bee learning

When Grace and I got into the house and took off gear, the protective veil from around her head and the screen-hooded coat from my body, we heard the familiar sound of a single stowaway. One of our new honeybees from our new endeavor had tucked itself into Grace’s hat unnoticed, deciding only then to leave its perch. Her buzz went straight for the window; the cat went straight to the intruder.

While I was thinking about a quick eradication with a swatter or a napkin, Grace was holding back the cat and approaching the bee. “It’s okay sweetheart,” speaking to the worker bee rather than the restrained feline. This took me aback. Just a few minutes before I’d been stung by one of the other 10,000 sisters in our new family, and I wasn’t mourning a potential loss of one more bee — one that was clearly displaced and about to be eaten. But I stepped forward to take the cat.

Grace continued to talk to the bee searching for a way through the window and to the sky that was clearly just beyond but mysteriously impenetrable. She held out a finger and soothed the bee, talked to it, coaxing it to stay still on her finger. She moved slowly towards the door, but the bee flew back to the window. Repeat: soft voice, coax to finger, walk to door, escape back to window. Three times, and then on the fourth try, Grace walked the bee, perched on one finger with the other hand slightly covering, to the door. Wings sprung and the insect took to the sky.

I looked at my own swollen finger from which I’d pulled a stinger just a few minutes before and considered that maybe my kid really does know how to talk to bees.

I’ve been reading about bees, probably more than my daughter has been. But Grace has a feel for the bees and a calm connection that I don’t understand. She moves slowly and smoothly even as she opens their home. I had seen that between her and a horse and now I see it as she pulls a frame of thousands of bees from a buzzing hive. She resists adding smoke to the hive when we check it, because she doesn’t want them to feel stressed — their response to the smoke is one of preparation for a forest fire. Of course, I know that bees don’t “feel” anything. But now I also realize that what I “know” doesn’t compare, in some cases, to what Grace has a feel for. So I’ll let it go; I’ll stand back and watch her save one honeybee at a time. Maybe it will feel thankful. I know I do.