A kid trudges into his house for the first time in over a week. He's just returned from his second competition at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He's been studying so much recently that he's absolutely exhausted and sick of spelling. He'll try again next year, but first, some time off. That's how it goes, right? No.
For many serious spellers, the Scripps National Spelling Bee just marks the beginning of the summer season. Only a week after the conclusion of nationals, the summer season begins. Spellers who train year-round often participate in summer bees such as NSF (North South Foundation, which runs numerous academic competitions each year), the South Asian Spelling Bee, or the Spelling Bee of China's NASCC (North America Spelling Champion Challenge). Perhaps the most largely unheard of component of the summer season is Internet mock bees.
These internet mock bees are not official competitions, and are run very informally. Most of them take place on a Google group of Bee veterans. Anyone who wants to run a mock bee simply has to send an email to the group announcing the bee and explaining the format, and then organize the participants. The average bee has anywhere from 30 to 40 participants--a mix of spellers who are still eligible and "retired" spellers. Due to the high caliber of the spellers in this group, the words are generally very difficult; trademarks and Polish geographical names are examples of typical fare in these mock bees. There are no prizes or officiality about these bees, but they are considered an important part of the summer for many of the spellers in the group.
Both types of summer bees--mock and real--have several functions. Firstly, they help eligible spellers get practice for the Scripps season, which is typically the most important bee for many spellers. Many of the words given at Scripps have been used in past Internet mock bees as well as in SASB, NSF, etc., such as 'gyttja,' which was used in Shiv Dewan's (11th place in 2016) mock bee during the summer of 2015, and was then used in the night finals of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The actual bees instead of the mocks are probably slightly more useful for practicing for Scripps, but both are quite helpful. They also provide statistics from which to formulate predictions for the following years. Those who perform highly in mock bees and more official bees like NSF often perform well at Scripps as well. In the end, though, the ultimate reason for any bee, mock or real, is the same--spellers genuinely enjoy spelling, and a long break from it is not necessarily something they want. Summer bees are another way to stay involved in what you love, even after the "regular season" is over.