Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Is Good To Know About Bees

There are three different kinds of honey bees in a hive of 50,000. There is one queen. She is the mother of every other bee. The queen is "grown" by the hive when the old queen is failing (not laying enough good eggs) or dead. The other bees know when this has happened because of pheromones - the chemical indicators that bees rub on each other when they touch (which they do all the time with 50,000 in one small space, they move like a Rubik's cube, one moves so all the others have to move). The bees surrounding the queen pass along her smell to the waves of bees constantly in motion around her. When a new queen is indicated the workers are stimulated hormonally to produce royal jelly and feed it to a few already-laid worker bee eggs. This turns the egg, which would have hatched out to be a normal infertile worker bee, into a queen bee egg, a bee capable of laying 2,000 eggs a day for two years.

The first queen to hatch out goes to the other queen eggs and stings the others to death. The queen honey bee is the only one who has an unbarbed stinger, allowing her to sting repeatedly without dying. The female workers have barbs like fish hooks on their stingers. When a worker stings, she embeds her hooked stinger which rips out her venom sac and innards, and she dies. The new queen flies out of the hive and mates with every drone (male) she finds. When she is filled with sperm, the queen returns to her hive and remains there for the rest of her life, laying eggs. In this she is well cared for by the second kind of bee, the worker bees.

All worker bees are female. Every single bit of work done in the bee world is done by females - tending the queen, feeding eggs, caring for larvae, producing, cleaning out and repairing honey comb, defending the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen - all done by females.

Which brings us to the third kind of honey bee - the drone. A drone is a smidge bigger than a worker with a squared off end on his abdomen. This is because he has no stinger. Drones can be handled with no possibility of being stung. All a drone can do is walk around in the hive eating honey and pollen, and flying around looking for a queen to mate with. After he mates, he dies. Due to the relative scarcity of flying virgin queens, most drones never find one and die virgins themselves.
Now here is the really cool part about what I just told you. All these kinds of bees are absolutely necessary for the survival of the hive. Any one kind of bee alone or even a group of one kind is dead, unsustainable, can have no hope for survival. They all need each other and the functions they perform to go on living. Any one bee or bee group "knows" that it does not have a life separate and apart from the life force which created, maintains and sustains it. The honey bee, be it queen, worker or drone, experiences itself as its entire hive. A honey bee lives and dies not for him/herself, but for the greater survival of the whole hive.
I find a lesson here for myself. Am I somehow connected to the planet and my fellow sentients by the seemingly miraculous force of life which provides for all my needs to be met? Can I see everyone else's survival as somehow significant for my own?
-Laura Solberg-