Bee and butterfly on flower

"The Maiden in Green"

a Chinese tale retold
by Cathy Mosley

Sometime in the past there was a young scholar named, Yu, and one summer he had gone to a mountain temple in order to study in quiet.

And for many days and nights he put his time to good use; until one night he was so tired he folded his arms on his desk, lay his head down, and fell asleep. So deeply did he sleep that soon he was dreaming ......

Of a handsome maiden, garbed all in green silk, who was bending over him, and pleading, "Oh, please. Please...Help Me!!"

On the last sound Yu woke, but in waking all he heard was some insect frantically buzzing.  The sound drew him to a window, and there he found a bee about to become dinner to a very large spider. Yu reached out the openwindow and plucked a leaf from the overhanging tree, and with the leaf he pushed the spider off the sill. And with far more care he used the leaf to free the bee, and gently carry it to the desk.

The little green bee staggered about a minute, walking through some ink that Yu had spilled as he had fallen asleep; then, as the bee recovered, it walked towards the parchment.

Yu watched in disbelief as the little bee walked about the paper and then flew off. The young scholar could not believe what he saw - for in shaky lines was the character for "Thank you."


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Three Minute Tales: Stories from Around the World to Tell or Read When Time is Short. Little Rock: August Publishers, Inc..  2004.

Metzger, Berta. Picture Tales from China. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1934.


Bees are a member of the insect order Hymenoptera, and have been sought for their honey for thousands of years.  The Eastern Honey bee (Apis cerana) is native to China, and was domesticated there.

Honeybees are social insects, and live in hives; the social order of the hive consists of queens, drones, and workers.

The purpose of a Queen is to lay fertile eggs, and she is the only one to have an unbarbed stinger, which can be used many times. She also controls all that occurs in the hive.

Drones are males, whose sole purpose is to mate. They only live about eight weeks, with only a few hundred in a hive, and at the end of the mating season any surviving drones are driven out. Drones do not have stingers.

Workers are sterile females, and are the most flexible of the hive's inhabitants. The young workers ("House Bees") are responsible for caring for the Queen and the drones, construction, cleaning, brood rearing, and defense.

Older workers ("Field Bees") will go out to gather nectar, pollen, water, and some sticky resins. As females they also are equipped with a stinger, but it is straight and barbed, which tears out when used and kills the worker.


Bees and Social Insects

Honey Bee

The photograph is Swallowtail Butterfly and Bee on Thistle, by John and Karen Hollingsworth. A public domain photograph from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.