Why "the birds and the bees"? Why not the fish and the squirrels or the rhinos and the geckos?
-- Danny C., Escondido
This cliché is at least a couple of hundred years old. It appeared back then in a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem. But it first meant nature in general, not the "doing it" part of nature. Our ears like alliteration, so the repeated Bs likely helped to make the phrase stick. When sex ed began appearing in books and schools, it was taught fairly obliquely. No banana-and-condom demonstrations, that's for sure. There's no proof that teachers actually used birds and bees as a modest cover for what they really meant; but -- most likely in print -- the phrase became popular as a shorthand reference to the whole subject of the facts of life. So, there's no real proof that birds' eggs and pollinating bees were instructional tools, just a handy phrase for the nervous among us.