Some see just a bee. When I stuck my head into a box of honey bees for the first time, I was in awe. I never expected to become obsessed or in love with the honey bee. A fascinating creature with a complex society of tiny, fuzzy, forever busy ladies. The female honey bee does all the work in a colony. At different stages of her short life (around six weeks or less) she will carry out vital tasks for the colony, eventually working herself to death.
The male bee, referred to as a drone bee, will fly out of the hive each day to "drone congregation areas", where he will wait to fulfill his legacy by mating with a queen. Unfortunately for him, he will meet his death if the queen chooses him. Did you know that the drone bee can appear to be twice the size of a female bee, and does not have a stinger? They are referred to as "drones" because they vibrate and sound very much like a little drone airplane. They are gentle giants of the bee world and can in no way hurt you if they land on you.
There is a lot to learn from the honey bee. There are so many moving parts in a colony, that if one goes awry, the entire system will fail. Unlike wasps who can sting you repeatedly and live, the honey bee will die shortly after using her stinger. She will defend her hive to the death, but is ultimately a gentle insect, focused on her task at hand.
When I look at a colony of honey bees, working together, communicating through vibrations and wing beats, I see so much more than just a bee. I see something beautiful and fascinating. I see the fuzzy baby bee emerging from the cell, eager to start its new existence. I see the nurse bee tending to that baby bee as soon as it emerges. I see the forager bee on the dandelion, collecting nectar and pollen to take back to the colony, high winds threatening to knock her off task. She holds tight. I see the guard bee at the entrance of the colony, ready to die for her colony.
I see this amazing tiny little creature with the most fragile of wings, float on a prairie wind, moving her tiny body through society and nature's obstacles, fastidious throughout her life. I see so much more than a bee. I'd like to think the bee does as well, how else could you stand up to giants in the world around you, like stinging wasps, birds or mammals who are out to rob your hive. I'd like to think the honey bee sees herself as not just a plain old bee, but something so much more complex. I know I do, and I hope you might too.
Maybe there is a take away here from the bee that we can learn from. I think there is. Through time, I hope to share with you what I see...the beauty and significance of the honey bee, and the fragile habitats they depend on.
All the best -Alisa
Image drawn by Fin when she was 5-years-old. A while back I made and installed an observation bee hive in the house. We would sit and watch the bees emerge and sing Happy Birthday to them (silly I know, but fun stuff for a little kid). One day she sat down in front of the hive and drew her version of bees on a frame. This is what Fin saw.