The Quote Garden ™
I dig old books. ™
Quotations about Bees
When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee's house some day. ~Congo proverb
What do you suppose?
A bee sat on my nose.
Then what do you think?
He gave me a wink
And said, "I beg your pardon,
I thought you were the garden."
Take time to smell the roses and eventually you'll inhale a bee. ~Author unknown
Opening a window to let out a fly and ending up with thirty midges, three wasps, two bees and an owl. ~Rob Temple, Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time, 2013, verybritishproblems.com
[L]et us linger awhile in the wonderful old Lilac walk. It is a glory of tender green and shaded amethyst and grateful hum of bees, the very voice of Spring. ~Alice Morse Earle, "In Lilac Tide," Old-Time Gardens Newly Set Forth, 1901
So full but now of summer's triumph-notes...
The bees rich murmur filled their honeyed throats...
~Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (1832–1911), "October," c.1866
How blest to sit in the fragrant shade,
In the hush of a summer noon,
To watch the bees at their happy task,
And listen their drowsy tune...
~Elizabeth Anne Chase Akers Allen, "My Air–castle," The Sunset–song and other Verses, 1902
It is not how busy you are, but why you are busy — the bee is praised, the mosquito is swatted. ~Author unknown
He says a word to the butterfly,
And its mottled dream is his;
He whispers the bee, and it makes reply
With a thought like a honeyed kiss...
~Madison Julius Cawein (1865–1914), "The Poet, the Fool, and the Faeries"
How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From ev'ry op'ning flow'r!
~Isaac Watts (1674–1748), "Idleness and Mischief" (children's hymn)
Books are the beehives of thought; laconics, the honey taken from them. ~James Ellis, quoted in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1899
Others, again, give us the mere carcass of another man’s thoughts, but deprived of all their life and spirit, and this is to add murder to robbery. I have somewhere seen it observed, that we should make the same use of a book, as a bee does of a flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it; and those sweets she herself improves and concocts into honey. But most plagiarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, nor industry to acquire, nor skill to improve, but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared from the hive. ~Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think, 1820
[T]hese flowers, so fragrant, grew
And the birds and bees sipped sweet nectar
From the sparkling, morning dew.
God has blessed all beauties of Nature;
He's set His approval and seal
On all of His small, winged messengers
That fly through the air with such zeal.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Honeysuckle" (1940s)
One swallow will not make spring, nor one bee honey. ~Proverb
Nature's Confectioner the Bee,
(Whose Suckets are moist Alchimy;
The Still of his refining Mold
Minting the Garden into Gold)...
~John Cleveland (1613–1658), "Fuscara or the Bee Errant"
Bees were busy, and their humming brought pleasant hopes of summer. ~Lady John Manners, "Belvoir at Eastertide," in The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture In All Its Branches, 1886 May 8th
Balm for each blade of grass: the hours prepare
A festival each weed 's invited to:
Each bee is drunken with the honied air:
And all the heaven is eloquent with blue...
~Madison Cawein, "After Rain," Red Leaves and Roses, 1893
I know the quivering of the fragrant petals at the touch of the pollen-legged bees. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Creation Songs: V," A Soul's Faring, 1921
The weary bees have reached the hive
Rejoicing over labor done,
And blossoms close their fragrant cups,
Which opened to the morning sun.
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts (1813–1878), "Twilight"
When I work, I waggle-dance and sing. ~James McGrath (b.1928), "Bee," written in the 1970s, published in Dreaming Invisible Voices, 2009
Out in the field the bees are singing
Love to the clover, and fondly clinging.
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "The Beautiful Harvest," Come for Arbutus, and Other Wild Bloom, 1882
The bees are summer-busy every sunny afternoon... ~Hal Borland [September —tg]
Honey has more poetry about it than any other form of food, it seems to me. It is gathered sunlight, candied perfume of flowers, the scent of new-cut grass, the essence of spring breezes, the heart of summer days, so that one may eat all the summer and autumn in concentrated sweetness beside the winter fire, in a dreamful transubstantiation of delight. And how kind of the bee not to preserve his sting in the honey! ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919
The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a bee –
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
[Emily Dickinson's] heart nestles in with the bumblebees in their "tenements of clover" — bees that buzz throughout her poetry and letters, so dear that she dreams of them; she even finds "to caress the bee a severe temptation..." Her darting poetic lines sting imagination like the barbs of her own bees. ~Katharine Lee Bates, "A House of Rose," 1925 [a little altered —tg]
Bees, for example, can count, grasp concepts of sameness and difference, learn complex tasks by observing others, and know their own individual body dimensions, a capacity associated with consciousness in humans. They also appear to experience both pleasure and pain. In other words, it now looks like at least some species of insects — and maybe all of them — are sentient. ~Lars Chittka, "Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?," Scientific American, 2023, scientificamerican.com/article/do-insects-feel-joy-and-pain
'Twas the humblebee, the drummer
On the honeyed strings of summer,
That I heard...
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "As I Listened in June," Souvenirs of Occasions, 1892
[T]he bees will buzz you a welcome from the hives at the end, and then the trees will stoop down about you, and you can look up into a green sky set with constellations of apples. ~Margaret Troili, “Woods of Mendocino,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, June 1908
The Spring has come again
For the grass is growing green,
And among the fields of clover
Bright butterflies are seen.
The little birds are singing sweetly
As they fly from tree to tree...
The busy bees are gathering
The honey from the flowers,
And the merry birds are building
Their nests in sheltered bowers...
~Josephine D.C., "Spring," c.1887
Oh, look, here's a big bee just tumbled out of an apple blossom. Just think what a lovely place to live — in an apple blossom! Fancy going to sleep in it when the wind was rocking it. If I wasn't a human girl I think I'd like to be a bee and live among the flowers. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, 1908
Therefore doth heaven divide
The state of man in divers functions,
Setting endeavour in continual motion;
To which is fixed, as an aim or butt,
Obedience: for so work the honey-bees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king and officers of sorts;
Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds,
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor;
Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
Delivering o'er to executors pale
The lazy yawning drone...
~William Shakespeare, Henry V, c.1598 [I, 2, Archbishop of Canterbury]
The luxury of all summer's sweet sensation is to be found when one lies at length in the warm, fragrant grass, soaked with sunshine, aware of regions of blossoming clover and of a high heaven filled with the hum of innumerous bees. ~Harriet E. Prescott, The Atlantic Monthly, August 1865
Oh! what strange fruit is in my trees
To call the phosphorescent bees,
That they should leave their hives to come
And suck my one prodigious plum?
~Tom Prideaux (1908–1993), "The Egotist in His Orchard," c.1924
Come I, a poet, hereward haply blown,
From out another worldflower lately flown.
Wilt ask, What profit e'er a poet brings?
He beareth starry stuff about his wings...
~Sidney Lanier, "The Bee," 1877
Nathless I'll drive me to thy deepest sweet,
Yea, richlier shall that pain the pollen beat
From me to thee, for oft these pollens be
Fine dust from wars that poets wage for thee.
But, O beloved Earthbloom soft a-shine
Upon the universal Jessamine...
Yield, yield the heartsome honey love to me
Hid in thy nectary!
~Sidney Lanier, "The Bee," 1877
Bees in particular face additional stress from commercial pollination operations. Mass production of almonds, raspberries, blueberries, apples, tomatoes, melons, avocados and many other kinds of produce is dependent on honeybees or bumblebees being commercially mass-reared, bred, farmed and shipped to distant locations to pollinate the crops... The "colony collapse disorder" that you may have heard about in the media is not just the result of some well-known pathogens but also of honeybees being literally stressed to death by ruthless beekeeping practices. ~Lars Chittka, "Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?," Scientific American, 2023, scientificamerican.com/article/do-insects-feel-joy-and-pain
...and besides, every saint has a bee in his halo. ~E. V. Lucas, Over Bemerton's: An Easy-Going Chronicle, 1908
Where the bee sucks. there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
~William Shakespeare, Tempest, c.1611 [V, 1, Prospero]
Bees that have honey in their mouths have stings in their tails. ~Scottish proverb
Now that wind shadow moves in a devious arc
Through fluttered blue flags, willow colonies;
And the nest-hovering little meadow lark
Is hushed with numerous anxieties;
And there is a bronze rumor of bees—
~Joseph Auslander, "Berceuse for Birds," Sunrise Trumpets, 1924
Bees sip honey from flowers and hum their thanks when they leave.
The gaudy butterfly is sure that the flowers owe thanks to him.
~Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds, 1917
The old-time honey! Amber-hued
And syrupy—and how it clung
As though the bees in sleepy mood
Had loitered where the poppies swung!
And how its pungent perfume filled
The air, whenever it was spread,
As if some jocund elf had spilled
The glory of a flower-bed!
Why, you could shut your eyes and taste
The wild red roses by the mill,
And mark the way the bees had traced
The clover blooms beyond the hill;
And there were hints of violets
And honeysuckles; lilacs, too,
Had paid their lavish honey-debts
And left their fragrance floating through.
~Wilbur D. Nesbit, "Honey-Haunted," c.1902
A humble-bee was lumbering about the garden, early as it was. It crept into a flower, mumbled soothingly and kindly as if to say it would do no harm. Only be helpful and useful and fill its velvet pockets for others' needs. Then it crawled out and flew off again, from flower to flower, gathering in and strewing out, taking and giving, and talking all the time in its happy, satisfied drone, only stopping now and again at the busiest moments.
There it was, flying about on its daily work. And it wrought a miracle. I stopped to look at the little servant of nature. There it was, humming about, bringing life to life, and sucking up sweetness for its own pleasure the while, and new generations grew up from its innocent work. ~Barbra Ring, Før kulden kommer, 1915, translated from the Norwegian by W. Emmé, Into the Dark, 1923
...See, sons, what things you are!
How quickly nature falls into revolt
When gold becomes her object!
For this the foolish over-careful fathers
Have broke their sleep with thoughts,
Their brains with care, their bones with industry;
For this they have engrossed and pil'd up
The cank'red heaps of strange-achieved gold;
For this they have been thoughtful to invest
Their sons with arts and martial exercises;
When, like the bee, tolling from every flower
The virtuous sweets,
Our thighs with wax, our mouths with honey pack'd,
We bring it to the hive, and, like the bees,
Are murd'red for our pains....
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II, c.1597 [IV, 5, Henry IV]
The bee can never be an eagle, but it can make honey. ~William Arthur Ward, Thoughts of a Christian Optimist, 1968
B hopeful, B happy, B cheerful, B kind,
B busy of body, B modest of mind,
B earnest, B truthful, B firm and B fair...
B watchful, B ready, B open, B frank,
B manly to all men, whatever B their rank;
B just and B generous, B honest, B wise...
B temperate, B steadfast, to anger B slow.
B thoughtful, B thankful, whate'er may B tide...
B pleasant, B patient, B fervent to all,
B best if you can, but B humble withal.
B prompt and B dutiful, still B polite;
B reverent, B quiet, and B sure and B right...
B grateful, B cautious of those who B tray.
B tender, B loving, B good and B nign,
B loved thou shalt B, and all else B thine.
~"A Swarm of Bees," The British Bee Journal, and Bee Keeper's Adviser, 1882 February 1st
Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable
thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should
be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled
o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings:
but I say, 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal
once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II, c.1590 [IV, 2, Jack Cade]
published 2004 May 23
revised 2021 Jul 13
last saved 2023 Nov 24