The Peaceful Hum of Honeybees in Sumac Flowers

About ten o’clock on a very warm morning earlier this week, under a hot blue, cloudless sky, I was close to the end of a late walk – dripping wet and annoyed with myself for not getting out earlier – when I came into a shady stretch of road and became aware of a low, peaceful, hypnotic humming nearby. It was bees. Honeybees. At first I thought it might be a swarm, but then realized that a tree along the side of the road was in bloom, and was full of hundreds of honeybees, busy collecting pollen and nectar.

There are few sounds in nature as peaceful and soothing as the hum of honeybees at work. I stood under the tree for a long time, just listening and watching them come and go from the flowers, the pollen sacs on their legs packed full. There’s nothing threatening about bees at work like this – in the low thrum of the collective hum, a deep and ancient sense of harmony and well-being can be felt.

The tree was a smooth sumac, a small, rather awkward, sprawling tree, with leaves of many leaflets each, and loaded with clots of tiny yellow flowers. Bees worked over every cluster of blooms, especially on the ones most exposed to the sun. They seemed to be coming and going mostly from a thicket of trees and shrubs across the road – so maybe there was a hive in a tree there. They passed back and forth over my head.

The sound was familiar because I used to keep bees, and loved it, until I became allergic to their stings. It was fascinating, and I had enjoyed every part of it – including the honey, but also watching and learning about bees and their complex society and behaviors. Now, honeybees face very serious threats of several different kinds, most recently the puzzling and devastating epidemic of colony collapse disorder, which has caused the loss of large numbers of bee colonies in North America and Europe.

So to come across such a nice large gathering of honeybees was encouraging, as well as enjoyable, though it’s also a bittersweet reminder of how much we have to lose.

Leave a Reply