Anti-Caturday: Busy as a bee

Honeybee courtesy of Mary Beth Jarrosak
Honeybee courtesy of Mary Beth Jarrosak

Continuing with the theme of matriarchy, I present to you probably the most famous matriarchal society; honey bees. Honey bees are almost all female. Apparently, the only male bees are the drones that mostly live outside the hive and they are “used” only for mating purposes – they die immediately after copulation. Bee reproduction on the whole is incredibly varied and complex. Only the queen ever mates with the drones, but the worker bees can lay eggs in emergency situations. Mostly these eggs are infertile but in the few cases that they turn out fertile, they will always grow into drones, despite being an almost perfect copy of the female who laid it. The workers will also always hatch a new queen so if the queen is failing, dies or the hive grows too big, the workers choose one or several young larva or eggs and they will nurture these into queen bees with so called royal jelly that they will only feed those that are destined for queendom.

The common honeybee is incredibly strong. When Mythbusters busted the myth of bees lifting a laptop, they tested how much one bee could lift and it turns out, almost all their weight. The embedded video above shows how amazingly brave they are too; they will – en masse too – protect the hive from a foe that is so far superior to them as to bee laughable. That video happens over four hours. The wasps are Japanese Giant Hornets and there are only 30 of them to 30 000 honey bees.

The most beautiful thing about bees however is their communication. They communicate almost solely through dance. They have different dances for different situations and they even give their hivemates directions toward food using two different dances. I have to admit, I did not think bees could possibly be so incredibly cool.

Honeybee courtesy of Brian McCann
Honeybee courtesy of Brian McCann
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