BELIEVE ME, YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS WHOLE SERIES. This is only the beginning of a series of quite unconventional articles about the life and leadership lessons that the cute and naughty honey bees teach us.
In a single hive colony of honey bees, there can be 30000 to 60000 bees that need to work and gel together to survive and thrive. A hive is an organized colony having three broad categories of individuals: the queen bee, the worker bees, and the drone bees.
Though on the surface it appears to be a hierarchical society, the reality is that bees know that they all matter as individuals and need one another as parts of the whole to survive and grow. If you are new to the bee world, the colony is an extraordinary social structure. To understand it better we need to know each category of bees up and close to learn the tricks and tips to lead a successful life and business.
In this blog, we are going to peep into the astonishing, amazing, and unbelievable life of a worker honey bee and some great lessons it offers for life.
Though the queen is considered as the heart of the colony, it’s the worker bee that makes the heart-beat.
They are the heart-beat of the colony.
A hive being a matriarchal society, all worker bees are female. Female or worker bees do literary everything.
Honey Bee Life Cycle.
Each bee knows what to do because their hormone activates the part of their genetic makeup, that tells them what job they have to do and when. They go through 5 phases of jobs throughout their lifetime before dying.
In phase 1 they go to work immediately after they emerge from metamorphosis about three days after they are born. They begin cleaning the cells from which they emerge. Also, they take on the role of mortuary bees, cleaning the bees that have died in the hive and removing them.
After about a few days their hormones shift them into phase 2 of the nursing role. In this job, they feed the young ones that will succeed them. This lasts for about a week.
Then phase 3 kicks in. The workers become queen attendants. They feed and groom the queen.
In phase 4 they assume the role of a general handyman moving farther away from the center of the hive and doing things like pollen packing, building honeycombs, honey sealing, handling the incoming nectar, fanning honey, storing the food, and guarding the nest. This lasts about a week.
The final phase 5 is the most difficult and dangerous: foraging for food. The workers leave the nest to find pollen and nectar to bring home and feed the colony. After a short life, of constant work most workers will leave the nest as death approaches. Corpses of those who die inside the hive are carried out by undertaker bees.
It’s a thankless life for the worker’s bees but this hard work, collaboration, teamwork and selflessness has made them the most successful super organisms in nature.
Bees never Multi-Task.
Even though they perform various jobs in their short lifetime, honeybees never multitask. Yes, though the bees are one of the most efficient, effective, hard-working, and productive species, they never multitask. In whatever phase of the job, they are in, that will become their only priority. That job becomes their purpose and they stick to them. This makes them very efficient wasting no time on anything other than the priority. They keep learning and develop their capability in what they are doing. This is key to their adaptability and flexibility.
We humans can learn from bees that whatever you do have a specific role in the organization and while performing that specific task just focus and concentrate exclusively on it. Whatever you do give it all and do it fully. But, never ever multitask. I know many of us take pride in multitasking. Forget what the bees do, there are now various scientific studies highlighting the dangers of multitasking.
We Mentality of Teamwork.
Another lesson is the importance of Teamwork. In the world of bees, though each individual bee knows their tasks, performs them independently, makes an individual contribution, but their ultimate goal is the health and survival of the hive. They know it’s always in the best interest to work as a team. They somehow know that the secret for collective survival is to be inextricably interconnected and interdependent.
Their actions never speak the “me” language, it’s always the “we” language they speak for the common good of the colony. Though each bee performs a different task, all tasks are in sync with the larger picture in mind. They never believe that individually they are self-sufficient.
In our human world, we try hard all through our life to create the illusion of individualism. The image of “I” or “me” always takes precedence over “we.” Often times we live in a balloon of self-sufficiency. No bee lives like an island. Our emphasis on winning at any cost, getting ahead by pushing someone back, going up by pulling someone down and the zero-sum game has created a culture of toxic individuality and corrupted the human race.
Selflessness and Generosity.
Though the worker bees are fiercely competitive and hard workers, they are at the same time one of the most caring, sensitive, and generous insects on our planet. Their devotion to their queen, fellow bees and the hive is unquestionable. They are ever willing to sacrifice their own lives if needed for the greater good of the colony. Many times, it has been observed that when a bee is in distress, another bee quickly rushes for its help. Bees have exhibited time and again a unique mentality by leaving the task at hand and rush to help another bee in trouble.
Also, when a bee collects nectar and pollen, it is never for oneself, but for the entire community. Bees perform this duty of foraging for food very near till the end of their life. In other words, it’s like planting a tree, where they will never get to see the fruit of their labor.
Also, when any bee locates a good food source, she will not hide the important information about it. It will not selfishly feast on the flowers alone and stockpile it separately. On the contrary, she will waste no time and rush immediately back home to share it with other team members. They do it so by means of amazing dance. For more on this please check it out in Part-II of this article.
A great example of how unselfishness leads to growth and prosperity.
Many of us have heard the expression “busy as a bee.” But various scientific studies show that a better expression for a honey bee should be “selfless as a bee.”
The Lesson: Leaders should be self-sacrificing, not self-serving.
Just look at the world around and you’ll agree it’s easy to preach, but we all know how difficult it is to practice.
Scientists call them a super-organism: one hive as one organization, thousands of honey bees, just one goal: to ensure survival and growth of the organization or colony.
Can you call your enterprise a super-organization?
Their level of selflessness is astounding, especially in today’s world where we humans not only think about ourselves but has also made life impossible for other species. Well, the bees themselves are at our receiving end. Worldwide bees are dying and their numbers dwindling fast. According to scientists, their dwindling numbers result from a variety of factors- chemical pesticides, air pollution, habitat loss, global warming, and more. Do I need to elaborate on who is responsible for all these factors- human greed?
Deep Meaning and Purpose.
The worker bee has a very short lifecycle maybe 5-7 weeks only. But they have a deep sense of meaning and purpose that starts from the very moment they are born. Though their time on planet earth is very limited and though their job changes from moment to moment throughout their small life, the worker bees are always on a mission to serve the greater whole of the hive. At every given moment they are always tuned in to an inner compass that keeps them on the path to that mission and purpose.
Wouldn’t it be great if we looked at our life with that kind of mission and purpose? Often in life, we don’t realize the impact we have on the world as an individual. We tend to think that in this massive universe and big human race our actions, our behavior, our steps, our intentions, our thoughts, our feelings and our words don’t make any difference.
But one thing we all can learn from the bees is what if we start each day with the sense of knowing that actually, we are on a mission and that our actions and words contribute to the overall whole of the planet earth. So, if we all live our lives with the urgency of purpose that bees use in their life, we could make this world a far better place to live in.
Bee the best you can, for the time you are on this planet earth.
If you’re fascinated by this article and the lessons it has to teach us, I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below!
Happy Bee-ing and Bee Aware.