For the Love of Bees

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“What are you doing?” my son called from the corner.   

My 8-year-old saw the bee I was trying to save. That’s when he flew to safety on the opposite side of the room. It took me a minute, but I was finally able to escort my winged friend outside using a piece of paper as a tiny bee platform. I watched the honey bee crawl off the cardboard, take a moment, and fly away. My rescue mission had been a sweet success. Back inside, my 8-year-old emerged from the corner to ask if I worried about the bee stinging me. I explained I wasn’t because I’d stayed calm and bees won’t sting unless they feel threatened. Then I moved in for a quick hug to whisper, “I love bees … and so did your great-grandmother.” 

Why Bees Are Important to My Family

Bees were my grandmother’s thing. Growing up, my paternal grandmother Mame and I were close. Mame was the life of the party, quick-witted, and super smart. So, when she told me how much she appreciated bees, I was intrigued — and slightly confused. Hers was the complete opposite attitude of my grade school classmates who ran away screaming like the villain Skeletor had entered the playground when a bee buzzed near them. Did she know some secret facts about bees I didn’t? What did she see in these buzzing beauties that made her love them? 

Facts About Bees

“The thing I love the most about bees is how smart they are,” says Amanda Snider, president of the Spencer County Beekeepers Association in Kentucky. Snider explains there are three different types of bees — each with a specific job. “There’s the queen bee, the worker or forger bees which are all females, and the drones which are the males.” 

Snider says bees communicate in ways you can’t imagine. Honey bees use “pheromones” to talk to one another about anything from mating, to swarming, or foraging. The National Library of Medicine describes pheromones as “a chemical substance secreted by an animal’s exocrine glands that elicit a behavioral or physiological response by another animal of the same species.” But did you know bees were famous for their dance breaks? Snider explains that the “waggle dance” tells other bees about a pollen source. “They fan out their wings and waggle back and forth. It’s so cute to watch them do it,” she says. 

Why Bees Are Important to Us 

My grandmother wasn’t a beekeeper, but she did keep her love of bees throughout her life. She told me that watching her bee friends fly from flower to flower was a secret summer pastime. I’m guessing that Mame didn’t know that “honey bees alone pollinate 80% of all flowering plants.” Or that without them, there would be no us. But she was a smart lady, so maybe she did. Perhaps she purposely planted a bee-friendly garden and maybe that’s why she was so intentional in sharing her love of them with me.

Bees Now Keep Us Connected 

A shared love for bees keeps the connection my grandmother and I had vibrant and, yes … buzzing. Mame passed away 15 years ago, and every time I see a honey bee I think of her. A bee magically graced my wedding and my sister’s — flying near us while we said our vows. Staring at my husband-to-be, I heard my grandmother’s messenger buzz by my ear. I whispered, “Hi, Mame,” taking in a moment for the two of us. Bees graced my yard when I found out I was pregnant and each surprise visit is a way to reconnect to the love we shared. It’s comforting to know Mame is still part of my life — for as long as I let her "bee."

Tags: Environment, Family, Grandmother

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Written By

Tonilyn Hornung

Tonilyn is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, young son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space. See Full Bio

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