Milton Worker Bee lived with his family in a ground colony. They could not build their colony up high because there were no big trees or mountains where they lived. So they dug a tunnel underground to protect them from animals and humans.
This was Milton’s first year to work among the worker bees, and he was excited to go after pollen so he could help make honey to feed the new baby larvae. He had heard stories of how his father and uncles had almost been smashed or captured by humans.
Milton was curious about humans, but his mother—the queen—had warned him to stay away from them. She warned all of her children about the dangers of leaving the colony so they would be ready to do their work and help the colony survive.
Today was going to be Milton’s first day outside the colony. He was ready! He was excited! He was determined to help his colony get all of the pollen he could find.
When it was light enough to see everything around him, Milton got in line with the other worker bees. The sun warmed the ground above him. It gave him a good feeling—of happiness and energy.
The worker bees started moving toward the opening of the colony’s underground home. Milton knew everyone wanted to get out, so they could search for flowers, find pollen and bring it back to make honey to feed the little ones. He fluttered his wings in excitement. The sound of his moving wings made a buzzing sound. As everyone started fluttering their wings, the noise became very loud. But it was a good noise that helped Milton know how excited everyone was to get to work.
Finally, Milton was at the front of the line and he was ready to leave—but only so that he could return with pollen. He stood on the edge of the opening for only a moment. But at that moment, he saw a large patch of bare ground all around the opening. The bare spot helped them spot enemies who would hurt them before they could get too close.
Milton started moving his wings in larger circles. His body started lifting off the ground. “Yippie!” Milton cried. He was really flying. He could not fly fast enough to catch up with the others, but he knew where they were going. They were all going where flowers grew on trees, on the sides of hills and on bushes and other green plants.
Suddenly, Milton saw hundreds of beautiful colors among the trees and all along the grass and bushes. He saw all his bee cousins landing on colorful flowers and there were almost as many bees as there were flowers. Milton flew over trees and between bushes. He flew past wide patches of dirt that stretched from one end of the world to the other, with strange things moving along them and humans inside of them. Those strange things moved faster than Milton could fly and they made much more noise than all of the bees in his colony. But those strange things could only move on the ground and could not fly over trees and across the sky like Milton.
He saw many flowers below him in the grass and on bushes. He flew low to the ground and landed on flowers that looked like no bees had ever landed on before. He landed on one and rolled his body all over the pollen in the middle of the flower. He laughed and giggled and hummed as he rolled in the pollen. It made him feel happy to be working for his family.
Then Milton flew to another flower and did the same thing. He flew to as many flowers as he could and every time he rolled in the pollen, he laughed and giggled. But each time, he became heavier with pollen so that he could barely fly.
Now Milton decided to fly back to his colony with all of the pollen he had collected on his body. But he was heavy and could not fly high or fast. He suddenly realized he did not know where his colony was or which way to go to return home. He had to fly close to the ground because he was so heavy and everything looked different from the ground.
Milton stopped to rest on a bush. There were flowers on the bush, but Milton did not try to take more pollen from them. He was already too heavy. He looked around for other bees to ask them how to get home.
But Milton did not see any other bees.
He tried to call out help, but no one came to help him get back home.
Finally, Milton started to fly again, but he could not fly for long because he was so heavy and tired. Even though he had been told never to land on the grass, he had no choice. He was tired and there were no trees or bushes or other plants near him.
Milton tried to walk, but the grass kept wiping the pollen off his body. He did not want to lose his pollen. His family needed it for the young larvae so they could eat. Milton did not know what to do to get home again. But he did not want to stay out by himself.
After walking in the grass for a while, Milton got some of his strength back and he did not feel so heavy anymore. So he flew into the air again. He knew he would have to fly high so he could find his home, but he was still very tired.
After a few minutes of flying and looking for other bees, Milton heard a soft voice calling his name. He saw two of his cousins from the colony.
Milton smiled. He was saved! He caught up with his cousins and they led him back home. Milton landed on the bare ground outside his home and walked back inside the tunnels. He had lost so much pollen that now he looked like he had as much pollen as the others.
Even though he tried to get more pollen than all the others, Milton discovered he could only do so much. He decided to work smarter tomorrow instead of trying to gather more than the others. He wanted his work for the colony to be as good as the others so everyone would have what they needed.