Telling The Bees

Talk to the hive before it’s gone.


This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the rusty patched bumblebee to the endangered species list. It marked the first time that both a bumblebee and any bee species at all has received that designation in the continental U.S.—in other words, the hive collapse mania you’ve been reading about these past few years is finally reaching a point where the government is intervening. “The bees,” they essentially said this week, “are dying way too fast.”

U.S. Puts Bumblebee On The Endangered Species List For 1st Time

Being listed as endangered grants the species “protected status,” which will go into effect February 10. That status includes requirements for actions like federal protection and the development of a recovery plan, and it also means that states with habitats for this species are eligible for federal funding.

Anyway, all of this sent me down a bee Wiki k-hole and delivered me to a custom called Telling the Bees that I just think is so nice. Historically, beekeepers give life updates to their bees and then read the behavior of the hive in the weeks afterward as a sort of omen. Neglecting to update your bees about your goings-on is said to potentially result in hive abandonment. So even if I don’t have anything as major as a wedding or a death to report on, whispering, “I have seen both episodes of The Bachelor this season,” might still be an extension of the custom. Had I not chatted with my bees, after all, they might get offended and stop waiting around for me to talk to them. Look:

The telling of the bees is a traditional European custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper’s lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household. If the custom was omitted or forgotten and the bees were not “put into mourning” then it was believed a penalty would be paid, such as the bees might leave their hive, stop producing honey, or die.[1] The custom has been most widely noted in England but also recorded in Ireland, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and the United States.[2][3][4][5][6]

So if you live in the rusty patched bumblebee’s remaining habitat, try talking to them every once in a while. They might just miss you.