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The Birds and the Bees
Photo by OC Gonzalez / Unsplash

The Birds and the Bees

This week, while the minstrels continue to be banished from court, the protection detail for their prison-jacketed friends may increase. Of course I’m talking about downtown’s purple martins and the state’s bee population.

On Tuesday, Axios’ Nate Rau announced that “ten Metro-owned trees near the Schermerhorn Symphony property will soon be cut down in the next chapter of the epic battle to redirect a massive flock of purple martins.” Part of the swallow family and a symbol of good luck, the large, barrel-chested songbirds have chosen to roost near the downtown music hall for the past four summers. 

Unfortunately, they create a filthy mess: by the time July rolls around, bird droppings litter the sidewalks in front of the property, and its outside structure. Further complicating matters is the composition of the Symphony: the building is made of 26,000 pieces of Indiana limestone, which is particularly difficult to clean because of the rock’s sensitivity to acids. The lengths the Symphony has gone to clean up after their flighty tenants has cost them upwards of $60,000.

“These birds have an advance team,” joked Councilmember Sean Parker on X, formerly known as Twitter. He was referencing Rau’s warning that “time is of the essence because purple martins send scouts in the coming weeks to select the spot where they will roost next.”

When the Symphony began this endeavor back in 2022, they destroyed 31 trees in front of the property, assuring Nashvillians that they’d replace the trees once the birds found a new place to roost. Considering the plan didn’t work, one can’t help but chuckle a bit at their recycled resolve. Continuously removing and replanting copses of trees to keep birds from pooping on a building sounds less like public policy and more like a Tom and Jerry episode. 

While the powers that be are bent on buffering their brooding bird problem, Tennessee bees seem to be faring a bit better than their plucky pals. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee heard a bill this week that would make stealing bees and hive equipment a felony. 

Honey heists have become an increasing issue over the last few years, both in Tennessee and beyond. We aren’t talking crude operations here—many attempts require carefully coordinated planning and heavy equipment to steal hundred-pound colonies. In Tennessee, some hiverunners have gotten away with over $15,000 in stolen goods in just one hit. The growing threat has inspired many beekeepers to airtag their brood boxes. 

Some took to X to scoff at the bill: “Why does everything have to be a felony good grief,” one user posted. Another concluded that the bill could be a ploy sponsored by the state GOP, “Because in the state of TN, felons cannot vote.”

The bill passed House committee with bipartisan support, heckles from the online peanut gallery notwithstanding. “I want to thank you for the bill, because one of the problems that we have is…the loss of bees and their ability to pollinate and keep balance in our environment,” said Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis). He expressed his support for “anything that we can do to protect them, keep them with people who know what they're doing—beekeepers that know what they're doing— and are able to care for them and keep them off the black market.”

In the end, it all really does just boil down to the birds and the bees.