That buzzing-noise means something …

bee yard

“That buzzing-noise means something. If there’s a buzzing noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee … and the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey … and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” ~~ Winnie the Pooh

I love Pooh.  Really, I do.  But as Piglet says, “Pooh hasn’t much Brain.”  So, as National Honey Month comes to a close, I’d like to point out a few other amazing things that honeybees do that give us humans more reasons to love them.  As if making honey (the only food produced by an insect that is eaten by man, by the way) and doing the lionshare of pollinating food crops wasn’t enough!

Amazing Thing #1:  Elephants are afraid of bees.

Lucy King from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford has discovered that elephants will send a low-frequency alarm signal (kind of a rumble call) to the herd and retreat upon hearing the buzzing of honeybees.  It’s been shown that just a recording of the rumble call or a recording of bees works, too, as you can see in this video.


So what, you say?  Well, elephants do a significant amount of crop damage in Africa.   A single hungry elephant can wipe out an entire family’s crops in one night, causing conflicts between humans and elephants.

And it doesn’t usually end well for the elephant, the humans, or the crops.

So King’s Elephants and Bees Project is exploring ways that they can use this new information to protect crops, the people who plant them, and the elephants that devour them.  Strategically placed beehives are being shown to help humans and elephants more live in harmony (and the honey from the hives provides a second income stream for the farmer).

Amazing Thing #2:  Bees are good for what ails you.

A medicine cabinet … ummm, I mean bee yard … in the woods

The honeybee hive is a veritable homeopathic medicine cabinet full of products with healing properties – some scientifically proven, some with just thousands of years of anecdotal evidence.  This medicinal use of bee products is called apitherapy.  Practically everyone knows about raw honey and its well known healing properties for everything from ulcers (when taken orally) to eczema (when applied to affected areas).   It’s also well known as an antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral, too.  Bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax, and bee bread all have healing properties as well.

Perhaps the most unusual hive product with a medicinal use may be the use of the honeybee’s actual stinger as a treatment for painful, debilitating chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.  But, please don’t try this one at home folks.  Okay? Okay.  It’s known as bee venom therapy (BVT), and some people swear by it.

Amazing Thing #3:  Bees are “biodetectives.”

Honeybees are being used to gauge air quality.  Hives have been used at the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany since 2006 to monitor the air. Local beekeepers manage the hives, and the honey is tested twice a year to measure the level of toxins in the air.  It’s not perfect … ultrafine particles are not currently regulated, for instance.  And, there are some questions about lead.  More research needs to be done, but the biomonitoring of hives may someday prove to be a reliable measurement of air pollution.

To sum up … We take their honey; we raid their hives for everything from pollen to propolis; we sacrifice them to assuage our ailments; and we put them between us and elephants and air pollution.  Ever wonder why it is that some people run in fear from bees?  Seems a little backward to me.

So, yes, that buzzing-noise sure does mean something … but not just one thing!

P.S. I hope Owl reads this post to Pooh because he should know.


  1. Anthro says

    This is a really fascinating article! Fun to read. And I had no idea about the bees/elephant relationship (if it can be called that).

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