This was a very cool, magical experience for me – but definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. Don’t click here if you’re squeamish about the BEES .

This afternoon, I was cleaning out my car, when I noticed 2 honey bees cruising my (diet) root beer can. Usually this means it’s a tough time for nectar, when the honey bees start going after sweet drinks. It’s too late in the season for almost any flowers to be blooming, but it’s been unseasonably warm so they’re not in the hibernation cluster.

I decided I’d put out a plate with some watered honey on it, and see if they’d eat it. It’s local honey, because it’s just what I had on hand. I went on about my business – had to go to the Indo-Pak grocery, because I’m out of MaWard and MaZaher (orange and rose waters), and then to get my oil changed. I came back, and found this:

Clearly, the honey was a hit. I was just fascinated watching the bees drinking.

The still pictures make it look like they were placid and quiet. They were not.

It gave me an idea.

I decided to try just a little, to start with. It seemed like the bees totally ignored it; I wonder if they can smell it. I was holding my hand right over the plate.

I got bumped into by a lot of bees; they were very polite, but so busy and focused that they didn’t watch where they were going.

Finally, one bee decided to “scout” my hand. There was a tiny drop of the honey water on my thumb.

Then, a couple more bees.

After a certain point, they started snow-balling, and it was bee after bee. I’m guessing that word had gotten back to the hive? After this point, bees would land on my hands and check them out, whether I had honey on them or not.

I finally switched to pure honey. I had started with the watered stuff, thinking it would be easier to drink and more like nectar, but the pure honey was easier to stick to my fingers.

Notice the bee about to hit the lens.

Holding the bees was a very trippy, magical sensation. They didn’t buzz much, but they were wriggly and kind of vibrated. They pushed in to get the honey (notice how many bee butts are sticking straight up!) but never once stung me or one another. A couple of bees got their wings in the honey, and other bees gently licked them clean. There was a powerful sense of polite urgency.

A close-up of one bee drinking.

Bees eating from my hand – this is the honey-water, before I switched to pure honey.

I tried to make “bee art” – but I can tell this is going to take some refinement. I started trying with letters, which didn’t work at all. This “Be Square” almost worked, but the thickness of the honey trail wasn’t even, and the bees didn’t all start evenly across the lines.

ETA: I’ve since been told that the bees should be fed sugar syrup instead of honey; I made up a batch of simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water by volume) and put it in a zip-lok bag with little holes cut in the top, as a feeder, based on this page:

0 replies
  1. jcd1013
    jcd1013 says:

    Stumbled across you by friendsfriends, but wow, that is awesome. I’d be much too afraid to do that myself (I do duck and swerve when bees “attack” my food during outside lunches and stuff), but I wish I had the courage! Thanks for sharing the awesome images!

    How did they leave you? Did you wait until they finished drinking the honey and all flew away?

  2. admin
    admin says:

    When a puddle or drop of honey was dried up, they would take off and look for other spots to eat. I had to keep refreshing the honey, because there were so many and they were eating so fast.

    When the honey was all gone from one area (like the plate was empty) they would keep checking from time to time, but after a few minutes they would just stop going there.

    I had to go up to my partner Chris’s office to take a rescue kitten to one of his co-workers, so I didn’t get to see them all gone – I left some honey on the plate when I left, so the porch was still buzzing.

  3. cgronlund
    cgronlund says:

    That’s too cool!

    I’ve never been stung, and my sister was very allergic to bees, so I have no idea if I am.

    But if I ever find out I’m not, I know how to kill a few hours some afternoon 🙂

  4. admin
    admin says:

    Nope, didn’t see that – I’ve always enjoyed watching stuff about them, though. The CCD thing has been really scary; it was very good to see all these hungry bees!

  5. theoldone
    theoldone says:

    Fascinating! I’ve never played with bees, and one can’t tell if they are European or Africanized (it probably doesn’t matter if you do not threaten the hive).

  6. monkeybung
    monkeybung says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing. It would never occur to me to feed them, but it’s already cold here, so I haven’t seen any lately. I love to stand/sit in the garden and watch them go about their business!

  7. admin
    admin says:

    I wish I could. I thought about putting some of the honey on my beard, but decided it wasn’t an entirely good idea being all alone…

  8. sunfell
    sunfell says:

    That was totally cool, and very sweet of you, too. You probably helped to save this little colony of bees by feeding them. I wonder if anyone has factored in climate change in the dropping of the pollinator population?

    I would have loved to see the ‘waggle dance’ that went along with the dinner bell!

    You really do have the coolest adventures.

  9. selkie_b
    selkie_b says:

    You may very well have saved that hive, at the very least given it a fighting chance! Well done! My wildflowers were covered until Sunday morning when we got enough frost to knock them down. I get all the ones from the U of Minn’s St. Paul campus up the road a couple miles. Love ’em!

  10. admin
    admin says:

    I feel kind of like That Guy With the Weird Animals… I’ve been feeding three “yard cats” on the porch, and now they have to share the space with bees. I put out some honey-water this morning, so hopefully they’ll come back. Working on how to arrange an effective “bee feeder.”

  11. admin
    admin says:

    I think that insecticides are really to blame, but we’ll have to see. Dunno about the climate change issue!

    Yeah, I’m picturing them trying to explain… “There’s these large… um, pink-ish, flowers, here, and here… they nectar seems to be superficial but surprisingly thick… ” – they didn’t get it at first (to the point that I was wondering if they would ever figure it out) but it seemed that once one bee figured it out, about 10 minutes later it was common knowledge.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I was kinda freaked out at first, especially since I was alone… I kept my cell phone with me just in case. Nope, no stings at all!

  13. michaelsylvan
    michaelsylvan says:

    bee magic

    Very powerful work here. Beautiful. Reminds me of the Melissa stories, of bee priestesses. You have quite a touch since you opened your hands to the hive. Thank you for these gorgeous images.

  14. admin
    admin says:

    Re: bee magic

    Exactly – it was that kind of mystical experience.

    I’ve been thinking about bees for years, wanting to get a hive – looks like it may be coming together now; I have a friend who has bees and is going to let me come study them some.

  15. esmecat
    esmecat says:

    Amazing experience! wow! magical.

    i’m glad you were able to handle the camera and the bees. let’s us all peek in on a very special moment.

  16. admin
    admin says:

    I meant to ask – where do bees feature on Cynthia’s “Insects Which are Gross” list? I put the fuzzy picture up on the front because I know that some insects bother her. I’m going to hopefully get more photos today, but I’ll use something nondescript above the cut if she gets squicked out by them like she does with caterpillars.

  17. the_mombear
    the_mombear says:


    love the bees…used to watch them when I was a kid.we’d lay down in the grass by Mamaw’s flowers and watch them go to the hive down the alley in Oak Cliff….
    yeah, I’m a Oak Cliff girl at least til I was 4…..

  18. admin
    admin says:

    Yes – it was very magical feeling, holding a bunch of bees in the palm of my hand. I’m still working on fixing the childhood association of bees with wasps (with which I had several unfortunate run-ins).

    What do the menthol towelettes do for them?

  19. labrys6
    labrys6 says:

    Honeybees are susceptible to a tiny mite that gets into their breathing tubes and it weakens and kills them. Menthol kills the mites when it vaporizes inside the hive.

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