Many cultures have customs relating to bees, animals that have long been highly valued, if little understood. After all, bees work hard all year, they pollinate many of our favorite foods and enable agriculture, they provide honey, and they don’t ask for much except to be left to toil in peace.
I found out today that bees are considered bearers of good fortune and should treated as members of the family. ‘Telling the bees’ means to inform them of any major family news.
Some say one should speak to bees gently, and not harshly, so as not to incur their anger, or worse, their departure.
Until this morning I didn’t have much notion of bee lore. Coming to bees late in life, as I have, what I know of the creatures and their habits is mostly either biological, or from the perspective of a honey enthusiast.
It could be said that while I don’t know bees all that well, I am a fan of their work.
I’ve written before that we have a long-standing bee colony in a high roof corner of this old house. The colony was there when we bought the house, I assume it’s been there for a very long time. There are two reasons we’ve never had it removed: The corner is high and inaccessible, and the colony doesn’t bother us.
A third reason is that by not disturbing the bees, we provide a home to an established wild colony – and bees are as threatened here in France as they are around the world. I like the hum of bees around the house and in the garden.
Our living room is located in what was once space for an attic and grain storage, and the bee colony is a few feet outside one large window of this room. We were sitting down yesterday evening, the warm glow of the sunset still flooding across the floor, when I noticed a large scattering of small bodies.
Upon closer examination, I found that they were bees. Many were alive, some weren’t. A few were wobbling around, several staggered along the windowsill. The hive outside was still buzzing with activity while the group inside the house stumbled, disoriented, too weak to flee.
I gathered them up and gently put them all – the quick and the still – outside on the window ledge, hoping they’d revive and rejoin the hive. By the time I’d put them all out, however, the sun had set and the air was cool. But I hoped some of them would make it through the night.
And see, this morning, the sun poured down on them, and a few dozen on the window ledge twitched, flexed, and took flight. The rest were too far gone.
There were also a couple dozen freshly arrived bees dozily walking around on the floor again. I put them out, they flew off.
The strange thing is, from what I could tell, none of the bees flew up to the colony. They buzzed off in wildly different directions, looping like drunk pilots. Are they succumbing to local pesticide use? Just tired from trying to find their way back home? Trying to strike out on their own and failing?
I even found a few of them clustered a floor below, under the chair at my office desk. They, too, took flight once I put them out.
Perhaps I should be telling the bees some news, but nothing comes to mind.
So what I’m wondering is what the bees might be telling me. And whether I’ll understand whatever it is they’re trying to say.
Anyone who knows bees – I’d welcome any thoughts on my disoriented visitors.