Honeybees are Like Cats

I started beekeeping about four years ago. After spending so much time observing honeybees in our meadow and at their hives, I can’t image a world without them. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I can talk for hours about honeybees. To that end, I’ll be writing about them in a series of blogs. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about honeybees. 

First, don’t be frightened of a honeybee foraging away from her hive.  Let her bee.  Just like you, when she leaves home, she wants to make it back to her family safe and sound. Because if she doesn’t, they’ll go hungry.  A foraging honeybee has the singular goal of finding nectar and pollen for her colony. Honeybees have barbed stingers which means that the act of stinging is also suicide. When the honeybee pulls away from whatever it was that she stung, she gets disemboweled. Honeybees away from their hives are not aggressive. They want to be left alone. If you see one on a flower, my advice is to stop and quietly watch her. Honeybees are a thing of beauty.

I’ve been referring to honeybees using the female pronoun.  That’s because the majority of honeybees in a colony are female.  Generally, they’re referred to as worker bees.  But if one drills down into the various duties within a colony, there are foraging bees, scouts, nurse bees, guard bees, housekeeping bees etc. All of these important tasks are accomplished by these amazing female honeybees. All worker bees are female. Of course, every colony has a queen and a small number of male bees called drones.  We’ll chat about them in a different blog later on.  For now, let’s stick with the heroines of the colony, the worker bees.

Among the many things that I find fascinating about the worker bees is that over the course of a worker bee’s lifetime, she gets to participate in every worker bee job that exists.  When she’s born, she starts out doing the easier tasks within the hive. She’ll pay her dues as a housekeeping bee before progressing to become a guard bee. That’s when she gets to test her navigation and flying skills without going too far from the hive.  At the height of her honeybee life, she’ll become a forager or scout.  Imagine the adventure of getting to take off on your own for the first time. Flying free and on the hunt for flowers.  Even more exciting is making it back home after a successful trip finding lots of pollen and nectar.

Finally, while foraging honeybees are not aggressive away from the hive, they’ll fight to the death to save their home. They have a queen, baby bees, honey and pollen stores, and sisters and brothers to protect. They’ll do what they need to do.  That’s why I give them my utmost respect while working at their hives. Honeybees are like cats in that they’ll give you signs to let you know when they’re content or not. The bombinating of an angry colony sounds like a roar. Whereas, the bombinating of a calm colony is more like a cat’s purr.  If one of my colonies is roaring, I tread lightly. If it’s purring, I relax into the contentment of the honeybees.

For those who’ve read my novel, 2⁰, you may have noticed some similarities between what I’ve described above and the Qaunik people in the story. Every person within the Qaunik has to do every necessary job at some point.  Musicians get to be musicians, but they also have to take out the trash. No one person is more important than another. Just like every honeybee within a colony is essential to the colony’s survival, the same can be said for the Qaunik people. And both will fight to the death to protect their families. If you read 2⁰ closely, you’ll find the underpinnings of how nature works throughout the story. As Woody in 2⁰ would say, “Every problem has a solution that can be found in nature.”

If you haven’t read 2⁰, please check it out.

As always, thanks for stopping by to read my blog.  Feel free to add to the conversation by leaving a comment.

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