As we’ve seen in his previous posts, Indiana Amishman Merlyn Yoder is an enthusiast of the Ausbund, the centuries-old hymnal Amish sing from in church.

Merlyn also has a love for beekeeping. In today’s post, Merlyn describes an ideal visit to the hive, and imagines what it would be like if the bees he keeps had voices of their own.

I love Merlyn’s creativity and sense of humor shining through in this piece, and I hope you enjoy it too.

If Bees Used the Ausbund

I am a beekeeper of three years. I have experienced some of the highs and baffling lows of the hobby. When experiencing the lows I wonder why I don’t just throw in the towel and walk away. But the highs make it all worthwhile. I’ll tell my wife that I wish there was money to be made doing this.

bees-on-honeycombHoney seems to be the ultimate reward. I also find it relaxing and therapeutic to do a bee inspection after a stressful work day. Time has a way of slipping by so quickly. I enjoy pointing things out to my children if they want to come along.

The perfect inspection day would be a warm clear day with a slight breeze. Maybe there was a refreshing rain shower a day or two before. A strong nectar flow would be on. The bees are intent on the tasks at hand and oblivious to the guy with the funny hat.

The bees are bringing in some pollen and there is frame after frame of solid sealed brood. I can smell the sticky propolis that the bees use as caulk. Oh there’s the queen! She’s right in the middle of all those freshly laid eggs. Yes these guys will have lots of extra honey. And since there’s only a slight breeze, I can listen to them fly. There’s also a constant hum in the hive. Sometimes it reminds me of singing.

Do bees sing? People sing to express their emotions. Scientists say bees don’t have emotions like people. Bees use pheromones for a lot of their communication. So they don’t sing. Can someone tell me where a bee’s voice box is?

But what if they did sing? What would they sing? Would they use the Ausbund? Maybe only on Sunday. Only if they were Amish bees instead of the Italian mongrels I believe mine to be. Mine also work on Sundays – actually all day, so they’re probably not Amish.

But what if they used the Ausbund? There would be thousands of voices but who would teach the young ones? Mom wouldn’t have time. She’s so busy laying eggs. A bee’s lifespan in summer is only about six weeks so they would have to learn really fast.

What songs would be appropriate from the Ausbund if bees had emotions and wanted to express themselves? Maybe in the morning as the sun’s rays warm the hive entrance the bees might sing from Song 118 on page 683…

song-118-ausbund

And after a brutal winter when the colony actually survived, instinct would dictate the first two verses of Song 47 on page 265…

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…let’s go get those dandelions!

As spring progresses, Song 103, verse 17 on page 561 could be appropriate….

song-103-ausbund-v17

Later, Song 64, page 341…

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After a successful growing season when the days are noticeably shorter and the hive “tightens” its population by banishing the drones one might hear Song 138 on page 796…

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And now for the disturbing issues of bees – lack of diverse forage, varroa mites, and pesticides. After enduring many decades of human induced insults it would not be surprising to hear this lament on a rainy day – Song 126 verse 12-15 on page 754…

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song-126-ausbund-v13-15

There are other occasions where specific songs could be selected by the bees. At swarming where roughly half of a hive leaves there might be a parting song.

But maybe it is time for the beekeeper to leave this fantasy and be brought back to reality. A few good bee stings should do the trick. In the end it probably should be the contented beekeeper being the one who sings to the bees.


Merlyn, his wife, and six children live in northern Indiana. He has a job in the RV industry and his hobbies include woodworking, working on engines, beekeeping, orcharding, and history – especially the study of the Ausbund.

Song source: Songs of the Ausbund, Volume 1: History and Translations of Ausbund Hymns. Ohio Amish Library Inc. Sugarcreek, OH: Carlisle Printing. Bee image credit: blumenbiene/flickr