IF YOU ever get stranded in a desolate area without water then pay attention to which direction bees fly. By following along behind them there is a good possibility that you will come to a source of water such as a small stream or a small pool of water. Also, a frequently traveled trail of animals could very well end up at a source of water. Of course, if I was traveling through a desolate area such as a desert then I’d make sure I had plenty of water. I can remember when most cars and trucks had real fenders. Many who were traveling across the country would have a canvas water bag hanging over one of the headlight lamps or a side rearview mirror. The wind blowing on the water bag would keep the water in it cool.
WHEN I was, so-to-speak knee high to a grasshopper, my parents owned a country grocery store in the little community of Moon in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. This was before World War II. Our home set on the eastside of the store facing south and in back of the house my folks had a beehive. I learned the hard way not to play around it. One day a honey bee stung me on the arm. Well I went to crying and my mother wanted to know what was wrong? I said, “A bee sat down on my arm and backed up and stung me.” Other than that I enjoyed the fresh honey that the bees provided us.
The expression: “Make a bee-line for” is similar to: “By way the crow flies” which places emphasis upon going in a straight line from one location to another. When traveling across the country it is a good idea to map out the shortest route to where you are going. The expression: “make a bee-line for” has come about because it is understood a forager bee, as a scout, will search for a plentiful source of nectar. A field covered with flowers would be ideal. Once he has located such he will return to the beehive and perform what is called “the Waggle Dance.” In doing so he will wiggle his back side in the direction where the nectar-laden flowers are located. The bees will go in a straight line to the source of nectar. The nectar is what they make honey.
THE PHRASE “make a bee-line for” is an American phrase that is over 200 years old. It was found in print in The Davenport Daily Leader, January 1808: “Gustav Stengel Sr., of Rock Island, was thrown from his sleigh on Third Avenue in that city yesterday afternoon, the horse becoming frightened and turning abruptly, ripping the cutter. The horse made a bee line for home.” It was probably in common usage before that. It means to move swiftly in a straight line to where you are going.
Some do not believe that a bee ever travels in a straight line. They see bees darting back and forth among flowers. But what they do not take into account is that the bees have found a source for nectar and are going about to gather it from the flowers.
Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. Presently he serves as full-time evangelist for the Pittsburg Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)