I lifted to the window a nugget of golden Dominican amber entombing a small stingless bee. The sunlight infused it and illuminated the bee caught forever in flight—gossamer wings outstretched and perfectly preserved down to the last hair. Stark eyes appeared to be gazing at me. I contemplated this lustrous burial chamber and thought how wondrous it would be if we could see what this insect had beheld in its lifetime. Would the vistas of just one day be sufficient to reveal the wonders of life millions of years ago? What was that last fateful day like? And what events had taken place in the eras before this specimen arrived in my hand?
One surmises that the bee was active in the dim light of early morning. She and her sisters gathered in the busy colony before beginning their various tasks. The young workers left for the nursery to attend the developing larvae. Older members flew out into the forest to collect pollen and nectar. The chore reserved for the aged bees was collecting the sticky resin utilized in nest construction from algarrobo trees. Our bee was among the resin gatherers. Off she skimmed with her companions, winding through the shadowy, towering amber forest, dodging the vines and lianas, avoiding tree trunks where hungry lizards lurked, and finally landing on the bark of an algarrobo near a large, yellow, viscous resin flow.
She scanned the surroundings, always on the lookout for hungry, sinister creatures that lurked in ambush—especially one well-adapted predator, the resin bug, a large, hairy-legged creature endowed with a huge beak that could easily penetrate the body and suck out the blood of an unwary bee. The resin bug’s habit of coating the front legs and body parts with resin was repulsive, though effective in ensnaring prey. Only one swipe of the powerful front legs could pin the hapless victim long enough for the hypodermic-like beak to rip through the body wall.
The bee’s compound eyes registered a kaleidoscopic image of the resin flow. Trapped within the vitelline pool lay other small arthropods, plant debris, and detritus. Not discerning any dreaded enemies, the bee began the painstaking job of removing small samples of resin with her mouth, coating them with saliva, and then attaching them to the hind legs in the form of little round balls. This exercise involved concentration and diligent work to prevent getting entrapped in the adhesive deposit. Finished at last, she was ready to return to the colony.
The attack came with lightning speed. Only a hazy brown blur was detected as the resin bug thrust its front legs toward her. Acting on impulse, she retreated from the lunging bug, but in her frantic attempt to avoid the predator she flew directly into the sticky trap. Almost instantly, waves of thick fluid enveloped her.
A few feeble attempts were all that could be mustered to extricate herself from that tenacious snare. In spite of valiant efforts, death came in seconds as viscous liquid seeped over the breathing pores, wrapping a mantle of gold around its victim. The sun shimmered on the silent insect cradled in the glistening tomb on the algarrobo trunk. As a gentle breeze wafted through the leaves, a fine layer of dust drifted over the surface of the elixir. Suspended in a motionless world, the entombed bee endured, the balls destined for the hive still attached to her outstretched legs.
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