The Unwise Bee, A Brief Story by James E. Talmage

Sometimes I find myself under obligations of work requiring quiet and seclusion such as neither my comfortable office nor the cozy study at home insures. My favorite retreat is an upper room in the tower of a large building, well removed from the noise and confusion of the city streets. The room is somewhat difficult to access and relatively secure against human intrusion. Therein I have spent many peaceful hours with books and pen.

I am not always without visitors, however, especially in the summertime; for when I sit with the windows open, flying insects occasionally find entrance and share the place with me. These self-invited guests are not unwelcome, and many times I have laid down the pen and watched with interest the activities of these winged visitants with an afterthought that the time so spent had not been wasted. For is it not true that even a butterfly, a beetle, or a bee may be a bearer of lessons to the receptive student?

Once, a wild bee from the neighboring hills flew into the room. At intervals during an hour or more I listened to the pleasing hum of its flight. The little creature realized that it was a prisoner, yet all its efforts to find the exit through the partly opened window failed. 

When I was ready to close up the room and leave, however, I threw the window wide open and tried to guide and then to drive the bee to liberty and safety, knowing full well that if it was left in the room it would die just as other insects there entrapped had perished in the dry atmosphere of the enclosure. But the more I tried to drive the bee out, the more determinedly did it oppose and resist my efforts. Its erstwhile peaceful hum developed into an angry roar; its darting flight became hostile and threatening.

Then it caught me off my guard and stung my hand–the very hand that would have guided it to freedom–and finally alighted on a pendant attached to the ceiling, beyond my reach of either help or injury. The sharp pain of its unkind sting aroused in me rather pity than anger, for I knew the inevitable penalty of its mistaken opposition and defiance, and I had to leave the creature to its fate.

Three days later, I returned to the room. When I entered, I saw the dried, lifeless body of the bee on the writing table. It had paid for its stubbornness with its life.

To the bee’s shortsightedness and misunderstanding I was a foe, a persistent persecutor, a mortal enemy bent on its destruction; while in truth I was its friend, offering it ransom of the life it had put in forfeit through its own error, striving to redeem it, in spite of itself, from the prison house of death and restore it to the outer air of liberty.

Are we so much wiser than the bee that no analogy lies between its unwise course and our own lives?

[Slightly adapted from James E. Talmage, “The Unwise Bee.”]

I found this image on The Culinary Exchange:

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