Merlyn Yoder: If Bees Used the Ausbund

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…

song-47-ausbund-v1

song-47-ausbund-v2

…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…

song-64-ausbund-1-3

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…

song-138-ausbund-v1-6

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…

song-126-ausbund-v12

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

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    14 Comments

    1. Thomas Georfe Warner

      meryln Yoders bee keeping

      While reading the latest story by Meryln Yoder I wondered how Mr Yoder who I understand is Old order Amish, knows what is happening on this site and sends articles like this? I know of no Ordnung of the Old Order Amish that allow them to have a computer, which uses electricity to operate, to communicate. Is there someone that is keeping him informed thru the mail?

      1. Jonathan Edwards

        Kerosene-powered

        Merlyn Yoder’s device is kerosene-powered so it falls within the bounds of the Ordnung. The device knows what is being said on Amish America through extra sensory perception. So, technically speaking, it isn’t connected to the internet.

      2. Tom Geist

        You may not know of any Old Order Amish that are able to use electricity and computers, but they are allowed by certain church districts.

        Yes, I know that does not seem like Old Order in the minds of some people, but who are we (English) to decide what makes a Amish person Old Order, New order, or whatever.

        Tom in Lincoln

      3. Merlyn hand-writes the posts, and one of his English friends in Indiana photographs the pages and emails them to me.

      4. Amish Girl-Rebecca

        Thomas- I am Old Order and I use a computer at work, which is in no way against the “Ordnung”.Another option would be to go to the public library . Or borrow a friend’s tablet or laptop.

      5. NORMA JEAN HERRERA BONILLA

        AN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION

        I BELIEVE BUT I COULD STAND CORRECTED, THERE IS A THIRD PARTY WHO IS EITHER MENNONITE OR ENGLISH THAT ACTUALLY DOES POSTING FOR THEM, THEY ARE INTERVIWED ABOUT SAID SUBJECTS AND OR WRITE IN DAILY JOURNALS AND GIVEN TO THE CO AUTHOR, SO AS NOT TO BREAK THEY ORDUNG OF THE OLD AMISH ORDER. EVERYTHING DONE OR WRITTEN IS DONE WITHING THEY AMISH CUSTOMS AND WAYS. I ADMIRE THEM AND WOULD GLADLY LOVE TO SPEND A YEAR LEARNING ABOUT THEM AND I CERTAINLY WOULD LOVE TO LEARN TO SPEAK DUTCH.

    2. TLC SLP

      Lovely!

      What a lovely picture Mr. Yoder paints of spring in the Midwest. Thank you for a thoughtful, mindful-of-God way to start the day!

    3. Naomi Wilson

      I enjoy bees and beekeeping and good hymns, although until today I had not thought how well they go together! Thank you for a very enjoyable post.

    4. Amy

      I wish everyone would stop spraying crops and use natural methods like the farmers with whom we have a CSA membership. They don’t care that they are killing the bees and the monarch butterflies and who knows what else and that is going to hurt us.

    5. Barb Zimmerman

      Bees Make Good Choices of the Ausbund

      I love some of those translations. And I love Indiana honey from our local bees. I’ll have to look you up when my supply runs low.

      Thanks for the submission.

    6. Happy bees!

      “…let’s go get those dandelions!”

      I love that; dandelions look like sunshine on the ground to me. Mr. Yoder has a joyful way with words.

      🙂
      Karen

    7. Christy

      My brother is a beekeeper and knows all to well it’s challenges and rewards. He still says though that it brings him great enjoyment. What a nice article; I will certainly pass this one on.

    8. Alice Mary

      Mr. Yoder has a gift, alright! He (along with the much-appreciated English translation of the Ausbund) paint a memorable & meaningful scene.

      I hope to be taking another bus tour to the Shipshewana area in early Sept. (the 2nd-3rd). On the itinerary is a tour of an RV factory where many Amish work. I wonder if I’ll see Mr. Yoder there? It sure would be something to look forward to!

      Also, might he be related to Loren Yoder of Silver Star Leather?

      Alice Mary

    9. Jerome

      Thanks for the post. I installed a new package of honeybees just yesterday that I got in the mail. They certainly are fascinating little creatures, I could watch them for hours.