The honey bee is a remarkable creature! It may be a buzzing nuisance to some, but when you look closer at this little insect, you can’t help but appreciate its fascinating life and invaluable service.
Honey bees are social creatures that work together as a group or colony, nesting and setting up hives in empty spaces like walls, trees, and wooden boxes set out by beekeepers. Beekeepers harvest the bees’ honeycomb, which makes up the main structure of the nest. God has established a tremendous order in the production of this honeycomb, utilizing many bees with very unique job descriptions to accomplish His designed purpose.
Large hives can contain as many as eighty thousand honeybees, but interestingly, there is only one queen bee, whose life span can last from five to nine years. The rest of the hive is made up of drones (males) and worker bees (females). The drones have one sole purpose – to mate with the queen bee during flight. They are the only bees which aren’t equipped with a stinger for defense. A drone dies after mating, but if it is unsuccessful, it can live up to ninety days. The worker bees only live about three weeks and do all the physical work associated with building the hive (as their name implies). The worker bees are further subdivided into different departments that contribute to the overall goal of building the hive. Some groups make the honey, some build the combs, and others guard the hive against outside enemies.
Younger worker bees stay inside the nest and produce royal jelly for food, build the honeycomb, and maintain ideal temperatures by fanning their wings together to cool the hive, or huddling closer together to warm it.
Older worker bees are assigned to outside field duty and searching for flower nectar, pollen, water, and a substance called propolis, which is brought back to the hive to make bee glue. As bees move about from flower to flower, pollen is transferred one to another, thereby making it possible for flowers and crops to produce seeds and fruit.
Another incredible feature of the honey-making worker bee is the way she communicates information to the rest of the colony about newly discovered food sources (such as a new bloom of clover). If the source is within a few hundred feet of the nest, she will turn around in a tight circular motion for about 3/4 of an inch, and then change directions. The other bees will follow her and pick up the scent of the food source.
If the food is further away, the worker bee performs a “dance”, making a circular flight pattern and adding a movement across the middle of the circle, with a continuous shaking or wagging of her abdomen. The number of circuits lets the other bees know the approximate distance, and the direction she moves across the circle lets them know the direction relative to the sun. For an example, if she moves upward, the source is directly towards the sun.
There are several other movements used to tell other bees about different food sources. This is all part of God’s remarkable design!
So the next time you are asked to give directions to your favorite restaurant, impress your friends with the dance of the worker bee!
- "Honey Bee," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2005 Microsoft Corporation.
- “bee,” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. © 2003 Columbia University Press. http://education.yahoo.com © 2005 Yahoo! Inc.
- "honeybee," Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9040939
- Special thanks to the content contributions of Bruce Bowers and Shane Woodbury