The Birds and the Bees
Yes, it's Spring and the young hearts fancy turns to love. Here is something I wrote a few years a go on the topic. I dedicate it to TH and Jaggy.
It is often said that people do not become beekeepers, they are born beekeepers. Evidence of this comes from my friend, Norm. He once told me that as a lad his father sat him down to tell him the story of the “Birds and the Bees.” After listening patiently to the half hour explanation, Norm was dismissed to tend to his chores after his father finished his oration of the finer high-points of the facts of life. Norm went about his chores wondering why his father called it the Story of the Birds and the Bees, yet he never once mentioned the bees.
I assured Norm that it was better that he didn’t mention the bees. Had his father told Norm about the sexuality of the honey bee, Norm may have been put to the idea of procreation forever. There are no romantic notions when honey bees mate.
Six days after the drone, (the male honey bee) emerges as an adult; he will take flight and congregate with other drones high in the air or in the tree canopy near the honey bee colony.
Five to ten days after a virgin queen emerges as an adult, she will fly to where the drones congregate and she will mate with one of them. The drone has enormous eyes that are designed to spot the queen in flight. The queen also puts out a mating scent to attract the drones.
The drone flies and joins the queen by clasping her. He inserts his sexual apparatus into her and then he falls back. Breaking away and parting with his sexual organs; the drone falls to the ground and dies. The queen flies back to the hive and absorbs all the sperm from the drone, and then discards the apparatus the drone gave his life to share with her.
The queen will repeat this mating ritual with up to twenty drones over the next several days. In each instance of successful mating the drone is doomed. The queen mixes all the sperm together in an organ called the spermatheaca. This reservoir of sperm will supply her for the rest of her life, which can be four years.
In human terms this could be viewed as promiscuity that results in immediate death for the male participants. If this isn’t bad enough, consider the fact that if the queen happens to mate with drones from her colony, she is mating with a brother or at least a cousin. Incest!
Had Norm heard the true story of how honeybees mate, his young mind may have reverse-anthropomorphized the situation, putting him off human procreation all together. So his father did well by not bringing honey bees into the lecture.
I know somewhere out there a budding young ornithologist may be reading this Birds and Bees story. She or he is probably thinking, “This writer never once mentioned the birds.”