Three Important Lessons Honeybees Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Honeybees Must Work Together to Create Great Music 

Sixteen thousand honeybees beat their wings against their bodies, creating vibrations in the air that reach your lucky ear drums in the form of C-sharp. One long continuous note that never ends, even at night when the beekeepers have gone to bed, even in the winter, when they huddle around the queen and keep her at an average of 92 degrees, the honeybees' wingbeat prevails.

Take one bee from the hive and listen for its wingbeat? You’ll hardly hear the note. Honeybees cannot make music, cannot survive, without her sisters.  If you listen to them long enough, I swear you learn a thing or two about love and hard work.  The sad thing is, not just anybody can listen to them. They have to let you listen to their music, sense your pheromones, evaluate if you’re allowed.  It is a privilege that only few know. 

It Is Possible to be Sensitive and Fierce

All worker bees are female.  There are men in the hive, called drones, but their only role is to mate with the queen. How the queen and the drone mate is perhaps the most interesting fact I know about honeybees.  The queen and the drone meet mid-air, and unite as one - for a second. Maybe two. Then he dies instantly. Drones aren’t born with stingers; they don’t help the worker bees in the hive.  Aside from procreation, they are mostly useless.

Women rule the honeybee society, and always have.  They are the fierce hard workers.   At the same time, they are one of the most sensitive insects on our planet.  Fully devoted to their queen and fellow sisters, honeybees are willing to sacrifice their own lives at any time for the greater good of their hive.  Completely dialed in to one another, a bee can easily detect when another bee is distressed, and quickly rush to its aid.

Any beekeeper will tell you, honeybees aren't hostile. They love one another, in this sort of primal insect way. If you're calm, they're calm too. They pick up on that and trust.  

Sometimes, when checking a hive, you can accidentally poke a hole in the honeycomb.  Every time I have done this, a bee comes to repair it within three seconds.  There’s something so beautiful about this gesture, how quick they are to notice damage and fix it. 

Size Doesn’t Have to Prohibit You from Anything

 A honeybee’s brain is the size of a sesame seed.  Despite that, they have a complex way of communicating with one another by dancing. Called the “waggle dance”, the bees move and shake their bodies in various rotational patterns.  Through their waggle dance, they can tell each other what direction and what angle they should fly to get to the best patch of flowers. 

A honeybee’s wings are 1/18th the size of its body and it beats its wings 230 times in a second while flying.   One bee can fly up to five miles away from their hive on any given day, and an entire hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1 kilogram of honey (Last summer my family harvested 3 kilograms of honey). Also, they never sleep. These little pollinators, 1/4th the size of a paperclip, are singlehandedly responsible for a third of everything we eat.

I know, drawing connections between human beings and honeybees is flawed – we do not have the same capabilities as honeybees, nor do they have ours.  What I’m getting at, though, is honeybees aren’t told what they can and cannot do. They simply exist, do their job, love one another… and they are the most productive society of beings that exist in the world. If we just listen, observe, and take care of them while they’re here… we can learn so much about the world and about ourselves. 

Last summer, my family lost all our bee hives to Colony Collapse Disorder. This is happening to hives not only in our country, but all over the world. Because of our human error, these voiceless insects are the most recent addition to the species watch list. It will take a long time before I can forget what it’s like to visit the orchestra, only to not hear any music at all.

Submitted By: Rayne MacPhee