(Photo by Fernando Valenzuela)
[The following is an excerpt of Dave Goulson's "A Sting In the Tale," (Picador), which will be published in the U.S. on Tuesday.]
Since moving to the University of Stirling I have taken to running up a local hill, named Dumyat (pronounced Dum-i-at), every Wednesday at lunchtime. The university campus is lovely, the ugly 1970s buildings hidden amongst trees around a beautiful loch. Just to the south-east rises a steep volcanic plug clothed in woodland, on which has been built the dramatic Gothic tower of the Wallace Monument. The Ochil Hills rise directly from the northeast end of the campus, and form a sharp escarpment running eastwards into Fife, marking the edge of the central Lowlands and the beginning of the Highlands beyond. Dumyat is the westernmost of the Ochils, rising only 400 metres or so, but with spectacular views into the Highlands to the north, to Edinburgh in the east and to Ben Lomond in the west.
I moved to Stirling in 2006, and in the late summer of that year I noticed something a little odd at the top of Dumyat. I was gasping to regain my breath, slumped against the cairn that marks the summit, when I noticed several bumblebees buzzing about. Closer inspection revealed that they were male white-tails. They were not feeding on flowers – indeed, there are no flowers anywhere near the top of Dumyat, just rocks and sheep-cropped grass. It is a fairly bleak and windswept spot – the bees were being buffeted about, but were stubbornly flying into the wind to maintain their position, whilst zigzagging around as if looking for something.