Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


I had some recent correspondence with Duane Griggs of New London, who sold the New London Journal to the Hodges of Wapello about twenty-five years ago.

Duane came from a family of beekeepers including four uncles on his motherís side, and his older brother. Dadants in Hamilton sold the family equipment on many occasions, and were well acquainted, if not friends.

Mr. Griggs gave me an interesting article written by his niece, called "Lifeís Perfect Metaphor" in which she describes the many services that bees provide human society.

Besides the obvious products, a study of bees reveal a structured society where bees are good role models allowing us to learn lessons in cooperation, sacrifice, diligence, perseverance, communication, nurturing and effort.

Early pioneers in Van Buren County and other areas of the Black Hawk Strip in the Iowa portion of Wisconsin Territory depended on bee trees for the honey produced, because sugar was such a rare treat. Bee trees were prized, protected, and considered valuable because the bees helped the farmers in many ways.

Every member of the bee society has a job and purpose. The Queen Bee in her "maiden flight" mates with the fastest drone, and after that lays eggs her entire life. She is attended by female worker bees who feed her, protect her and keep her clean. Other worker bees act as nurses, keep the hive clean, and feed the larvae that become new bees. They also protect the hive from predators, including people.

Worker bees bring back pollen and gather sap from trees to help seal the combs. They produce a Royal Jelly to feed the baby bees for a short time. Humming of bees is caused by the vibrating movement of wings, and this provides air-conditioning in the hives during hot weather and heats the hive in winter. Together with chemicals from the honey sacs, the fanning creates honey by evaporating excess moisture from the nectar.

Researchers observing bee behavior have seen them dance. The "dancing" informs other workers of nectar by revealing the direction of the source from the sun and its distance from the hive.

Obviously, the pioneers used honey for sweetening and in making such delights as cookies and cakes. Honey was also used by Indians and some pioneers to treat wounds. And without the pollination of flowers as a result of bees, fruits and many vegetables (the fruit of plant-life) would not develop.

We probably swatted and killed a couple of nuisance bees last summer before they stung us. But when we eat an apple or spoon out the sweet flesh of a muskmelon, we are enjoying the efforts of dancing worker bees! That is what the writer meant by calling the bee one of life's little metaphors.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick