey, I can add “sloth” to the list!) The situations in this story are based on real scientific observations of organisms in nature. Well, OK, maybe not Snapdragon International, but … oh, read the story. See for yourself.
The tale told below was originally posted here.
STEAL, v. To remind those who have of the existence of those who have not.
- The inventor of the flower was a genius. He or she – the designer’s identity has not come down to us – saw megatons of pollen that desperately needed to get shipped from one plant to another, and a huge, idle crowd of bugs wandering from place to place begging for handouts. Our hero splashed some paint on some leaves, hung a few balloons, placed a juice bar at the deliveries dock for visitors who were attracted by the advertising and came with a sack of pollen, and presto: UPS (Universal Pollen Service) was born. Simple, elegant, and everybody won.
- Trouble was, of course, that all bugs were not created equal. Some were better couriers than others – and some, through ignorance, laziness, perversity, or a lucky break in size and shape, simply snuck in for the drinks and out without leaving so much as a tip. In the early days, this was OK, the job got done and there was plenty for all. Inevitably, though, the marketplace got crowded, competition increased, and words like “freeloader” entered the vocabularies of botanical boardrooms.
- The CEO and CFO of Snapdragon International watched the weakening stock prices of “open access” flower companies, and thought they saw a way to increase shareholder values. “Redesign our blossoms”, they ordered, “so that only the most efficient pollen carriers can get to the bar.”
- They did, and it worked. Labor productivity skyrocketed, as did Snapdragon International’s meadow share. Wages went up for the workers who could turn the tricks of the new posies, and the managers all got huge salary increases and hefty bonuses. Slums developed around the snapdragon stands, and beetles in rags were seen begging spare change in the business district and pushing shopping carts through the streets among the new luxury condos, but this hardly mattered.
- Until the day when the President of the Bumblebees Union buzzed the executive offices demanding why, after all those years of bargaining in good faith and making all those onerous concessions in work rules and loading rates for the sake of the firm, her workers were not getting paid. An investigation revealed all: destitute insects, tipped off by disgruntled members of a rival labor organization (Allied Federations of Lepidoptera), were breaking into the backs of the flowers and stealing the nectar!
- At this point, management was too deeply committed to its developments in bloom technology to change strategies; besides, an attempt to retrofit to “open access” mode would have caused a market stampede. So they invested in security measures, guarding the flowers with barricades, barbed wire, and ants armed with mace and stingers.
- To no avail: the thieves circumvented all the security and the nectar kept disappearing. There were ugly confrontations, leading to riots and loss of life, all of which was, naturally, reported in the grassroots networks. A wave of selling hit Wallflower Street. The CFO had no choice but to ask the Bumblebees for wage concessions, which prompted first a work slowdown and, finally, a full-blown strike.
- Snapdragon International wilted. Its assets were acquired by Burbee, which maintained Snapdragon’s more glamorous products through tissue culture and genetic engineering. Snapdragon’s managers were last seen, shopping carts in hand, standing in line with the roaches and fruit flies at the Magnolia Juice and Pollen Bread Kitchen. Except for the CEO and CFO, who were hired to head the Advanced Blossom Design subsidiary of the Orchid Conglomerate.
– O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2006, 2008 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Bastiaan J. D. Meeuse of the University of Washington, who introduced me to the field, and allegorical possibilities, of floral pollination biology.