The cute yellow face hops slept on a small doll bed in a terrarium in its short life
It’s almost a year since Shay Hayashi walked down Ruby Street. It was a Tuesday.
She was with her partner, Michael, and picked up something. While looking for an address, they were turned around; Michael noticed that a hop they had previously passed on the ground was still on the sidewalk and stopped Hayashi from stepping on it. Hayashi came to the level of the bee and noticed that it did not have full size wings.
“It was just one thing that happened that day, not anticipated in any way,” she says. “She was on the sidewalk and still saw there 15 minutes later, so I bent down and picked her up.”
The bee immediately crawled into her hand.
“I don’t want to project, but maybe she was looking for help,” Hayashi says.
The two gathered a few flowers, as a side dish, and went home. For the next 32 days Ruby Tuesday, the bumblebee lived with the couple in Vancouver.
At first, they hoped the bees’ wings would grow back. They were there, but appear to have shrunk up for some reason, maybe illness or heat, Hayashi is not sure. Over time, the bee became more and more part of the family, and even came along with the cat Pyro.
“Being around her was comforting; she wanted to hang out,” Hayashi says. “She was just a really cute creature. She just accepted and sent care.
“It was like having a baby unicorn in the palm of my hand.”
It worked that Hayashi had his wisdom teeth taken out the day after Ruby was found; for the next two weeks she could look after the big bee full time.
“It was like having a little person a little bit,” she describes the experience. “Her emotional and intellectual capacity, I know it sounds weird, but she was so smart.”
Ruby would also go out in public and ride, for example, on Hayashi’s shoulder.
“A lot of people would stop me and say ‘You have a giant bee on you,'” she says.
When she was going back to work as a nanny, Ruby came along.
“The boy I was a nanny was a really good kid, he interacted with her too,” she says. “I took them to parks and communal gardens.”
Even with the young boy, Ruby was calm.
“She was docile enough that she could sit on a two-year-old’s arm and hang out with us,” she says.
They were together 24 hours a day; when they were home, Michael would also hang out and help with the bee. Ruby had certain habits and behaviors that they learned over time.
“I wanted to know if we were out in public and she was scared, I knew that if she was hungry, I wanted to know if she was sleepy,” Hayashi says. “She was like a newborn, but also like a wise old lady at the same time.”
Ruby liked sleeping in Hayashi’s hand, but they had a terrarium for her. When she was placed in the terrarium, she woke up looking for her people; to solve this they were given a dollhouse bed.
“We put her on a bed and she slept on the pillow; we put it in the terrarium and it became the routine of the night.”
While caring for the big mistake was work, it was far outweighed by the reward. Like any good friend, she brought happiness and comfort to Hayashi.
“It’s so weird to say, because I know it sounds crazy, but she was a very understanding thing; (Ruby) couldn’t speak my language, but could pick up my emotions and my vibes,” she says. “It’s a weird thing to talk about, because when I explain it to people, I sound like a crazy person, but it’s the truth.”
She adds that bees communicate with each other in a rather complex way and dance to share directions with each other.
It was not only Hayashi who was connected to Ruby; Michael and their cat, Pyro, did the same. She describes Pyro as a stone-cold killer when it comes to some insects, but the cat understood that Ruby was special.
“I think it was him who looked at us and responded to the special treatment we gave her, he is a very smart cat,” she explains. “I think it was out of curiosity; he would sit by it and protect her a little.”
Once when Ruby was lost (a serious concern when the animal is so small), Pyro was the one who found her. Losing her was always a concern, given how delicate a bee is.
As they learned more about bumblebees, especially yellow faces, they realized that Ruby’s life expectancy was probably only about a month.
“It did not seem natural that something with the emotional capacity and intellect would have such a short lifespan,” Hayashi says.
She secretly hoped Ruby was a queen bee; the lifespan of queens is considerably longer than that of a worker bee. She had ideas for an indoor greenhouse with flowers.
“I tragically hoped we would have her in the long run; her death was devastating, but it can be expected,” Hayashi said.
One morning she woke up, went to the terrarium, looked and reached in. Usually Ruby came to her hand and climbed on, but sometimes she hid. Hayashi moved some things around and found Ruby; she moved slowly.
“I called Michael and asked him to come right away,” Hayashi says. “She hung out for a few hours. When we were all together, even with the cat, Pyro, she stopped moving.
“I do not want to project on how a mistake felt, but I do not think she would go.”
That was near the end of September 2020. She submitted Ruby’s story to Dodo, a social media company that specializes in sharing animal stories. They recently made the footage for a short video.
“I definitely thought it would get a few thousand views, but I think it’s at 16 million views,” Hayashi says. “I’m happy because if there are 16 million people who know that bees are not ‘just insects’, that they have the capacity to be emotionally and intellectually connected, that’s fine.”
A person has even reached out to make a children’s book.
“I hope it will stop people from squeezing a bee,” she says. “If it is to teach children that any creature can do much more, that is good.”
She does not like to be recognized and thinks the attention is a little overwhelming, but thinks it is worth it.
“I think people need to know what bees are capable of, what something living is capable of,” she says. “It has definitely changed the way I look at things; apart from mosquitoes, I do not kill anything – even spiders.”
The fact that people share the world with a large number of living things that we may not give enough credit for is central to why she shares the story.
“I think what comes out of this story is that people should not fear bees,” she says. “If they see a bee or something, it’s not just a mistake, it’s something capable of worrying.”