What is the odor that so defines an industrious hive? It has to be a blend of beeswax, nectar, larvae, and pheromones–a mix overlaid with pollen, propolis, and wood. But the combination is unique.
Oddly, it doesn’t seem to matter where the bees are or what they forage on. The odor is singular and unforgettable. If you smelled it once when you were five, you would recognize it fifty years later.
It’s also one of those odors that can be conjured up by association. If I just hear a busy hive, I can imagine the scent. Or if I only see bees darting and soaring overhead, I smell the aroma. Although the odor is pleasant to beekeepers, I can imagine others finding it somewhat unsettling. A bit feral, perhaps, or gamey.
I was reminded of it several weeks ago when my husband and I were pouring over some unrelated project–broken dishwasher or the like–when he suddenly said, “You smell like a beehive.” Well, jeese, I hardly knew how to respond. So I settled on, “Thank you.”
But when I try to describe beehive smell, I come up blank. To me, it has earthy notes. And hints of salt. Mysterious, musky, balmy. It is not sharp, tangy, or acrid but soft and round like cotton and nebulous like sea foam. It’s an odor you could stuff a pillow with.
So the next time you inhale “busy beehive” think of all the folks who never have. Think how lucky you are. Think how much fuller your life has become now that others think you smell like bugs.