What are some of the life lessons readers (and Lily) learn from this book?
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August teaches Lily the important lessons of beekeeping. These lessons reflect good practices of life in general. For instance, she teaches Lily to manage her anger—not to swat the bees, for angry actions are counterproductive with bees. She tells Lily to act as though she knows what she is doing, not to be an idiot. Such lessons as these are tolerably good rules to live by.
When May passes away, August drapes the hives as a sign of respect and mourning. Lily learns the story of the first beekeeper and how his bees came back to life. Bees seem to have an interconnection with death. It seems that all humans have such an interconnection as well, whether or not they want to admit it.
All of the worker bees depend upon the queen’s existence, or they do not appropriately function. When one of August’s queen bees disappears, she needs to replace it in order to save all of the attendant bees. Similarly, the queen bee depends upon her attendants to keep the hive functioning. The bees’ interdependence mirrors the interdependence of humankind.
Lily comments about the precise work that the bees produce. Their work, though instinctive, shows effort and diligence. August argues that bees are smarter than dolphins, and Lily comments about how hard they work. She thinks they work too hard and should take a break. Lily’s reflection seems to apply to her feelings about people, those who seem to work too hard and never stop. These “worker bee” types live for their work and create quality work, but they often do not take the time to enjoy life.
Finally, August says that the heat makes the bees act out of sorts. This statement could also be applied to humans. For example, in the hot Tiburon sun, June and Rosaleen are compelled to have a water fight in their front yard. This action, like that of the bees in the heat, is completely incongruent with their characters. In unusual circumstances, people act in unusual ways.