In many children’s books the honey bee is most times painted with a good broad smile, and one would avowedly know where this smug sense of fulfillment attributed to this tiny creature comes from. Let me wax lyrical or best muse about this buzzing wonder that sweetens and heartens our lives, while making part of our reflection towards a fuller life.
Although taken for granted, bees together with other pollinators are vital to stable, healthy food supplies and key to the varied, colourful, and nutritious diets we need (and have come to expect). Bees furnish us with essential products like honey, wax, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly all in support of human health. These social creatures have been with us for millennia fulfilling many of our human needs; economical, physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional. The bee is unarguably a spiritual guru in its own right.
It is fascinating that in the bible the bee is mentioned a good many times, and we are reminded of it in God’s grand promise of a land that flows with milk and honey to his chosen people (Ezekiel 20:6, Exodus 3:17, Joshua 5:6). In the scriptures, honey has been part of the human journey; his metaphors, food, balm and solace, recompense and such like. You will understand that where there is honey there lurks the bee too. Reading the bible, we discover that bees have all the virtues a true Christian community ought to have. St. Paul in his letters spells out a list of virtues we keenly find with the beehive community. In many ways bees are unrivaled for their self-sacrificing altruism, their untiring industry, their division of labour, their level of flexibility and responsiveness, patience, fine and subtle communication, and the ominous non-imposing leadership style of the queen.
Bees teach us to live and to serve with utmost diligence. We all know for a fact that one of the most industrious species on the planet would be the bees. Bees fly about 55 000 miles to make just one pound of honey, this is reckoned to be one and a half times around the world. Similarly, the worker bees provide for the hive. They clean, collect water propolis and make honey, feed the queen, and nurse the young. Some other duties in the hive include ventilating the hive by fanning their wings, guarding the hive, dancing to communicate resource location, building the new comb, plus cell cleaning and polishing. St John Chrysostom posits that the bee is more honoured than other animals not because she labours, but because she labours for others.
Bees keep their hives clean and eliminate all unneeded debris within the hive before storing honey. We must learn from the bees to get rid of a lot of clutter in our lives. It is crucial to take some time of reflection in order to get rid of things that do not allow us to attain our full potential in our personal and spiritual development; in our work life, relationships, and daily living. The logic of the division of labour where each type of bee is assigned a task, is a good lesson to us that should lead us to accept our tasks and responsibilities with joy and in honour of serving others.
Bees work in an organized system and they are able to work efficiently because they stick to each of their roles. The queen’s primary job is to mate and reproduce. Worker bees, on the other hand, are expected to care for the queen, to collect pollen and honey, and to keep the hive clean. Drones are around to scout and protect the hive, and others care for the larvae. Stunningly, each bee has a special role to play. We also must understand that we have different gifts and therefore variegated capabilities. It is expected that we recognize our unique purpose here on earth, and that we must henceforth respond to our own special calling.
Noteworthy too is that bees are willing and ready to sacrifice their lives for a cause. Magnanimity and royalty are the words to relate to bees as they exemplify the virtue of sacrifice. Drones will literally die to mate with the queen, while scouts will die stinging intruders to protect their queen. We need to check on how much generous we are in giving of ourselves; our time, and resources. We have not heard about power contestations in a beehive! On the contrary, the queen bee is the epitome of humility and servant leadership. The queen issues no orders in the hive, she only obeys, as meekly as the humblest of her subjects. She is moved, fed, cleaned, and expected to do her part by laying thousands of eggs weekly. There is no central control of cooperative behaviour in the bee hive and one needs to reflect about where the spirit of the hive that gets all bees to co-operate comes from!
Entomologists observe that in the hive, drones and worker bees eat honey but the queen and her babies eat royal jelly that is specially prepared for them. The worker bees only reserve the best of their products for her. In our Christian life we are equally called to give of our best. Bee keepers experientially know that bees have scouts that lookout for the hive, and alerts the rest of the colony to swarm an intruder who is often an imminent threat. Bees are quite wary and cautious. These small insects also teach us that we must be cautious and on guard against those things and people that come to destroy our homes, who endanger our persons; the adversities that lead us to be at our worst other than our best,
Lastly, we must be edified by the bees’ ability to maintain teamwork. Honey is made through bees regurgitating the nectar from one bee to another. After hours of hard labor, they are able to create the perfect blend. The foragers must collect nectar from 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey, we are told. No one can do such a feat alone! The bees’ tasks seem to change with age and so that requires high flexibility. It is observed that older bees tend the nest, while young ones go out foraging. All this is done in the wonderful spirit of communion in the bee hive. Look out for the bees and learn about life, for they are everywhere to teach. Or just wait where you are and blossom, for it is said, “when the flower blossoms, the bee will come”.