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Friends, Family, and Bees

As I wait for my new hive split to do its thing, I have had time to reflect on the difference between human and apis society. The results were surprising to myself, and I suppose may be of interest to others.

While I have heard much about the wonders of hive society, of the egalitarian nature of bees, and the total self sacrificing nature of each little member of the hive, the truth is not so rosy. I have read devotionals, heard sermons, and seen movies on bees giving their all, giving all, to the hive, and that each little member is important in their contribution, yet I would still rather be a human.

The hive runs on scent, on odours and pheromones – though, in springtime, so do the Year 11 students I teach, with plenty of both percolating the corridors. If a bee has the right smell, she is welcomed to the hive, she is part of it. If she has not the right smell, there is a battle, and the lone bee is expelled. This is why a box of bees cannot be added to ‘top up’ a weaker hive. The trick is to add a couple of layers of newspaper between the two boxes – by the time the bunch of bees have angrily chewed their way through the paper from both sides, to attack and kill each other, the smells have mingled. The bees just go ‘Oh, sis, yeah you smell like just one of the family, nice to see you’. Queens, on the other hand, have no such familial notions. They go by the rule of ‘I smell a queen, kill it,kill it, kill it dead’, and a battle to the death ensues. When a bee dies in the hive, it is carried away, and dropped, like an apple core from a car window, forever gone.

People, are linked permanently by family bonds. We all have our favourites, be they cousies or siblings, and we all have our least favourite – like the uncle that tells off-colour stories and perhaps gets a bit loud and pushy at weddings and funerals. (a brief aside at this point – as I talk to my extended family, there is still talk of Valerie’s 21st, where there was a brawl, a broken nose, and someone biffed off a balcony. Of course, Valerie is probable 50 now, but the tale continues, like the epic of Gilgamesh), Yet, they are our families, and will forever be so. We can disown that relative who repeatedly commits some heinous social crime, yet they are still family, talked about in low whispers. The black sheep may be left off invitation lists, but they are still thought of, unlike some random in another county. Family is forever and for always. I like family. Sometimes I am the annoying uncle, sometimes the black sheep, but I love family. Bees don’t know family.

Friends are another thing which bees do not know. People take on other people, based on some randomly chosen attributes, such as a shared sense of humour, or sport, or love of Holden cars. We laugh with our friends, and cry with our best friends. A friend can be out of our life for a decade or two, and just carry on as if nothing happened when we meet again. Friends are good. Usually. I love friends.

I wish that people could get on a bit better, and I have no idea what possesses a bloke to strap a bunch of explosives to himself and trash a marketplace full of women and children, or so-such,(as has been in the news oh too often) when they could be down the local with mates, or playing rugby or football, or helping a mate build a deck, or whatever. Yet some in this world don’t love people. This is sad. But, even so, bees don’t know love, except for the ‘hive’ or whatever their concept for it is. They are not loyal to each other, to the queen, or to the anything except the hive. I love that people can love, even though it makes it possible that people can hate. I love people, both the concept, and the messy, unpredictable reality.

Bees are pretty cool, but friends and family and people are cool too. Don’t forget this. If you meet someone who smells a bit funky, or is a bit strange, don’t be a bee. Be a person. Love people, while we still have those people – when a person dies, we won’t ever have that person again.

2 comments on “Friends, Family, and Bees

  1. Well put. I enjoyed reading this very much.

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