I am writing in response to The Daily Post word Bumble, and I immediately thought about that idiom ‘busy as a bee’. People often use a variation of this idiom for the beaver and whether you talk about the bee or the beaver, they both seem to be busy. Although I have heard many people talk about eager beavers, I have never heard about the eager bee. I guess since bees are insects they are lower life forms from beavers who are classified as animals and come to think of it who decides which life form is the hardest working one?
Bees are pretty industrious, flying out from the hive, seeking that flower that has opened up, gathering the honey and then returning to base. Living in a beehive requires the bee to develop social skills. They must get along, so they can live together and they need to cooperate in their work efforts. Does this make all the bees communists? In the purest sense, they are not because a communist society does not have different social structures, so a communist bee hive would not tolerate the queen.
If I lived in a crowded beehive, I would want to spend every minute of every day outside, however some of other worker bees have jobs which require them to remain at home tending honeycombs and fanning their wings to cool the nest off, however these bees are known to take frequent breaks. And then there are the Drones, who are quite lazy, as all they are required to do is mate with a fertile queen. Live is good as a Drone, as they don’t have to leave the hive until early afternoon, then they spend their time carousing around in packs, and when they get home probably just a few hours later, they will rely on the worker bees to feed them. Queens manage to stay busy, they are relatively immobile, laying more than 1,000 eggs each day.
There is no quota for the bee, there are no time clocks for them to punch in or out on, there is no carrot or stick incentive and if one bee wants to do less work than the other bees, it is likely that no one would notice them slacking off or even care. A honeybee tasked with the daily foraging of nectar or pollen might work anywhere from just a few hours a day up to about 12. If the flowers are particularly rich with nectar, or if there’s lots of pollen that’s ripe for collection, forager bees will go back to the hive to recruit even more numbers. On nice days a honeybee might be asked to work overtime. These worker bees spend their daylight hours outside, but when it gets dark they head back to the nest and relax. I know that I would have trouble sleeping if I didn’t have any eyelids, which is the case for honeybees, but they do stop moving, relax their muscles, and they let their cute little antennae gradually slump.
Bees take a holiday when the weather is not conducive for honey gathering, so when the temperature drops below some certain degree usually somewhere in the 50’s Fahrenheit scale, or if it looks like it’s going to rain, or if there are strong winds (above about 15 mph) they have the day off. Honeybees remain in the hive during the winter, clumped together to stay warm and they manage to stay warm, in much the same way as they cool off the hive, as the take turns buzzing their wings to warm the others, and this is a lot of work.
There are not a whole lot of animals who build things and I think that the saying, ‘busy as a bee’ or ‘busy as a beaver’, might have something to do with their building skills. Sure there are webs and cocoons, mounds, burrows and nests, but only bees (excluding humans) utilize a hexagon, making every cell in their honeycomb from this shape. How did the bees figure out that hexagons would be better to use than circles, squares, rectangles or triangles? The bees actually make perfect hexagons, where all six sides are of equal length. It turns out that these hexagon shaped honeycombs require less building material than any of the other shapes and they are able to hold more honey.
If Shakespeare asked, ‘Is it better to be busy or not to be busy’, I would respond that I would rather be busy. There are so many people that work their whole lives and when they finally retire, they have no idea what to do with themselves. I keep busy with my writing and I hope you enjoyed my story today.