I think it’s safe to say I am a little obsessed with bees. I love so many things about them, not least that they make honey. (Sidenote: honey, is my go-to cure-all-ails natural medicine. When the faintest hint of a cold starts to creep up, you can find me in the kitchen, hidden behind a cupboard door snaffling honey from the jar like a tiny bear. If I’m sleepy in the afternoon, a little spoonful will perk me up, and there’s nothing better to spread on toast in the morning than a sticky slick of the sweet stuff.)
Bees are hardworking creatures. They are Earth’s most efficient pollinating insect, and many plants rely on them to reproduce. Lured in by the bright colours and promise of nectar, bees collect pollen from flowers in little pockets and in their hair, distributing it to the other plants. Pollination is needed for roughly 75 per cent of global food crops. Bees therefore play a crucial role in keeping the world well-stocked with spuds and onions. Basically they are the… (ahem) bees knees.
The fuzzy little pollinators have one of the most sophisticated forms of communication in the animal kingdom. Known as the ‘waggle dance’, a worker bee will perform figures of eight in the air to tell other bees in the colony where juicy nectar-filled flowers, or a comfy looking nest are located. Just call him Anton du Bee (sorry).
Bees do all this while dressed to kill, in a snazzy little striped jacket of an unmistakeable dandelion yellow hue.
Despite being such conscientious, well-dressed and seemingly friendly little honey monsters, the tiny fellas can stand up for themselves. Get on the wrong side of a bee (literally) and you’ll regret it.
AND DON’T FORGET THEY CAN FLY FOR GOD’S SAKE. To summarise: they are superheroes.
It’s been widely reported that bees are on the decline, and that this will have a major impact on the world and its plants. The decline is largely blamed on pesticides and changes to their habitat over the last few centuries.
While hive-dwelling honeybees can’t compete with the efficiency of wild pollinators, it’s still nice to have more of the little guys around, so I am really thrilled to be learning how to become a beekeeper in March.
One day I would love to have a hive of my own, where I can harvest vat after vat of my own honey, and have a whole gang of little bee friends buzzing around the place. In the meantime, I’ll settle for borrowing bees, attempting to plant some wildflowers in my windowbox and trying my best to buy organic food (even though it’s a bit more expensive).
I’ll leave you with a song from the wonderful and wistful Elbow.
“Come be the Queen to my lost worker bee…”
Oh and before I forget, the title of this post is a line from a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier that touches on an old European cultural tradition, known as ‘telling the bees’.