Honeybees are approximately 1½ inches long and have a short life span of approximately six weeks. These bees can be found throughout the world, living in colonies or cities called hives. They can be found in tree hollows, on limbs, under eaves of houses or in man-made containers. Bees have been called the most important insects in the world and have been studied extensively. More than 30,000 books and articles have been written about them and their culture. Their society works mutually for the welfare of the hive and is successful because of the bee’s ability to communicate accurately and work cooperatively and efficiently with each other.
Honeybees are social creatures living in close proximity to each other. Sanitation squads are responsible for keeping the hive clean. After each one of the thousands of cells is cleaned, the squads discard all foreign material and varnish the walls.
To maintain the narrow range of temperature, 90° to 97° F, in which the larvae are nurtured, bees collect and store water. In order to cool the hive, the bees aggressively fan their wings, using the water as a source of evaporative cooling. The area is heated by the bees filling their bodies with excess honey, thus increasing their metabolism and creating excess heat to warm the brood area.
The population of each hive fluctuates between 15,000 and 80,000 and is controlled by nurse bees that “make” a queen bee by feeding her larger amounts of select larvae. The number of eggs she lays determines whether a new queen is established. Thousands of eggs are laid and hatch within three days. The nurse bees then feed the larvae in the cells for six days making many trips to each cell daily.
Guard bees stationed at the entrance to the hive keep all intruders out. Each hive has a distinct odor, and the guards know immediately from sensors in their antenna if an approaching bee is not of its hive.
Bees work together to make their hexagon shaped honeycomb nursery by consuming large amounts of honey and forming a chain with each bee clinging to the bee above it. This chain remains intact for about 24 hours while wax is formed on their abdomens. The wax is then removed, shaped and molded into the honeycomb, which is the strongest shape, uses the least material, and allows the most room for larva and honey storage. Man, despite his great intellect has not found a stronger structure than the hexagonal shape of the little bee’s honeycomb.
Intricate and accurate communication is vital in the collection of nectar. Scout bees locate nectar and give samples to the other bees. Then the scout does his dance, typically in a figure eight pattern and a “waggle” from the center of his body. The vigor, sound and vibration of the waggle inform the other bees about the nectar and its location. If the bee moves north in its dance, the source is straight toward the sun. If the dance is 45 degrees left of north, the source is 45 degrees left of the sun.
Honeybees are wonderfully complex creatures. Man’s creation shows even more complexity than the honeybee that was spoken into existence. When God formed man, He stooped down and formed him out of the dust of the earth with His own hands and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Oh what praise He deserves for His love of His creation. “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:4).
Adapted from the Moody Institute of Science DVD, City of Bees and from Character Sketches, Volume One, Living Lessons on Loyalty.