Li’l Melittologist Knows Everything About Bees
They make homer by barfing and then flapping their wings!
I went to the archives of The Daily Kina, which are located in a temperature-controlled vault deep in the Pacific Ocean, to look for the last time we covered bee news. Turns out it was on August 15th of last year, at the bottom left of the page, the day after Kina and I had a little Daddy-Daughter breakfast at the local coffee shop that she calls “Cheddar Cheese and Bacon”, because we always get a breakfast sandwich when we go. At that Daddy-Daughter breakfast1, we found ourselves sitting next to a big lavender plant with a couple little bees hovering around it; Kina named them Becky and Joe, and our time with them really helped Kina come to understand the essential goodness of bugs at a time when she was deathly afraid even of ants.
As the cherry trees blossom, the bees are coming back (how symbolic!), and Kina’s school has conveniently done some quality bee programming this week—which Kina largely ignored. Conveniently, though, her father has been watching YouTube videos of beekeepers to help himself go to sleep at night. This nightly obsession has dragged on now for over a week, and I have no idea where it came from; I have never watched bee videos before, I do not enjoy a rich personal relationship with bees, and I have no interest in keeping them. Still, there’s something about watching extremely calm bee people—in many cases, wearing no protective gear at all—open and examine hives, gently brushing bees away with their fingers as they locate the queen. They apply a little smoke, mutter about bee bread and queen cells, and do whatever it is they were called in to do (usually to remove a swarm or split a crowded hive).
I think what I find so appealing about these videos is the idea that you can wade into the homes of these beings that are seemingly very dangerous and chaotic and willing to give their lives in defense of that home, and by being very calm and deliberate, make the bees’ lives better and the lives of the human beings who live with them better. Maybe there’s a metaphor there, not sure.
In any case, I now know how bees make honey, and so I was able to create my own little lesson plan this morning with Kina, in which I showed her a couple videos of bees gathering nectar, pollinating plants, dancing with their little buns, and barfing up honey into the comb. After our little screening and conversation, she knew that bees pollinate plants and flowers, that they create honey by digesting the nectar of flowers, that they cover up the honey with wax (“not blankets!!!”) and cool it all off with their flapping wings. The timing was fantastic, and now she loves all bees.
Which is great, because bees are little miracles. A pound of honey contains the nectar of millions of flowers, carried by the milliliter in the stomachs of thousands upon thousands of bees, deposited and condensed down just by the evaporative power of tiny insect wings. They do this for each other, to keep the collective alive, but by doing it, they keep us all alive—though the pollination of the plants we eat and the sustenance their extra honey provides. It is the very least we can do to remain calm as they make sense of things, and to give them the space to do their work. There’s probably a metaphor there, too. Not sure.
There is a song that we sing on these trips, and on nights that Laurea is out. It goes: “Dad-dy Daugh-ter Time / dun dun dun dun dun dun dun”