The United Nations have designated today (20th May) as World Bee day.
The UN says that: “Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.”
World Bee Day is a way of raising awareness about the key role Bees play in this and also about the threats they face. For example, recent legislation passed by the British Government about the sale of particular pesticides will increase this threat.
The UN therefore says: The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries. We all depend on pollinators and it is, therefore, crucial to monitor their decline and halt the loss of biodiversity.
You can read more on the UN website: https://www.un.org › observances › bee-day.
This also includes suggestions for action.
Today, however, here are some things about Bees which celebrate these important visitors to our gardens.
Did you know that the Bee, and also Beekepers, have a number of Patron Saints.
My favourite one is St. Ambrose
According to legend, when he was a baby his father saw a swarm of bees land on his mouth. They didn’t sting him but they did bring him a gift of honey. This was taken as a sign from God that Ambrose would grow up to be a great preacher. This came true and as a result he was often described as the “honey-tongued doctor.”
St John Chrysostom, an important early saint of the Church, said of Bees:
The bee is more honoured than other animals, not because she labours,
but because she labours for others.
Other saints are associated with bees, including St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153) was an 11th century French abbot who was known for using honey as medicine as did St Kharlamii of Asia Minor.
St Gognait (aka St Deborah or St Abigail) is regarded as the Irish Patron Saints of Bees and Beekepers. There is a story that when robbers stole livestock from her village, she sent her bees in hot pursuit of the robbers They quickly repented!
In a less serious comment on honey is a little rhyme which may have been by Ogden Nash:
I eat my peas with honey,
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.
The spirituality of bees includes working alongside others in the hive as a team but, there is a co-operation of a different kind. It is a lesson in working together in the making of honey.
It is by Kahil Gibran in his famous book, The Prophet.
And now you ask in your heart,
“How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure
from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens,
and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure
is a need and an ecstasy…
… be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.
God is pleased when we work together for the common good and, as Kahil Gibran points out, we can learn much from the bees and the flowers.
One final story in this selection is about the determination of the bee.
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. It’s something to do with its body mass in relation to its wing span. It’s all been tested out, using the science of aerodynamics and a wind tunnel.
The Bumble Bee is, however, blissfully ignorant of this scientific fact and, possessing considerable determination, and refusing to accept a low expectation of its capabilities, not only does fly, but it makes a little honey too!
Perhaps we can bear that in mind when we are faced with difficulties about things we can or can’t do. Even more important when others tell us what we can’t do. Think of the bee and don’t let others put you down.
To end here’s part of a prayer liturgy by Douglas Kaine in his book Every Moment Holy.
God, we thank you too for the small
comedy of the creatures,
for the humour of their constant severity,
for the buzz and the bumbling of bees in flight,
for the sight of bees bending
slender stalks to harvest in the blooms,
their feet shod in bristling boots of gold,
their backs fuzzed with bright yellow dust
that is the colour of joy made visible.
So, watch the bees and reflect on them with delight.
They are another sign to us of God’s joy made visible.