Voice of the Hive
January 4, 2008 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Voice of the Hive is a collection of informative and well-written stories about honeybees. Half of the tales are told from a human beekeeper's perspective, and are filled with valuable knowledge for potential hobbyists. The other half are compelling vignettes of a single bee's life -- widely diverse and compelling, told from each individual bee's perspective. The two elements come together to paint a fascinating picture of this noble insect's existence.
posted by illuminatus (17 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Jason also posts stories and diaries on Kuro5hin, which are well worth reading if you're interested in bees, or are willing to allow yourself to suddenly become interested in them.
posted by rusty at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2008

compelling vignettes of a single bee's life...

hey honey, we could create a really good buzz together!
posted by bruce at 11:35 AM on January 4, 2008

Not to be confused with.
posted by mykescipark at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2008

From Hector St. John De Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782):
My bees, above any other tenants of my farm, attract my attention and respect; I am astonished to see that nothing exists but what has its enemy, one species pursue and live upon the other: unfortunately our kingbirds are the destroyers of those industrious insects; but on the other hand, these birds preserve our fields from the depredation of crows which they pursue on the wing with great vigilance and astonishing dexterity.

Thus divided by two interested motives, I have long resisted the desire I had to kill them, until last year, when I thought they increased too much, and my indulgence had been carried too far; it was at the time of swarming when they all came and fixed themselves on the neighbouring trees, from whence they catched those that returned loaded from the fields. This made me resolve to kill as many as I could, and I was just ready to fire, when a bunch of bees as big as my fist, issued from one of the hives, rushed on one of the birds, and probably stung him, for he instantly screamed, and flew, not as before, in an irregular manner, but in a direct line. He was followed by the same bold phalanx, at a considerable distance, which unfortunately becoming too sure of victory, quitted their military array and disbanded themselves. By this inconsiderate step they lost all that aggregate of force which had made the bird fly off. Perceiving their disorder he immediately returned and snapped as many as he wanted; nay, he had even the impudence to alight on the very twig from which the bees had drove him. I killed him and immediately opened his craw, from which I took 171 bees; I laid them all on a blanket in the sun, and to my great surprise 54 returned to life, licked themselves clean, and joyfully went back to the hive; where they probably informed their companions of such an adventure and escape, as I believe had never happened before to American bees!


It is my bees, however, which afford me the most pleasing and extensive themes; let me look at them when I will, their government, their industry, their quarrels, their passions, always present me with something new; for which reason, when weary with labour, my common place of rest is under my locust-tree, close by my bee-house. By their movements I can predict the weather, and can tell the day of their swarming; but the most difficult point is, when on the wing, to know whether they want to go to the woods or not. If they have previously pitched in some hollow trees, it is not the allurements of salt and water, of fennel, hickory leaves, etc., nor the finest box, that can induce them to stay; they will prefer those rude, rough habitations to the best polished mahogany hive. When that is the case with mine, I seldom thwart their inclinations; it is in freedom that they work: were I to confine them, they would dwindle away and quit their labour. In such excursions we only part for a while; I am generally sure to find them again the following fall. This elopement of theirs only adds to my recreations; I know how to deceive even their superlative instinct; nor do I fear losing them, though eighteen miles from my house, and lodged in the most lofty trees, in the most impervious of our forests. I once took you along with me in one of these rambles, and yet you insist on my repeating the detail of our operations: it brings back into my mind many of the useful and entertaining reflections with which you so happily beguiled our tedious hours.

After I have done sowing, by way of recreation, I prepare for a week's jaunt in the woods, not to hunt either the deer or the bears, as my neighbours do, but to catch the more harmless bees. I cannot boast that this chase is so noble, or so famous among men, but I find it less fatiguing, and full as profitable; and the last consideration is the only one that moves me. I take with me my dog, as a companion, for he is useless as to this game; my gun, for no man you know ought to enter the woods without one; my blanket, some provisions, some wax, vermilion, honey, and a small pocket compass. With these implements I proceed to such woods as are at a considerable distance from any settlements. I carefully examine whether they abound with large trees, if so, I make a small fire on some flat stones, in a convenient place; on the fire I put some wax; close by this fire, on another stone, I drop honey in distinct drops, which I surround with small quantities of vermilion, laid on the stone; and then I retire carefully to watch whether any bees appear. If there are any in that neighbourhood, I rest assured that the smell of the burnt wax will unavoidably attract them; they will soon find out the honey, for they are fond of preying on that which is not their own; and in their approach they will necessarily tinge themselves with some particles of vermilion, which will adhere long to their bodies. I next fix my compass, to find out their course, which they keep invariably straight, when they are returning home loaded. By the assistance of my watch, I observe how long those are returning which are marked with vermilion. Thus possessed of the course, and, in some measure, of the distance, which I can easily guess at, I follow the first, and seldom fail of coming to the tree where those republics are lodged. I then mark it; and thus, with patience, I have found out sometimes eleven swarms in a season; and it is inconceivable what a quantity of honey these trees will sometimes afford. It entirely depends on the size of the hollow, as the bees never rest nor swarm till it is all replenished; for like men, it is only the want of room that induces them to quit the maternal hive. Next I proceed to some of the nearest settlements, where I procure proper assistance to cut down the trees, get all my prey secured, and then return home with my prize. The first bees I ever procured were thus found in the woods, by mere accident; for at that time I had no kind of skill in this method of tracing them. The body of the tree being perfectly sound, they had lodged themselves in the hollow of one of its principal limbs, which I carefully sawed off and with a good deal of labour and industry brought it home, where I fixed it up again in the same position in which I found it growing. This was in April; I had five swarms that year, and they have been ever since very prosperous. This business generally takes up a week of my time every fall, and to me it is a week of solitary ease and relaxation.
posted by nasreddin at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Strange. Thanks for the links
posted by rosswald at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2008

viral marketing for bee movie is a bit late at this point, no?
posted by Hat Maui at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

viral marketing for bee movie is a bit late at this point, no?

Quite to the contrary, the movie execs released a pheremone to drive my behavior to coincide with their upcoming DVD release :)
posted by illuminatus at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2008

Thanks for this Illuminatus. These are totally epic.
posted by honeyx at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2008

So this is bee slash? Bee fanfic??

The internet isn't stranger than I imagine, it's stranger than I can imagine.
posted by GuyZero at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

So this is bee slash? Bee fanfic??

The internet isn't stranger than I imagine, it's stranger than I can imagine.

Exactly... hence the saying: "truth is stranger than fiction"

Because all the stories on the site are true. All that stuff from the bee perspective ones actually happened - but it is such a bizarrely alien context for us human-types it seems impossible!

Though there are some leaps in logic in necessary places. We are incapable of seeing the entire picture just yet, because the mechanisms governing instinctual behavior are not yet fully explained... but look at the huge amount we can learn just by casual observation!

That said, if bee slash is your thing, the stuff you are looking for is in chapters 5 and 7.
posted by illuminatus at 1:21 PM on January 4, 2008

Virgil liked bees, too.
posted by jquinby at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2008

it is such a bizarrely alien context for us human-types

I think this is what makes these so neat too. It's a hell of challenge to write from such an alien perspective. He has to take all this knowledge he has from observation and research about bees, and somehow transfer this knowledge into creating the experience of actually being a bee. I don't have this kind of knowledge about bees, so its hard for me to just sit back and imagine the world from a bees perspective. But, I find it pretty fun and enlightening to be able to read his imaginings of a bee's perspective, especially since they are followed up by the observations that led him to the that particular story.
posted by honeyx at 1:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Rudyard Kipling's The Mother Hive compares Imperial British society to the beehive, threatened by infestations of socialist parasites...
posted by alasdair at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2008

Do you know that a manor beekeeper, among his many tasks, was responsible for informing the bees when the lord of the manor died?

At least that's what I've heard, and it's so crazy I don't want to disbelieve it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:05 PM on January 4, 2008

Do you know that a manor beekeeper, among his many tasks, was responsible for informing the bees when the lord of the manor died?

Why wouldn't it be the beekeeper's job? The bees were supposed to be told when anyone from the house died, otherwise they'd fly off. I think the hives may have gotten black ribbons, too, but I'm not sure.

But you knew that already, and were surprised that it was the beekeeper's specific job, right?
posted by dilettante at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2008

I'm *so* passing this link on to my father-in-law who is a beekeeper. I could see him actually writing this. Excellent stuff!
posted by susanbeeswax at 8:54 PM on January 4, 2008

This looks really neat, thanks!
posted by freebird at 9:01 PM on January 4, 2008

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