We love these quotes. Science, nature, agriculture, inquiry, poetry - some are even about honey bees. :)

Science and Inquiry and Beekeeping

There is only one real reason to keep bees, and that is because they are fascinating. If you just want honey, make friends with a beekeeper.
    -Australia beekeeper, Adrian the Bee Man

When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument,
but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason.

    -Thucydides, ancient Greek historian, c. 460 BCE – c. 395 BCE.

Science is about the process; it's not about the conclusion.
    -Dr. Steven Novella, noted skeptic.

Nature has unlimited time in which to travel along tortuous paths to an unknown destination. The mind of man is too feeble to discern whence or whither the path runs and has to be content if it can discern only portions of the track, however small.
    -Karl von Frisch, Noted entomologist and beekeeper
     Won the Noble Prize for cracking the code to the dance language of honey bees

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.
    -Anais Nin

I am fascinated by the interactions between bees.
I am fascinated by the interactions between beekeepers.

    -Marla Spivak

You've got to keep ahead of your bees!
    -Bill Waddell, of My Daddy's Honey in Reidsville, NC

The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist.
For man, it is to know that and wonder at it.

    -Jacques Cousteau

The only consistent thing about bees is their inconsistency.
    -Dr. C.C. Miller


Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Washington (1787)

The Importance of Honey Bees

You can thank a honey bee for ⅓rd of your diet.

The Indians with surprise found the mouldering trees of their forests suddenly teeming with ambrosial sweet; and nothing, I am told, can exceed the greedy relish with which they banquet for the first time upon this unbought luxury of the wilderness.
    -Washington IrvingA Tour on the Prairies

I hope you like porridge.
    -Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting PA Extension Associate
     Half-joking comment, 2007 NC State Summer Beekeeping Meeting,
     referencing the seriousness of CCD. Additionally, watch Silence of the Bees (PBS Nature),
     and The Joy of Bees (Taste3 Conference 2007), A Plea for Bees (Taste3 2008). Or watch
     them from our CCD page (towards the bottom).

Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It's the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. [...] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.
    -May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist. From Silence of the Bees, PBS Nature.

Poetry and Literature

Brother Adam Buckfast Beek-bnw.png

Listen to the bees and let them guide you.
    -Brother Adam

For bees, the flower is the fountain of life;
For flowers, the bee is the messenger of love.

    -Kahlil Gibran, poet

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee
    One clover, and a bee,
        And revery.
The revery alone will do,
    If the bees are few.

    -Emily Dickinson

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
    -Henry David Thoreau

A swarm of bees in May
    Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
     Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
     Is not worth a fly
            -An Old English Ditty

The wild Bee reels from bough to bough
    With his furry coat and his gauzy wing,
Now in a lily cup, and now
     Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
         In his wandering...

    -Oscar WildeHer Voice

How doth does the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
from each and every flower

    -Isaac Watts, poet & hymn writer

Life is the flower for which love is the honey.
    -Victor Hugo, French romantic poet, novelist, and dramatist; 1802-1885

The bee, from her industry in the summer, eats honey all the winter.

Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge.
    We are perpetually on the way thither,
        being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind. 

    -Nietzsche, 19th-century stateless-Prussian philosopher and poet


Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through.

When I'm dead and gone,
that's what I want from you.

The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
but I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey.

Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through.
    -May's Honey Song, from The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd (p83)


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
    Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
        And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

    -William Butler YeatsThe Lake Isle of Innisfree

Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers, know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
    -John Keats

When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee's house some day.
    -Congo Proverb

If the Lord delights i us, then He will bring us into this land
...a land which flows with milk and honey.

    -Christian Holy Bible, Numbers 14:8


To a Honey Bee Who Hath Drunk Too Much Wine and Drowned

Thou born to sip the lake or spring,
Or quaff the waters of the stream,
Why hither come on vagrant wing?—
Does Bacchus tempting seem—
Did he, for you, the glass prepare?—
Will I admit you to a share?
Did storms harass or foes perplex,
Did wasps or king-birds bring dismay—
Did wars distress, or labours vex,
Or did you miss your way?—
A better seat you could not take
Than on the margin of this lake.

    -Philip Morin Freneau, 1806 - This poem has often been considered a parody of the lofty metaphysical conceits and sad elegies common during the eighteenth century. One author (Tammy Horn, Bees in America) thinks it also could serve as a warning to Americans intoxicated with political freedom for the first time.


Behold in spring see everything
Alive and cloth'd with beauty
Shall I alone an idle drone
Be slothful in my duty?
To gather honey see the Bee Fly
Around from flower to flower
A good example there for me
To well improve each hour.
    -Shaker hymn, borrowed from Isaac Watt's English 1655 hymn. "How doth the little busy bee, / Improve each shining hour". Meant to encourage their fellow brethren to renounce earthly desires.


Telling the Bees
(The traditional telling the bees of a recent beekeeper passing)

Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.

There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.

There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.

A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.

There's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.

I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.

Since we parted, a month had passed,--
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.

I can see it all now,--the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown's blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.

Just the same as a month before,--
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door,--
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: The summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, 'My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day;
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.'

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:
'Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!'

    -John Greenleaf Whittier



Song of the Queen Bee
Published in the New Yorker in 1945, "Song of the Queen Bee" is told from the queen's perspective and protests the industrialization of reproduction via artificial insemination.

"The breeding of the bee," says a United States Department of Agriculture bulletin on artificial insemination, "has always been handicapped by the fact that the queen mates in the air with whatever drone she encounters."

When the air is wine and the wind is free
and the morning sits on the lovely lea
and sunlight ripples on every tree
Then love-in-air is the thing for me

I'm a bee,
I'm a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That's me.

I wish to state that I think it's great,
Oh, it's simply rare in the upper air,

It's the place to pair
With a bee.


. . .

There's a kind of a wild and glad elation
In the natural way of insemination;
Who thinks that love is a handicap
Is a fuddydud and a common sap,
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I'm devil-may-care and I'm fancy-free,
The test tube doesn't appeal to me,

Not me,
I'm a bee.

And I'm here to state that I'll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter.

. . .

Mares and cows, by calculating,
Improve themselves with loveless mating,
Let groundlings breed in the modern fashion,
I'll stick to the air and the grand old passion;
I may be small and I'm just a bee
But I won't have science improving me,

Not me,
I'm a bee.

On a day that's fair with a wind that's free,
Any old drone is a lad for me.
I've no flair for love moderne,
It's far too studied, far too stern,
I'm just a bee--I'm wild, I'm free,
That's me.
I can't afford to be too choosy;
In every queen there's a touch of floozy,

And it's simply rare
In the upper air
And I wish to state
That I'll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter.

. . .

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wife me;
I'm sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I'm sorry for cows that have to boast
Of affairs they've had by parcel post,
I'm sorry for a man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I'll multiply and I'll increase
As I always have--by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I'm devil-may-care and I'm fancy free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,

Oh, it's simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I'll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter,
All hail the queen!

    -E.B. White