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Monday, May 02, 2005

A Reflection of Bees and Government

One hive of bees forms it’s own destiny much as an artist shall form a painting or a sculptor shall form a bust. Wax is their medium and dances are their brushes and hands. To use them properly results in a masterpiece of precision and to use them wrongly is to ensure failure.

Swarming is much the same way. If the swarm is executed to soon both colonies will perish. It a colony swarms too late then both shall perish once more. A colony that becomes more prosperous will only kill itself. I shall reflect one such story that illustrates one of these paradoxes.

In April 2004 a colony was electric with the bodies of bees dancing to and fro. Much excitement is occurring as a new queen cell is being constructed. The art of hexagonal sheets is interrupted by a hanging piece of wax. Contained inside this is the future of the colony. Workers enthusiastically surround it and laboriously feed it’s copious appetite. The swarm shall leave soon.
Everything in the colony is changing. The reigning queen is losing weight to fly with the swarm and eggs are becoming less numerous in the hive. Workers have ceased to collect pollen or nectar and sit lazily in the hive’ gorging on sweet honey.

The next morning the hive is heavy with anticipation. The queen cell has been plugged with fresh, white wax and the queen is sunning herself at the entrance, perhaps wondering where the swarm shall take her. Nothing will change the will of the colony now. After only a few more moments a cloud of bees takes to the sky and thunders across buildings and trees searching for a new home. They are found in mid winter only to have perished from never collecting enough nectar.

In the mother colony the few remaining bees defend the nest and collect nectar for themselves. A system that once seemed perfect in its elegant design now results in anarchy. However, out of anarchy, a short week and a half later the new queen hatches from her small wax cell and leaves the hive to mate. She returns a short while later and tranquility along with order are returned to the hive.
Order and tranquility can be deceiving. The new queen is slow to lay eggs and that is her downfall. Unsatisfied with her progress the colony surrounds their queen, their future and sit there; gradually compressing her until she suffocates. In a short time this colony went from almost certainly reproducing as a species to simply destroying themselves. However, the process in which they destroy themselves is quite interesting. All hive members work together in killing the queen. If bees thought like man they may look for a cover-up or conspiracy. In this case there is no cover-up because every hive member contributed to their queen’s death. To destroy the murderers of the queen would be destroying themselves even though they have now destroyed their colonies existence.

One is led to wonder if swarming is as democratic as superseding(described in previous paragraph). Do bees have the ability to chose whether or not to stay or go or must they follow instinctively with their queen. Is the queen their ruler or their prisoner. She is lavishly tended to but may rarely leave the hive. The very daughters that surround her, at one moment appear to want only to tend to their mother and the next they ensure her death.
Another curious action is that of drones. Better known as males, one must wonder if these drones are the kings of the colony but that only leads to more questions. If drones are the kings of colonies then why is it they are killed in fall and winter even though in spring and summer they were gods among bees.

Do our lives function like this? Do we praise a leader in good time but condemn him in bad? Do we attempt to expand our territory only to loose everything? If our purpose is similar to that of bees then are we both capable of thought or do our own subjective perspectives allude us to believe we are seeing intelligence? Do bees consciously kill their queen or are they responding to pure instinct? One may never be able to answer these questions and so they shall perplex many in the future as they have in the past.


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