Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – News Bee Folklore

My life in appalachia - News Bee
I was sitting out back watching the world go by when I noticed a News Bee hovering around me. Well I thought it was a News Bee until I loaded the photos I snapped of it.

While I was looking at the pics I remembered the news bees I was familiar with as a child were yellow and black. I asked The Deer Hunter and he agreed he thought they were yellow and black too. Oh well I thought I’ll keep my eye out for a real news bee.

In the mean time I found a post on Appalachian History about News Bees which says there are black news bees and yellow news bees. Who knew!

According to the post from Appalachian History, yellow news bees are a sign of good luck, while black news bees are a sign of imminent death-yikes!

The folklore I learned as a child: News bees hover around close to folks, even seeming to look into their eyes at times, because they are listening. After listening to the latest news, the bees take it back through the community sharing the information along the way.

When I was little, I watched news bees and wished they could tell me all the secrets they had overheard that day. I imagined them flying to and fro with a little rolled up paper where they had written it all down lest they forgot something they had heard.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.



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  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 10:22 am

    It’s been years since I saw a news bee. I wish that I could ask it to tell me what it was following me about. I do not know why it came back after 2 years. For a second, my imagination goes wild wondering what the bee has to say to me. I even put out my finger for them to land on. They are gentle bees. Sometimes when they come see me, it’s like seeing an old friend. I love the bees. Hopefully, someday you can experience the love I have in my life for the them. Very very cool.

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    June 30, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    We had sweat bees where I grew up, in the Piedmont region of SC. We would hold out our index finger, and repeat over and over again, “Penny wants a penny” until the sweat bee would land on our finger. Don’t know why it would land on our finger when we said it, but it usually would.

  • Reply
    November 3, 2012 at 11:54 am


  • Reply
    Jacks Adsams
    July 30, 2012 at 9:44 am

    My News Bees are the hornets known as Cicada Killers. Learned of them when I was young from my mother’s side. They have been around my house for years. I’ve had a few come by recently.
    Jack Adams ( North Middle Tenn. )

  • Reply
    July 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Dusty-Ive never heard the saying-but I like it!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    July 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I have been told that if a yellow news bee lites (lands) on you, you will have good news. If a black one lites on you, there will be a death. I’ve only had a black one lite on me twice and both times someone I knew passed away. I don’t like black news bees!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    June 29, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Tipper you teach me so much. I never heard of news bees or any of the folk lore that goes with it.
    If it looks anything like a wasp, I’d likely kill it because I am deathly afraid of wasps.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    News bee news bee
    good news stay
    news bee news bee
    bad news go away………..
    Anyone ever hear that old saying?

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    June 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    When I was a little girl I liked the news bees better than the Huntley and Brinkley report my mamma and daddy watched every night. I always thought they were telling me about the flowers. Those were the days of meandering through the cow pasture to admire the wild bee-balm and walking the creek path to visit the rue anemone.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    June 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Sheryl, you have to tell “kept bees” about their keepers death so they won’t fly away to a new home-

  • Reply
    vicki lane
    June 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I LOVE the idea of the little rolled up paper! Back in Florida, my husband’s family had a news bee they called Joe who seemed always to be hovering at their back steps — year after year!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I have heard about these bees but, I only heard that if one landed on you that you would hear some news soon. No one ever said if it was to be good or bad.
    I prefer to admire bees from a distance, thank you. The the most hated by me is also the most beautiful. It is the hornet. They are terrible but, their color design is (to me) awesome. If I were to design a bee it would have be just like the hornet only maybe just a pinch of red thrown in the design.
    Once while I was sitting in a psychology lecture, the speaker asked the question. “What are some of the stimuli that produce a response reaction in someone?” Well, the provervial voice at the back of the room said, “I don’t know but, that sounds like something bees would have.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    After I posted this morning I remembered something about they would move looking for the one that was no longer there. Please do research Tipper, it sounds like a fascinating subject

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Tipper, I’m so glad we have many of the same things in our surroundings, and you write about them. News bees ~ hum ~ hadn’t thought of them in a while.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I am very surprized at the number of folks that haven’t heard of a News Bee. When I was a kid we thought if we saw one, we would get some news. I don’t remember which color brought which news. We always thought if we let one hover near us we would die, so we would hide from them.
    What I call a news bee is bigger that a yellow jacket and smaller than a bumblebee or a hornet. I don’t see them often but still do sometimes. But that was the same way when I was a kid. I guess that is why they are called News Bee. We didn’t get news often, good or bad, but about a often as seeing a News Bee.
    I’m almost 62 now and know better but I still want to run when one of them purveyors of death starts to hover nearby.
    Miss Cindy-Everybody has had bees in their bonnets. Did you ever have bees in your bloomers?

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I didn’t know there was black ones
    too, all I’ve seen was the yellow
    ones. We were taught to not harm
    the news bee. I believe the honey
    bees are making a comeback cause
    there’s lots of ’em here and I saw
    ’em checking out the blackberry
    bloosems at my house recently.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Jim, Swain Co. still as a healthy population of Sweat Bees. Could it be that you sweated more when you were younger?

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    June 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

    We had lots of these in West Tennessee where I grew up. I had never heard what they did—now I know who spread all those rumors!!

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    June 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I remember being told as a child that if a news bee lands on you and stays over ten seconds that you would be receiving news. Never heard if it would be good or bad or anything about the color of the bee.
    Wish i could make it this weekend but in my line of work saturday is a normal work day. Hope you all have a great time.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    June 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Mary and Sheryl…I have heard that story somewhere in one of the tales being told during a family porch sittin’! Unlike Paul Harvey (bless his soul)…I’ don’t know the rest of the story…could research it I guess?
    You know along with all the family deaths, old age and disease…which is a necessity of living…I wonder if all the unnecessary deaths of this world, jealous murders, drive by shootin’s, drug wars, and war in general…is wearing on the poor honey bees…Giving up themselves, not pollinating as normal…due to the lack of love in this world…Why work so hard, if no one will be living long enough to enjoy their work…I hope the honey bees return…
    Thanks Tipper, I’ll bee done now!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 10:36 am

    OH wow, Tipper! I had forgotten all about News Bees! I used to love them and haven’t seen one in years!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    June 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I remember News Bees from many years ago, and we used to get such a kick out of them. I haven’t seen any in years though.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    News bees? That’s a new one on me! Is that the bee that flutters when it flies?

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    June 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Some new and interesting folklore for me to remember. Of course, due to allergies, I watch where any bee, wasp, etc. go. Do you think I am forgiven if I swatted one because I didn’t know it was a newsbee? I will be more careful.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    June 28, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I wonder if the evening I encountered my first “news bee” of the year, (or as I was taught “messenger bee”), was the same day as your encounter…?
    I was sittin’ in my rollator, out in the chicken run talkin’ and singin’ to my chickens…Yep, I have the best time with my chickens…Anyhow, one messenger bee buzzed all around me..It seems they are more prevalent when it’s really hot…He kept landing on my knee and the top of my hand…I don’t swat them, I like to watch them…He or she finally flew away…This bee was yellow and black and as always startles you at first, because of the resemblance to the yellow jacket…The falling apples are bringing out the “yellow jacket devils”. LOL As soon as you realize that it is flatter and wider and the way it flys you know it’s a messenger bee…My aunt in Mars Hill called the bee on your chair arm a “news bee”…My Grandmother on my Mothers side, called the yellow and black larger on a messenger bee and I was told it wasn’t even a bee, it just looked like one! Your “news bee” is smaller and black…I don’t know if she was correct, but that is the way I was taught…
    I know one thang, the doggone “sweat bees” were pestering me when I was out in the sun, for just a short time yesterday…They won’t sting unless you smack’em or accidently close up your arm and trap one in the elbow region…Ouch!
    Thanks Tipper for a great post,
    PS…I got my message yesterday form my Bee….LOL…He said, “Quit singin’ to them chickens, or the hens are gonna’ quit layin’….LOL

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    June 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Like Sheryl, I have heard that kept bees had to be told about deaths in the family – but I read somewhere that it wasn’t just death – births, financial problems, whatever, the bees needed to be informed about family news. Never have heard about a bee bringing news.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Tipper–A news bee is news to me. I’m pretty sure I know the type of bee you are talking about, but I never heard them called a news bee.
    Since the subject of bees has been offered, Something I seldom see anymore is sweat bees. They were plentiful when I was a boy and would bite the bejeebers out of you. I can’t remember when I last saw one.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ruthie Millar
    June 28, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Hey Tipper,
    I have never heard of a “news bee” but I wonder if it is the same bee we have always called a “sweat bee”…they always seemed to hover around on hot sticky days when you sweat a lot…mostly out in the garden. I have been stung by them a couple of times and they don’t pack nearly the wallop that a yellow jacket does. Either way, thanks for posting the pic of that little bee, I love bees. 🙂
    I hope all is well with you and yours!! Have a great day! Ruthie

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Well this is a new one for me –I never heard of news bees–so once again Tipper you have added more knowledge to us all—it sure is interesting to hear all you find out for us –your followers.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I have known about them all my life. Mom use to tell us to be careful what we say when one was hovering nearby. They were yellow and black little bee looking critters. I don’t remember one ever telling me any news good or bad!
    I Googled News Bee, it’s actually called a Yellowjacket Hover Fly. They don’t sting or bite.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    June 28, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Don’t recall ever hearing about news bees. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them. Interesting tale.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 8:01 am

    news bee is all new to me, don’t remember every seeing one or hearing about one. since i am terrified of all bees, i hope i never meet one

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Clint-Ask your Mother and see if she remembers them : ) Tell everyone I said HELLO too!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 28, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Well, the News Bee is NEWS to me. I never heard that term. Thanks for adding to my knowledge base!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 28, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Tipper, I don’t recall ever hearing of a News Bee. So, they are little noseys that hear all and tell all. Guess they are not too popular.
    I’ve heard of a Busy Bee, a Honey Bee and a Carpenter Bee that tries to eat my house but never a News Bee.
    Once I even had a Bee in my Bonnet.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    June 28, 2012 at 7:25 am

    What a sweet thought!
    I don’t know much about ‘news bees’, but here in the Ozarks if some one who kept bees passed away, it was atradition that a family member had to go out to the bee gums and tell the bees.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    June 28, 2012 at 7:23 am

    We always called them study bees. I don’t remember seeing any but yellow.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 28, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I remember hearing that when there was a death in a family that ‘kept’ bees, they had to be told, their hives were draped in black and there were a few other things I don’t recall. Anyone know the why and the rest of the story?

  • Reply
    June 28, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I have never heard of ‘news bees’ in my life.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 28, 2012 at 5:59 am

    If a news bee gets in the house you’d better not kill it. You’ve got to open the winders and doors and let it fly out. To kill one is extremely bad luck. A lot of bumblebees and hornets have received a pardon because of their resemblance to a news bee.

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