When the Bees Came

Abbey Kos

When the bees came they chose Harpa because it looked like home. People think of honeycomb as yellow, but it doesn’t start out that way: virgin wax is clear as windows. It only darkens after worker bees eat it and sick it out, eat it and sick it out.

The first time I saw them I laughed. You know I’m afraid of regular ones, but there’s something about a five-meter bee that just gets me. You can see how clumsy they are, how gentle. Their stingers could cleave someone in half, but it turns out humans are too small to threaten them. They mostly just ignore us.

I was there the day the bees showed up. One moment there was Reykjavik like I knew it, and then there were these noises, low and high, blending, tuneless. (It was the buzz, of course, the sound of their wings.) And then we saw them at the horizon, rising like old gods.

I laughed, but everyone else screamed. There was a lot of running. People like to say the bees blackened the sky that day, but I was there and the swarm was really only a thousand or so. There’s no need to be hyperbolic about things.

They headed straight for Harpa like they knew it was there, and watching them take that place was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Every window was the right size and shape for a brood cell, so the bees just started building up and out. Within two months Harpa was swallowed. It became something new, something organic and strange.

Nowadays people hardly notice the bees anymore. We harvest their body heat to warm our homes. We export honey and candles. And in spring we take our children to Harpa — we can still get through the doors, you know — to watch life growing on the other side of the windows. We say to them, look: an egg the size of a globe, a grub as big as you. We say to them, listen: God did not make this world just for you and me.

ABBEY KOS is a writer and editor living in London. She was raised in Ohio and attended Hiram College and the London School of Economics. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Daily Meal, and Jezebel.