A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people. A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers. A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey. Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race. A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilises the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee's existence. Another observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in lies the purpose of the bee. But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second or any of the processes the human mind can discern. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
During the honey making season from the end of March through to September, the life cycle of a honey bee is 58 days. The first 46 of these days are taken up with nursing new bees, cleaning and preparing cells for stores and eggs, wax production and some guard duties. It is only in the last 12 days of this cycle that bees go out and forage and pollinate. A beautiful metaphor for the wisdom and beauty of flying in our elder years!
I hear many people referring to a bee with a male pronoun, but the chances are the flying bees you see in your garden are female. Almost all of a colony of honey bees are worker female bees (20,000- 80,000). There is only one female queen (there can be more than one in certain circumstances but it would usually mean fight to the death) and a few hundred male drone bees. The males don't do any work but are a vital part of the hive for fertilising the queen on her maiden flight and for keeping the females bees entertained. I like to think they are named drones because they omit a low deep drone buzzing sound, similar to the sound of the aum chant. For we all need this sound in our lives to keep us grounded.
Do you have a favourite bee fact or story? Share yours @beesmedicine on facebook