The Buzz of Bees


The honey month of September provides a chance to celebrate the honeybee. Seventeen states have adopted the honeybee as their official state insect. Why does it hold top honors as the most popular among the 50 states? Keep in mind that one out of every three bites of food we consume has been made possible by a honeybee.

They provide great honey, but they are also responsible for the pollination of many crops that feed not only humans, but also animals that in turn become a food source for us.

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading a novel titled The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Not only is its storyline captivating, but Kidd has woven her concepts of the mysterious intertwining of man and nature in a uniquely satisfying way. The more I read, the more compelled I am to read on.

Each chapter begins with a quotation from a source book on bees:

Let’s imagine for a moment that we are tiny enough to follow a bee into a hive. Usually the first thing we would have to get used to is the darkness. (Exploring the World of Social Insects by Hilda Simon)

The whole fabric of honey bee society depends on communication — on an innate ability to send and receive messages, to encode and decode information. (The Honey Bee by James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould)

Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die. (The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men by William Longgood)

A bee’s life is but short. During spring and summer — the most strenuous periods of foraging — a worker bee, as a rule, does not live more than four or five weeks & Threatened by all kinds of dangers during their foraging flights, many workers die before they have reached even that age. (The Dancing Bees by Karl Von Frisch)

The Secret Life is told in the first person by Lily, a white teenage girl of Sylvan, South Carolina. Lily says, “I studied a piece of honeycomb. People don’t realize how smart bees are &. Bees know enough geometry to make row after row of perfect hexagons, angles so accurate you’d think they used rulers. They take plain flower juice and turn it into something everyone in the world loves to pour on biscuits. & the main thing is they are hardworking to the point of killing themselves. Sometimes you want to say to them, Relax, take some time off, you deserve it.

August, a wise and wonderful black woman beekeeper, takes Lily into her home. “Did you know that there are 32 names for love in one of the Eskimo languages?” August said. “And we just have the one. We are so limited; you have to use the same word for loving [a family member] as you do for loving a Coke with peanuts. Isn’t that a shame we don’t have more ways to say it?”

I love the book and, in a different way, I love honey. If you love honey, take some time to seek out your local beekeepers, honor them during National Honey Month and enjoy a good jar of honey too!


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