On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.
Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!
Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.
Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid.
Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.
My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.
For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon.