The Life of a Bee

by Barbara Ann Oliver

The bee stung him right on the thumb! He just brushed it off, puffed a little smoke on it, and went on with his lesson.

This past weekend, I participated in a short-course for beekeepers. Two mornings of classes, and two afternoons in a bee yard actually working with the bees. That’s where the instructor got stung. In fact, he got stung about four times that day. He said he was used to it and it didn’t bother him. Me, I stayed securely wrapped up in my white coveralls, bee-veil, gloves, and rubber bands around my ankles so they couldn’t crawl up my pant legs!

Bees are hard workers. In fact, they get a little cranky when there is not enough pollen and nectar to keep them busy. At least that is what we beekeepers think when we have to look into their hives during a slow spell. They can be mighty testy. But we risk their displeasure for a taste of their sweet product – honey!

Honey is on my “favorite foods” list. As early as Genesis, honey has been a part of human history. Israel instructed his sons to carry “a little honey” to Pharaoh (Genesis 43:11). Manna tasted like “wafers of honey” (Exodus 16:31), and the land of Canaan was said to be “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3). Proverbs recommends eating it, but in moderation (Proverbs 24:13, 25:27). And Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would eat “curds and honey” (Isaiah 7:15). Of course, we all know that John the Baptizer dined on locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).

Bees are fascinating. As soon as the little bee crawls out of her cell, she turns around and cleans it out, getting it ready for a new occupant. Then she starts taking care of all the little eggs and larvae, making and feeding them “bee bread”. After a stint as housekeeper, she flies out of the hive as a forager, bringing back pollen and nectar. She works so hard that, eventually, she wears her little wings out.

Bees live a dangerous life, full of threats within and without the hive. Beetles, moths, mites, mice and ants take a deadly toll on the colony itself. Spiders, wasps, birds, toads and lizards attack them in the fields. Even fish will occasionally grab them! They make more honey than they can eat – which is a good thing for us – and they work until they literally drop dead.

Every bee in the hive has a purpose. And each bee lives its short life performing the work it was meant to do.

It reminds me of our Christian life. We need to be involved in good works from our earliest days. And we can never “retire” from the Lord’s work. Like the life of a bee, our work may change, but work we must! And after we have worked our little wings off, we can still fly away home!

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Barbara A Oliver

Barbara Ann Oliver has worked with the church in Costa Rica for many years and serves as the associate editor for Forthright Magazine.

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