The Boy Who Could Bee

The Boy Who Could Bee by Rowan Gordon

After I published THE BOY WHO COULD BEE under the pseudonym Rowan Gordon, I wondered if an artificial intelligence bot could invent a better story than the one I created. This is how it launches a story using the keywords: boy, monk, beehives, Devonshire monastery.

Once upon a time, there was a small boy named John who lived in a small village in the Devonshire countryside. He was an incredibly curious and adventurous young lad, and he was always looking for something new and exciting to do. One summer day, John stumbled upon a monastery situated in the hills of Devonshire. He was immediately drawn to the peaceful atmosphere and he decided to explore the grounds. As he was strolling around, he noticed a monk tending to several beehives. John was fascinated by the monk’s work and he decided to approach him and ask what he was doing. The monk explained that he was looking after beehives to help ensure that the bees had a safe place to live and make honey. He asked John if he wanted to help him and John eagerly agreed. For the next few weeks, John and the monk worked together to tend to the beehives. They would check the hives for disease or pests, and make sure that the bees had plenty of food and water. They would also clean out the hives and make sure that the bees had enough space to move around and build their hives. John learned a lot from the monk about beekeeping and he was very …

It’s a very different story from the one I published, although an impressive start and is grammatically perfect. I am glad I let my imagination flare rather than use a bot to trawl the internet for themes. I pasted below a synopsis of the book I published for middle-grade and older children. It is available at Amazon and on order from booksellers.

A Devonshire monastery garden looks serene on a summer day where an old monk is pottering around his bee yard. He strives to breed perfect bees with a reluctant helper, the village boy, Joe. But the bucolic scene is about to be disrupted. The boy has more to cope with than grouchy Brother Adam, stinging insects, and his older cousin, Emily, from London. Brad, the village bully, is desperate to uncover a medieval secret buried on the grounds. Meanwhile, the monk’s prize hive is in turmoil after the birth of a mutant queen and two broods struggle for supremacy. The fate of the monk’s favorite hive and its secret hang on an unlikely alliance as the boy and the insect seek peace when all seems lost.

I doubt AI will replace a writer’s creativity for long while, though it may help when stuck for ideas.

The Boy Who Could Bee

Published September 2022

Why should anyone care about my debut novel for middle-grade schoolchildren? THE BOY WHO COULD BEE was inspired by poring over my beehives and written under a pen name. When I recalled my uncle in England visited the famous monk-beekeeper, Brother Adam, I turned the monk and his Devonshire abbey into fiction and sent a village boy, Joe, to help breed perfect bees. His cousin, Emily from London, became curious about the legend of treasure hidden by medieval monks before King Henry VIII closed the former monastery, but the village bully’s family lays a claim. Only the bees in Brother Adam’s favorite hive know the secret, told from their point of view in alternating chapters. Presented recently on BBC Radio and for book festivals and school readings, the book is published by Jamestowne Bookworks and distributed by Amazon internationally in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover formats and is coming to bookstores. Illustrated by a Cornish and an American artist. Recently presented on BBC Radio and scheduled for book festivals and book readings in schools. Profits from sales are pledged to children’s cancer research for professional and personal reasons.

“The old mystic symbiosis of honeybee intelligence and hive-keeper husbandry told through the viewpoints of both species—what a lesson!” James Alexander Thom. New York Times bestselling novelist.

Queen Elizabeth and the bees

Queen bee on honeycomb
Queen bee ‘crowned’ with a dot (Boba Jaglicic, Unsplash)

While observing expressions of public affection and admiration for Queen Elizabeth II from afar, I began to muse about other queens. Queen bees in my hives.

They shouldn’t be called monarchs by any stretch in the meaning of royalty. But I am struck by a correspondence between the late queen and insect queens. The steadfast duty to serve in one great role for society’s sake. Without that service, the institution of a constitutional monarchy or the life inside hives cannot survive.

But here’s a wonder. A queen bee isn’t born from a royal lineage, like the House of Windsor, and doesn’t have a unique genome. She is what she is because the egg that made her was laid in a special cell and workers fed her a special diet as a larva. Any egg can potentially make a queen in the process of supersedure to ensure succession where a queen is failing. It’s more like making a new Dalai Lama (although always male) than the heir to a European throne. It has none of the mystique of a royal family tracing its roots to an ancient founder. The current Lama and Tibetan monks discover his successor as a child and turn him into an extraordinary individual with a momentous life as a spiritual leader and diplomat. Somewhat similar to when nurse bees care for a precious larva in a queen cell.

Aside from rambling on about royalty, poring over frames of honeycomb covered in busy insects gives me a cast of mind about the tranquility of hive life. It’s neither feudal nor communist, but still a highly organized community. Individual honeybees don’t have the freedom of solitary bee species, but neither are they stuck at the bottom of a rigid caste system. A new worker bee starts with humble jobs and transfers to other occupations, such as nursing, honey-making and guarding the hive. Finally, she graduates to flying for foraging outside for nectar and pollen. There’s no jealousy or conflicts from competition in the patriotic fervor to benefit the community.

This post sounds anthropomorphic for a biology professor, but I can’t find better words to express the industry of honeybees, which the mind of the hive organizes. They have an admirable society, even if not one we can or want to emulate.

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