The Bee’s Knees

The other day I was working on Book 13 when I wrote “I made a beeline for the door”.  Then I stopped and stared into space as my brain took an unexpected detour.

Why does ‘make a beeline’ mean ‘to go quickly and directly to a destination’?  Have you seen how bees fly?  They look like little fuzzy drunks staggering home after a night on the town.

If I had actually ‘made a beeline’, I’d have wandered aimlessly around the room, made several erratic circles under a table and around a couple of chairs, gotten into a stranger’s face for no apparent reason, caromed off the window sixteen times before figuring out that I couldn’t exit through it, and at last arrived at the doorway; where I’d need three tries to make it through an opening several hundred times larger than myself.

Whoever invented all these sayings about bees had obviously never watched bees for long.  Take ‘busy as a bee’, for example.  Sometimes they’re busy, like these guys working away at my sunflowers:

Busy bees

But one summer morning I went out to water my garden, and eight of them were curled up together snoozing in a squash blossom.  They weren’t any too eager to get up and start working – after the first spray of cold water they struggled groggily out of the blossom, stumbling over each other like a bunch of hungover teenagers after an all-night party and buzzing complaints as they hauled themselves into the sky.  Then they staggered as far as the next flower before plopping down to sleep the day away.  So much for ‘busy’.

Lazy bees

And let’s consider the time-honoured tradition of ‘talking to your children about the birds and the bees’.  Say what?

Neither birds nor bees have sex like humans.  Most birds only have one multi-purpose opening for sending or receiving semen as well as for taking a dump and laying eggs.  And most species aren’t too fussy about fidelity.

And bees?  Yikes!  Male bees follow a queen and take turns mating with her in flight.  When the deed is done the male bee’s penis gets ripped off, disemboweling and killing him in the process.  Unfazed, the next male in line pulls the leftover penis out of the queen’s body and re-enacts the whole grisly scenario.  Then the next male takes over, and the next.

So if we actually discussed ‘the birds and the bees’ with our kids, we’d be talking about promiscuous sex and snuff orgies.  Try explaining that at the next parent-teacher meeting.

‘The bee’s knees’ is another expression that makes me wonder.  Over the years it’s been used to indicate ‘something nonexistent’, ‘something very small’, and ‘something excellent’.  Apparently we aren’t too sure about the bee’s knees, either.

So if I should ever mention that I intend to make a beeline for bed to get as busy as a bee, it could mean staggering dozily away to sleep for hours; or zipping straight to bed for something a little more… *ahem* …interesting.  (Or downright disturbing.)

But what the heck; having a bit of mystery in one’s life is the bee’s knees, don’t you think?

27 thoughts on “The Bee’s Knees

  1. Love your description of a bee trying to get out of the house. Too true. You need to hang out around a bee hive to see the beeline in action. You are sort of rural now aren’t you? You could have a hive or two in your own yard.


    • Yes, we’re definitely rural, and I’ve always been fascinated by beekeeping. Not sure if that’s in our future, though – time will tell. Right now we’re concentrating on all the things that need to be done before winter… although we have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re not on the prairies anymore and “winter” doesn’t necessarily mean all outdoor projects cease.


  2. You had me laughing at the 2nd paragraph and it continued all the way through. The worst part for me is that I am a very visual thinker and picture whatever is being talked about or whatever I am reading. Ok…I’m still reeling from the broken penis and disembowelment…..move on Kirt…move on!! 🙂


  3. You know, if parents played their cards right, they could give a ‘birds and bees’ talk to their kids that would scare the living crap out of ’em. Alas, the golden moment has passed for me…and I hate when that happens. Wish I’d thought of that forty years ago. 😦


  4. The ‘bee line’ is the route the bee will take back to the hive after she is finished gathering nectar and pollen and I’m told it’s pretty straight. Following them is a really ancient way to find the hive.

    Bees are lethargic when cold, I’ve had them land on my arm, sit a while, and if I’ve not lost patience first fly away. If I lose patience I just blow them off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen them slow down in the cold, too, but it was already over 20C/70F that day so maybe they were just taking it easy. And I also discovered the research about the ‘beeline’ when I researched the expression; but I’ve never actually seen it happen. Maybe I only have lazy, directionally-challenged bees in my garden. 😉


  5. Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve written “made a beeline” in describing the actions of a character, but I was basing the visual I was hoping to foist off on my readers (okay, okay, if and when, already!) on information I picked up in one of those ‘educational’ films we (or at least those who are of my generation, more or less) saw in junior high. No, no, no, not THAT one…the one that talked about stuff we didn’t already know. Yeah, THAT one, the one about actual bees.

    The way I remember it, the worker bees (you know, the blue-collar types–the ones my dad would call ‘the step-n-fetch-its’) searched diligently from flower to flower, buzzing bizzily, and all that, until he had soaked up all of the whatever he could carry. Then he flew the most direct path from his last stop straight to the hive.

    The beeline, as it were.

    At that point, the bee would take the service elevator to the unloading yard, back up to the dock, and the yard boss would send a crew over to pull the load, check the gross and tare weights, and move the load into inventory where the accounting department takes over. Then the worker hits the clock for a union-mandated break, then to the service bay for a quick going over to top off the fluids, drain the old ones, and a fifteen-point safety check. Then it’s back out into the wild again.

    Just wait till da soopa heahs about dem bumz out drunk in public. Dehz gunna be trouble, I tell yiz. Big trouble. And da shop stoowad. Heel rippum a noo one, he will. Dem bumz.


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