Long ago there was a farmer who got nervous around bees. He had been stung a few times, and it hurt. He did his best to avoid the yellow and black menaces, until one day…
The farmer noticed a bee struggling in a shallow birdbath. The birdbath was not deep, and yet the bee would drown if it did not right itself and get to the rim. Overlooking his nervousness, the farmer placed his finger in the bath near the bee. The floundering bee found the farmer’s finger and grabbed it. This surprised the farmer, but he patiently and peacefully held his hand still. The bee might think his finger was a stick. It would be silly to sting a stick, thought the farmer.
After pulling itself out of the water and shaking itself off, the bee rested on the farmer’s finger. It was exhausted. The farmer remained motionless, as still as a statue.
The bee was surprisingly tired. It just sat there for what seemed to the standing statue like a very long time. Finally, the bee did one last shake and began to walk around on the farmer’s finger. If this made the farmer uneasy, what happened next really shocked him.
The bee said, “Thank you very much Mr. Farmer. You saved my life. Now, I am going to help you.”
The farmer’s tongue seemed to have swollen inside his mouth. He could not utter one word.
“Your crops have been struggling to grow the way I was struggling in that water. Some years they do okay, but others they seem to drown in the dirt, never producing a fruit.”
The farmer, getting over the initial shock of a bee talking, thought about the bee’s words: He was right. There hadn’t been a truly successful yield for a very long time.
“Here is what I will do for you,” the bee continued. “I have a large family. I am going to have my brothers and sisters help you out in repayment for your saving my life. You may not know this, but your vegetable plants need to pollinate.”
The farmer looked lost.
“This is when pollen from a flower’s anther is transferred to the stigma.”
The farmer looked at the bee in wonder.
“Pollination happens many different ways: The wind can blow pollen from the anther of a flower to the stigma. A falling leaf could rub against the anther and then brush a stigma. But, the main source of pollination is bugs!”
This sent shivers up the farmer’s spine. Bees made him nervous, but the word bugs creeped him out. How could they pollinate?
“My brothers and sisters can easily fly over your entire field, resting on each and every flower briefly. We would knock the pollen about and cause it to stick to the stigma, thereby pollinating your whole crop.”
At last, the farmer found his tongue: “You would do that for me?”
“Before you think us completely selfless, you should know that my brothers and sisters would like to collect some of the leftover pollen that is not used to pollinate.”
Without even thinking, “Of course, of course, take as much as you like. If what you say is true, there ought to be much more than necessary!”
The bee didn’t skip a beat. “There is, there is! Nature makes way more pollen than necessary to help flowers pollinate, however, like I said and you have witnessed, without bugs flowers are dependent on the wind or a falling leaf.”
The farmer thought aloud: “It can be breezy, but the really windy times of the year are before flowers bloom and after harvest. Also, with no trees near my crops, there would be no falling leaves or anything else for that matter. I can see that I definitely do need your help!”
“And my family will be happy to oblige. We use the pollen in our hive.”
“Excellent!” chimed the happy farmer. He rescued not only a bee this day, but his entire crop.
That spring the farmer witnessed countless bees, butterflies, and other insects flying, fluttering, and hopping from flower to flower in his field. There were even times when it seemed like one bee or another would come over to his shoulder and look him in the eyes. Never did one talk to him again, however.
That fall the farmer had more vegetables than he knew what to do with. The other farmers were astounded. “Where did you get all of this fruit?” each would ask over and over.
“A little bee helped me,” is all the farmer would reply.
In the month of November the farmer awoke one morning to find something peculiar on a plate near the window. It was gray with holes. There was a gooey substance all over it, glistening in the early morning sunlight. When the farmer touched it with his finger he found it very sticky. The taste was extraordinarily sweet. He had to tell his wife: “Honey, come take a look at this!”
- How were the Bee and Farmer alike?
- How were their actions different?
- How much did Farmer work to save the Bee?
- How much does Bee work to help the Farmer’s field of vegetables?
- Is it a fair trade?
- Why do you think the farmer does not tell his neighbors all about the whole story?
Background of Story
This story was inspired by the old fable of “The Mouse and the Lion.” Mouse helps Lion, and in turn is not only saved, but helped by Lion in the future.
What the farmer did at the beginning of the story, I did last summer. I was walking in the shallow end of my swimming pool, skimming debris off the water’s surface, when I found a great big bumble bee drowning. I had mixed emotions. Because I had recently taught my elementary students that bees will only sting if threatened, I knew that the bee probably would not hurt me. But, the bee could hurt me.
I put my hand underneath the bee, scooping it out of the water. When the water filtered through my fingers, the bee came to life. Slowly at first, the giant bumble bee stirred, then shook. I watched in amazement as the bee cleaned the excess water from its legs. It did not talk to me or show any sign of gratitude, but just being able to witness this beautiful babe of nature return from the dead because of my help was reward enough.
I have lots of flowers all over my property, and bees are everywhere all of the time. They are always busy, and never bother me or my family. This was a day when I had to put it to the test. My curiosity was rewarded and hypothesis proved true.
Finally, I wanted to share a story of the helpfulness of bees because the honey bee is threatened by farming. Pesticides harmful to bees are used on crops. I wanted to introduce the fact that bees are actually helpful, regardless of their potential sting.