Three weeks ago, my backyard exploded with lust as honeybees and bumblebees shoved their tongues down the throats of purple flowers. They were worse than a bunch of teenagers. For some, spring is a time of poems and romance. Not in my backyard. It is about satisfying a botanical lust and a zoological hunger.
In human reproduction, courtship may begin with a dance and eventually end with a screaming toddler who tells you ‘NO!’ as many times as you tell him. With their feet stuck in the ground, plants can’t dance so they have figured out another way of courting and reproducing with a partner. Some plants rely on wind or water to carry pollen from one plant to fertilize another. Other plants, like those in my backyard with purple flowers, rely on animals such as bees, bugs or bats. And all it takes is a little sugar to convince these animals to dance.
When winter ebbs and spring arrives, bees are hungry. Nectar is a fast meal. The bumblebees in my yard were so focused on feeding that I petted one on its fuzzy, tennis-ball thorax with my finger. The bee was not at all bothered. I taught my 21-month-old son how to pet bumblebees. And now when he sees a bee he sticks out his finger to pet it; I’m sure his mom will be thrilled.
I am amazed at how clever plants are. They have convinced an entirely different species to take part in their botanical lovemaking, and have done so with only a dab of sugar. I’m not nearly as clever. While the act of reproduction in humans is relatively uncomplicated, the act of convincing another human to reproduce with you is not. First dates, kissing the top of her ear because she turned her head when you went in for a kiss, handmade cards, not sure if she likes you, not sure if you like her, origami flowers, emails, drunk emails, break-ups, make-ups, bad movies, good movies you’re too nervous to watch, dinners with too much pepper and too much cabbage, dinners so good you forgot what you had, fights about nothing, fights about something, apologies for everything, hurt feelings, not being able to parallel park, building a garden together, telling her you’re tired when your exhausted because you want to impress her, farting in front of each other for the first time, wanting to build a life together, nerves about a new job and a new home, deciding to have a child that you will love more than anything but are terrified and excited about at the same time, teaching that child to pet bumblebees and then writing about it. Human reproduction is exhausting.*
I can’t imagine trying to convince another species to participate.
*I say as the one who did not give birth.