Lessons we can learn from bees

Keeping bees is an exercise in humility, but it also brings immense joy. There is so much to learn, yet you can never really anticipate the trials that will come each season. On one hand, you have to outsmart the bees, their parasites, the weather. And on the other, you have to let nature do her thing.

As 2020 has brought unprecedented changes to our worlds, we take great joy in tending our bee hives. Just watching them go about their lives – bringing in pollen, cleaning out the dead, raising their brood – it’s a reminder that all is still right in the world. The bigger picture is still sound. So with that – let us offer 3 lessons from watching the honey bee that would benefit our human counterparts.

When You See a Problem – Fix it

When you encounter a problem in life, do not wait for someone else to find a solution. Don’t walk passed an accident, a mess, or an error. Get in there.

Honey bees start working immediately after they hatch. They clean their cell, then begin their role as housebees and nurses. They see a job that needs to be done, and they do it.

When the hive needs more pollen, the foragers go out and collect it. They swap between pollen, resin, water, and nectar based on what’s necessary – not on their own whims.

New bee emerging from her cell

If they encounter a threat, they immediately rise to the challenge and risk their lives to defend the hive. They don’t wait for some other bee to do it. They don’t think, “someone else will get pollen, I’m going to chill for a bit.” They see a problem and they fix it. Our society and our lives would improve if we took this honey bee lesson to heart.

Share Your Wisdom

In beekeeping, you use the tools you have. This season, one of our colonies was using a warped box that allowed for access at the top of the hive. We taped it closed but bees got stuck in the tape. Yes, we should have put mesh over it, but it wasn’t the end of the world and the bees seemed to prefer this access point. The top access was used 90% of the time.

Once the dandelions bloomed, we were able to remove feeders and the warped box went back into the storage. The foragers were instantly flustered when they returned to the hive. Their entrance was GONE and they were unsure what to do. But a few bees figured it out.

They dropped to the landing board and started scenting to their sisters (bees raise their butts and fan their wings furiously to send their scent to their sisters.) Like clockwork, the returning bees followed their sisters and began using the lower entrance. More girls joined in the scenting.

When they discovered new information, they shared it – immediately. They didn’t hoard the data for themselves. They didn’t laugh as the other bees kept banging in to the top of the hive – “idiots, didn’t they realize the hole was gone….?” They saw the problem, they went to work, and they freely shared the information.

They also share information about good food sources. They could allow their hive mates to waste hours flying to unworthy sites. But they don’t. When they find something of value, they share it.

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

― Anonymous Greek Proverb

There is a reason our country’s motto is “United we Stand, Divided we Fall.” We are stronger together. We all benefit when we freely share information and help each other.

Fly Until Your Wings Fall Off

We regularly find bees – dead on the landing board, loaded with pollen, wings tattered. They fly until they can’t. They stay focused and do their job. They don’t quit until they have to.

Any beekeeper will tell you tales of bees still walking without heads, without back legs, with one wing. They will work until they can’t and so should we.

Old bees are just as valuable as young bees. They just do different jobs.

Don’t give up until you absolutely have to!

The bees teach us something new every single time we work with them. Sometimes we just sit and watch them fly. They are an interesting species, and I hope you have the chance to witness them in action – whether on a flower or in an apiary. Either way, take their lessons and apply them to your life. We can make this world a better place – one bee, and one kind act at a time.

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