To bee or not to bee, that is the question. The fact is that the bee is a bundle of contradictions. It makes honey, and yet has a painful sting. It is among the hardest working animal, yet the bulk of its colony dies before it can taste the fruits of its work. They live in well-planned colonies, yet there is a strict hierarchy, like a caste system. Most importantly, they seem insignificant, but are crucial to human survival. Did you know that “crops pollinated by bees make up 35% of global food production”, and of the 369,000 flowering plant species, “90% of them are dependent on insect pollination”. Hence, one cannot imagine this world without bees.
A colony of 25,000 bees can visit up to 250 million flowers in a day. Over a third of global crops are pollinated by bees
Latest studies show that there was a loss of 40% commercial honeybees in the US since 2006, and a 25% loss in Europe. Many species of bees were dubbed endangered, and bee-hivers report a reduction in their numbers. California, which produces the bulk of the world’s almond harvest, has 800,000 acres of orchards that require 1.6 million domesticated bee colonies. According to www.earthday.org, “Many species of animals are dependent on bees for their survival because their food source, including nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits, rely on insect pollination.” A honeybee can “visit 50-1,000 flowers in one trip. Therefore, if each bee takes ten trips a day, a colony of 25,000 forager bees can pollinate 250 million flowers in a day.”
The study of a bee colony (www.perfectbee.com) is both insightful and interesting. There is only one Queen, whose job is to reproduce rapidly. It is the job of the winter worker bees to protect her by regulating the temperature inside the hive. But the colony constantly checks the Queen’s output and productivity. If it senses a decline, it can replace her. In summers, the worker bees can, literally, work themselves to death. Hence, a worker born in spring survives for six weeks, but the life span of the one born in winters can be 4-5 months. Then, there are the drones, which have one thing on their mind — sex. They live merely to find an opportunity to mate with the Queen, and they die soon after. If they don’t manage to mate, they die within seven weeks.
A Bee Story
In Panchatantra, there is a story about two trees and bees. A warm-hearted Mango tree lived next to an unsympathetic Peepal tree. One day, a bee Queen, along with her workers and drones, asked the Peepal if she could build a colony. The latter refused, despite coaxing from the Mango, which then offered itself. The Queen was pleased. Months later, two carpenters came looking for wood. They wanted to axe the Mango, but were scared of the beehive and bee stings. So, they focused on Peepal. The Mango then urged the Queen to ask her workers to attack the carpenters. The Peepal was saved. When the Peepal thanked the Queen, she asked it to thank Mango, and added, “It is not necessary to do bad things to people who did bad things to you.” The moral: we must never be greedy, and always help others.