Easy As Falling Off a Bike pt 3184

The Daily Dormouse.
(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Part 3184
by Angharad

Copyright© 2017 Angharad

  
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This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
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After my trying morning in the lecture theatre, I had an equally trying one in a meeting with the management accountant who is always trying to tell me I need to spend less. I had however, done my homework and explained to him that purchase of equipment had been budgeted for two years ago and it as only the weak pound which caused the prices to increase. It had the beneficial effect of encouraging overseas students to apply to study with us. This seemed to be especially true for Chinese students who spoke very good English on the whole but seemed ill prepared for an establishment which didn’t spoon feed them information and then tell them what to do with it.

So far as my researches had tended to suggest that they do rather a lot of rote learning, which is fine for times tables and irregular verbs but not necessarily so for science degrees. In the average British university we expect the students to participate in their study in a proactive way and to use their own initiatives at times. In fact, sometimes we required them to think for themselves to complete various assignments which get progressively more demanding as their academic skills improve—as one would expect. This should mean two things. We’ve taught them something about the subject they came here to read and the other, perhaps more important item—we’ve taught them to think for themselves.

It got so bad at one time that I had to appoint someone to tutor the Chinese students in taking some steps into the unknown and letting go the security blanket of rote learning to think for themselves, to become more explorative and inventive in their approach to learning. It took the best part of a year to work but we brought them up to the level of the British students and one or two were really doing very well—they certainly didn’t lack commitment, unlike some of our local students.

Collecting the girls on the way home, I was looking forward to a quiet night and possibly a chance to read some of the Darwin biography I’d seen in a charity shop—it was a snip at two pounds and a source for much of the material used by Rebecca Stott in her, ‘Darwin and the Barnacle,’ book.

Livvie had other plans. “Mummy, you’re a biologist, aren’t you?”

“You know jolly well I am.”

“I was just checking.”

“I see, for what?”

“Well you see, we have to do this project.”

“On what?”

“Bees.”

“What about bees?” It’s a huge topic, people write books about apiary and other things connected to honey bees and they’re just one sort.

“We have to do this project, about them.”

“You said that already, darling, what in particular have you do about bees?”

“We have to look things up about them...”

“And watch them in the garden, see which flowers they like...” Trish was also involved in this. Oh well both of them know how to look things up on the internet and I’ve got a few books on bees and other social insects—yeah, I know, what a surprise.

“So why d’you need my help?” Might I escape after all?

“Because you know more about them than we do,” all that was missing was the ‘duh’ at the end.

“I’m not an entomologist, let alone an apiarist.”

They all fell about laughing at this. “Silly Mummy, we don’t want to study monkeys, it’s bees we have to do.”

“There aren’t any monkeys in our garden—‘cept Mima.”

“Mummy, they’s bein’ howwibwe again.”

“Apiarists study bees, in fact many of them are beekeepers.”

“Do they get hives?” asked Danielle who’d stayed quiet until then.

“Very funny, Danni—yes quite good.”

“Course they get hives,” asserted Livvie, “that’s where the bees live, dummy.”

Danielle smirked and rolled her eyes, there is no substitute for experience and the knowledge one acquires during it. Then there’s the element of intelligence involved in wordplay, punsters are usually quite bright individuals—some even get to be professors.

“Hives is also a name given to a skin condition.” I instructed those behind.

“Well we didn’t know that did we?”

“Well now you do, you can look that up while you’re buzzing about on the internet.” I glanced at Danni who had to look away.

“What d’you mean buzzing about on the internet?” asked Trish, who for a regular super brain was having a seeming off day.

“Just an expression.”

“You’re making fun of us aren’t you?”

Danni started to choke...

My quiet evening was spent out in the orchard watching a few bumble bees buzzing about and trying to help the girls identify them, most looked like white tailed or buff tailed ones. Livvie did take one or two photos—I think I’ve mentioned before that she’s a very capable photographer.

“Why aren’t we seeing any honeybees, Mummy?”

“Possibly because it’s over cast.”

“That makes a difference?”

“Sometimes, it’s also getting late.”

“But the bumble bees are here. They say busy as a bee, don’t they?”

“They do but I suspect is wasn’t based upon observation of honey or hive bees, which are lazy compared to bumble bees or solitary bees.”

“What some bees like to be on their own?”

For the next few minutes I explained that there were umpteen different kinds of bees but mainly they were grouped as social or solitary ones, the hive and bumble bees being social animals, the solitary ones being as their name suggested, lone operators. I also explained that we didn’t know too much about the lives of the solitary bees because they tend to be more secretive and often smaller insects.

“So some are miners?”

“They call them miner bees because they excavate holes in which to nest, some are leaf cutters, there’s over two hundred species in the British Isles, I mean one of them nests in empty snail shells.”

They fell about laughing.

“Now we know you’re joking, they’re not like hermit crabs are they?” Trish had remembered something that wasn’t related to physics—wow.

“I’m not joking, there are some solitary bees which lay their eggs in compartments they make in empty snail shells, some of them even cover up the shells with grass or leaves afterwards.”

“What to hide them?”

“We don’t honestly know it may be to hide them or to keep the sun off them so the eggs don’t get too warm.”

“What boiled eggs?” Trish said and they all roared with laughter.

I tried to point out that in several types of bee, even some of the social ones, the mother who chooses and builds the nest will never see her offspring. She constructs the nest in a hole or excavates one, sometimes in wood or a wall, lays her eggs, provides pollen for her babies to eat and then dies before they hatch.

When I mentioned cuckoo bees, they all ran around with their arms out buzzing and every so often calling cuckoo. It started to feel cold so I went back indoors and left them out there buzzing.

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