The Bees Summary & Study Guide

Laline Paull
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The Bees Summary & Study Guide Description

The Bees Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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“The Bees” by Laline Paull is a fascinating look into the most industrious of natural orders, a beehive. However, with a dash of creative storytelling, she magnifies the society into a dystopian nightmare. The main character is Flora 717, who is born into the lowest caste of bees, the sanitation workers. However, due to a few evolutionary perks, Flora is larger and more powerful than her kin, and she can speak. In a place where most bees with deformities or aberrations are disposed of, Flora is spared by Sister Sage, the most powerful bee of the most powerful kin, the priestesses. Flora is allowed to leave her kin and try different parts of the hive, which is almost unheard of. Since she can produce royal jelly, she is allowed to work in the nursery for a while, until the fertility police’s strict policy on aberrations causes her too much distress to stay near the babies any longer. When she is sent back to her own area, she bravely confronts an attacker—a wasp. Her courage in defeating the most hated of foes allows her an audience with the Queen.

During her time in the Queen’s chambers, Flora learns the history of the hive through a series of six scent-panels, which use sensory memories to communicate the myths surrounding their species. Flora loves the queen and is very devoted to her, but in her presence she learns the queen is ill; after that, when Flora finds herself able to lay eggs, she is burdened with two terrible secrets, for only the Queen may lay eggs. For anyone else to do so is treason.

Flora lays her egg and smuggles it into the nursery, where it quickly dies of starvation. Mournful at her loss, she learns to forage for nectar and becomes one of the hive's most productive and powerful foragers. Although Flora could have allowed her gifts and recognition to cause her some well-earned pride, she is careful to help others, show attention to the marginalized bees, and careful to protect her thoughts and actions from the Sage’s notice.

Soon Flora lays a second egg, and finds a new creative place to hide it. In this process she discovers three dead Sage bodies, all young. This discovery arouses suspicion, but she keeps the secret and goes about her business foraging, because fall is coming and the hive must settle as soon as it can. One day she returns to “The Visitation,” which is the hive-myth name for when the hive’s human owner visits and takes honey from the bees. In the process, her second baby is killed, and Flora goes into depression.

Fall approaches, and after a lean summer the bees are fearful that the winter will kill them off. The Queen ceases to lay in preparation, and in a last attempt to find food Flora confronts a spider, who predicts to her that she will lay once more, winter will come twice, and that Flora’s actions will bring the hive into madness. With such a scary prophecy, the hive slowly starts to starve. First they kill all of the males, although Flora’s friend Sir Linden escapes; Flora finds him under a pile of dead and rotting Sage babies, yet another clue that something strange is afoot. As fall slips towards winter, the Sage put the entire hive to sleep in “The Cluster.” For months the bees sleep, slowly rotating throughout the Treasury, where kin by kin they feed on the last of the honey.

Flora wakes periodically through this time. One day she forages and remembers a “glass cage” that promises good flowers. She finds the greenhouse and is able to bring loads of nectar back to her sisters in the hive. Spring comes, or a false spring does; the bees awaken and are ready to welcome warmth and flowers. In this time the Queen starts laying again, but all of her brood are ill and will not live. The Sage declare her unfit to be Queen, and she is executed.

The hive descends into madness. The Sage declare that they will produce a new Princess in three days, which leads many bees to believe they have been planning a coup for some time. Winter comes again, as the spider predicts, and Flora finds herself with a last egg in her abdomen. She hides this child high in an unused corner of the hive, and feeds it when it is born. Springs comes again, and Flora forages as much as she can to feed her child. Many days pass without a new Sage princess, and another kin talk of presenting their own. The entire hive is tense.

Flora returns from the field to a battle in the main chamber of the hive. The Sage Princess has appeared and must fight any other Princesses for the right to reign. The Teasel kin has their own Princess, and the two fight in front of the hive. The Sage Princess wins, and is about to declare her right to rule when Flora’s daughter appears to challenge her. The two begin their fight, and Flora’s daughter is about to win when a horde of wasps descend upon the hive for an attack. The Sage demand victory, but many of the bees prefer saving the hive to the squabble, and sabotage the hive in order to kill the wasps. Then they flee, several kin strong, with Flora’s daughter at the helm.

In the air they meet Flora’s old drone friend, Sir Linden, who mates with Flora’s daughter, making her a true queen. Flora shows the Queen the way to a hollow beech tree in the forest, and the bees that fled start a new hive away from the orchard. The remainder of the bees, including the ruthless Sage and the fertility police, perish with the wasps.

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