The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees Glossary

Bee patrol

Bee patrol occurs when the beekeeping staff go to all of the hives in the town, empty the supers, and check on the status of the hives.


A biddy is a small chick dyed a color for Easter.

Cooling the hives

Cooling the hives is the process that bees use to protect the hive from intense heat. The bees all beat their wings to fan down the hive interior.

Daughters of Mary

The Daughters of Mary is a group of women made up of Queenie, Violet, Lunelle, Mabelee, Cressie, and the Boatwrights. They worship Our Lady of Chains (Mary) and come together for solidarity.

Draping the hives

Draping the hives is the act of placng a drape over the beehives. This is done in order to signal mourning as well as to keep the bees inside.

Feast of the Assumption

The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the day that Mary died and rose to heaven. It is celebrated on August 15.

Honey gate

The honey gate is a faucet used to drain the honey from large containers.

Honey house

The honey house is the shack behind the Boatwright house that serves as the storage room for all of the beekeeping supplies. Lily and Rosaleen live in the honey house, and when Rosaleen moves into the Boatwright house, Lily occupies the honey house alone.


Manna is a mix of seeds that the Daughters of Mary eat on ritual occasions.

Mary Day

Mary Day is a two-day celebration commemorating the Assumption of Mary. In the Boatwright house, this celebration involves much cooking, baking, and decorating. The story of Our Lady of Chains is reenacted.

Mary's cake

Mary's cake is a traditional baked good made with honey and eaten on Mary's Day. Those present at the celebration feed each other the cake.

Our Lady of Chains

Our Lady of Chains is an effigy of the Virgin Mary that the Boatwrights own. The statue is large and projects Mary in a position of strength with a fist in the air. Mary is portrayed as a black woman, which is an image the Boatwrights relate to. The story behind the statue is that it broke through the chains. Our Lady of Chains and Mary are often used interchangeably in the novel.

Settling tank

In the settling tank, the honey is heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Snuff is tobacco that is breathed in through the nose. Rosaleen uses snuff throughout the novel, and Lily at one point steals a can of snuff for her.


The spinner is a machine that separates out the good parts of the honey from the bad. August says she wishes such a machine could exist for people.


Supers are the trays of honeycombs made by the bees. Each tray is sealed by a layer of beeswax. These are what are harvested to create the honey.


A swarm occurs when a queen and a group of bees leave the hive to find a new place to live.


The uncapper is a machine that removes the wax from the honeycomb.

Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is the last remaining wall of the Holy Temple. Jews go to this wall to pray, for it is considered the closest accessible location to the Holy Temple. Visitors place their hopes, prayers, and wishes into crevices in the wall. May's wailing wall mirrors that of the wall in Jerusalem. She has built a stone wall outside of the Boatwright house, and she inserts slips of paper on behalf of people in pain.

Watering the bees

Watering the bees involves sprinkling sugar water over the hives when the temperature reaches over 100 degrees. At this temperature, the bees cannot create food for themselves.