What Does The Birds and the Bees Mean?

Bird and the Bees Meaning

Definition: The natural facts of life.

This phrase is a euphemistic way to talk about courtship and sexual intercourse; often parents will talk about the birds and the bees to their children rather than describe the explicit act of sex.

The connotation of using birds and bees is that sex is something natural, something in which all animals and all of nature participates.

Bees, in particular, parallel the male act by carrying and depositing pollen into flowers, while birds have the obvious connection to female ovulation by laying eggs.

Origin of Birds and the Bees

The first use of these particular animals in connection with sexuality was perhaps in the mid-16th
century, in a diary of John Evelyn:

  • That stupendous canopy of Corinthian brasse; it consists of four wreath’d columns–incircl’d with
    vines, on which hang little putti [cherubs], birds and bees.

tell me about the birds and the beesSince cherubs represent human sexuality, the placement of birds and bees near them was said to have inspired Romantic era poets to use these animals romantically. The 19th-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge used the two species in the context of love in his Work Without Hope:

  • All nature seems at work… the bees are stirring- birds are on the wing… and all the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Many people credit Cole Porter for coining the current incarnation of the phrase with his popular 1928 song called “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love.”

The lyrics included the lines,

And that’s why birds do it, bees do it,

Even educated fleas do it.

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

Examples of Birds and the Bees

what is the birds and the beesLater, in 1964, there was a song called “The Birds and the Bees,” which had the lyrics,

  • Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and trees and the moon up above, and a
    thing called love.

It is said to have been written by Era Record’s owner’s 12-year-old son. In modern day, however, no one actually refers to birds and bees when having “the talk,” but it is a popular reference to days gone by, when such things were spoken of more discreetly.

Michael: I talked to my son today about the birds and bees.

Greg: That’s sweet. How did it go?

More Examples

  • Explaining fiscal birds and bees to children… My eldest son caught me off guard with a very direct question. About the facts of life. The fiscal facts, that is. –The National
  • The days of the birds-and-bees chat have long gone, it seems. Now, we go straight to the potential abuse talk. –Daily Record

Summary

The phrase the birds and the bees tells children the mechanics of human sex without directly referring to either humans or sex.