The Incredible Honeybee
Even from a distance the sound was undeniable. The hum from the constant forward movement. The rhythm of thousands of creatures heading in various directions but with one common purpose. Unified in that purpose each individual sets out to accomplish the goals of the day, nectar, pollen, propolis, water.
From sunup to sundown these magnificent organic machines are relentless in their pursuit of fulfilling the needs of the hive. I raise the inner cover for a closer inspection of this foreign world of controlled chaos. Inside the supers are thousands upon thousands of precisely engineered hexagonal cells. Bees move about the sweet-smelling wax to store away the priceless food stores entering the hive at a perpetual pace. I take a closer look to find open cells of nectar being cured. Wings fanning to dry the moisture and speed the process until the Liquid Gold can be capped with wax and stored for another day when the hive needs the resources from this work. The next frame, similar in the redundant hexagonal cells, contains a different yet vitally important product, Pollen. The frame explodes with color. Bright yellow, gold, orange, red, brown, cream, green and on. Pollen collected from thousands of flowers and trees on thousands of trips add brilliant light to the hive. Raise it to the sunlight and it glows. With nectar and enzymes added by the bees this dry pollen will soon transform into the powerful protein food source known to beekeepers as bee bread. This vital composition will fuel the development of larvae, and worker bees alike to further strengthen the collective hive.
Below the supers I enter the brood chamber, the nucleus of the hive. This is the metropolis, the heart, the brain, the place the magic happens, where the Great and Powerful OZ actually lives. The frames are covered with life and energy. In this area of the hive worker bees in various stages of life are precisely focused on the jobs they are tasked with. Attendant bees, nurse bees, house keepers, guards, all keenly focused and paying no attention to the giant alien invading their world. From my ears to my eyes I hear and see the distinct sound and sight of the massive drone bee. The male drone is big, loud and harmless but critical to both future bee colonies and warming the hive.
And then I see her. I’ve seen her a thousand times, but it still puts me in the same trance as the first time I saw her. The queen, with her blue paint marking and long body marches across the frame receiving the royal respect of her offspring as they move from her path. Attendant bees surround her momentarily to assess her needs, feed her and move out of her way. Her total attention on finding empty cells to deposit a single egg in and then move on to the next and next and next. Her consistency is mechanical 1000, 1200, 1500 times a day, filling frames with the future life of the hive. Her deposit is under 2 millimeters in size. I squint to see the egg resembling a microscopic grain of rice and I wonder how in the world can this matter develop into a fully functioning worker honeybee over the next 21 days. Fully developed with complex eyes, head, thorax, abdomen, wings, internal organs, stinger, 6 legs, antenna, and striking color. I stop and remember again why I call them “The Incredible Honeybee”.
My job for the day is done as I finish my inspection and close the hive. I have peered into their world many times and always leave amazed. Thousands of individual insects working together for the future betterment of the colony. A super organism with a singular purpose to ensure that the next generation will survive and thrive within this world. If they do survive it will be due to the selfless nature of the mission of their ancestors and the carrying on of that same mission for the generations to come. I leave the Apiary thinking a familiar thought. Humans can learn so much about life from observing the incredible Honeybee. And if we would take from their example of serving, we would certainly leave this place better than we found it. Making a better world now and for our future starts today. Bee Kind. Bee Good. Bee Humble. Bee Just.
-- Jon Goodwin