bee stories honey honey bee behavior

A tale of honey bees and barbecue sauce

Yesterday was perfect for mixing up a big batch of barbecue sauce. A friend had just given me a jar of her newest creation and I loved it. So after a quick trip to the farmer’s market I was ready to cook.

I was stirring away when I noticed a bevy of bees milling around just outside my kitchen window. They were darting and eager, acting like robbers. I couldn’t imagine what could be causing such behavior, so I went outside to have a look.

I walked completely around the house and noticed the bees seemed interested in the roof. The roof? They acted like vultures circling a dead body. But even if there was a dead thing on my roof, these were honey bees—not wasps. So what was going on?

On my second circuit of the house I noticed they were honing in on the exhaust fan that is connected by a long duct to the hood over the stove. Then I knew what was happening . . . and it all made sense!

The barbecue sauce recipe called for a walloping dollop of buckwheat honey which was simmering gently while the exhaust fan carried the odor from the kitchen, through the ductwork in the attic, to the vent in the roof. The honey bees—being right in the middle of a nectar dearth—picked up the odor and were now eagerly trying to find the cache of honey.

I live in a small house with an outrageously huge commercial-sized kitchen fan. It is so big that if I have it full on, I have to hold onto the kitchen counter to avoid being sucked away. My husband says all the neighbors from miles around know what we are having for dinner every night and he is probably right. Now it appears that all the local bees know as well.

By the time I got the barbecue sauce canned and processed, all but a few of the bees had given up and disappeared. It’s funny, but whenever I think I know a lot about bees, they remind me otherwise. They are always good for one more surprise.



  • I had the same thing happen. I was cooking up some horehound coughdrops for a herb class I was teaching. It was warm so all the doors were open. All of a sudden, the screens were covered with bees. It took me hours to figure out what was up. They even smelled it on my clothes when I went outside. Lesson learned.

  • Rusty,

    The bees also like the smell of cedar. Every time I make a bee hive out of cedar I’ll have several bees in my work shop. Pecan, honey locus, and black walnut also have wonderful smells.

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