Mites and Hummingbirds

It turns out there is one species of mites that lives in the beaks of hummingbirds. As you no doubt remember from biology, the mite is the size of a little black spec, smaller even!  When a hummingbird flits on a flower, at the very instant of contact, the mite races down the hummingbird’s beak as fast as his hairy legs can carry him, and he jumps lickety-split onto the flower!  This, you would think, would be the leap of a lifetime. Yet, when our mite has had his fill of nectar and sees another hummingbird attracted to the flower, in the instant the hummingbird sticks his beak into the petals, the mite leaps lightning fast back onto the bird’s beak!  If you ever saw a hummingbird, you know, this must happen faster than the blink of an eye!  However, if you happened to have an incredibly large zoom lens attached to a super slow motion camera, you would see clearly our hustling, mighty mite timing it just right and lunging for all he’s worth onto the hummingbird, and the frisky bird, in slow motion, rearing back and sneezing violently and wildly shaking his beak to throw him off.  But, you would see also our little hero clinging on for dear life, fingers gouging deeply into the beak, and then, when the hummingbird pauses, as they often do in mid-air, like they’ve forgotten what it is they were about to do, he leaps up and races into the hummingbird’s beak – just as the hummingbird remembers his bearings and whooshes away!  Yes, unlike most mites who live their entire lives on a single flower and never see beyond their immediate horizon, this species has learned that by mastering the fear of riding hummingbirds, they can experience the world!

Categories: Essays

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