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Archive for the ‘Bee Lore’ Category

I just love stories that show that the world of bees is unexplainable, beyond individual intelligence and that even to the most brainiest of scientists can’t explain how they do it!

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem’, and these are the first animals found to do this.


The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed. […]

Co-author and Queen Mary colleague, Dr. Mathieu Lihoreau adds: “There is a common perception that smaller brains constrain animals to be simple reflex machines. But our work with bees shows advanced cognitive capacities with very limited neuron numbers. There is an urgent need to understand the neuronal hardware underpinning animal intelligence, and relatively simple nervous systems such as those of insects make this mystery more tractable.

So long as scientists only think of bees as individual insects, they will continue to miss the point.  Same for the planet really.  So long as governments continue to see us as individuals, they will also miss the point.  Time for more research into swarm intelligence and the subtle energies that allow colonies to survive and prosper.

Story from: http://technoccult.net/archives/2010/10/27/bees-can-solve-the-travelling-salesman-problem/

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A great programme from the BBC on Heater Bees broadcast this evening.

Unfortunately, you can’t watch the whole programme any more, but there are some clips here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rqgh4#clips

And this amazing photograph:

 

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In the ancient country of Orn, there lived an old man who was called the Bee-man, because his whole time was spent in the company of bees.  He lived in a small hut, which was nothing more than an immense bee-hive, for these little creatures had built their honeycombs in every corner of the one room it contained, on the shelves, under the little table, all about the rough bench on which the old man sat, and even about the head-board and along the sides of his low bed.
All day the air of the room was thick with buzzing insects, but this did not interfere in any way with the old Bee-man, who walked in among them, ate his meals, and went to sleep, without the slightest fear of being stung. He had lived with the bees so long, they had become so accustomed to him, and his skin was so tough and hard, that the bees no more thought of stinging him than they would of stinging a tree or a stone.
A swarm of bees had made their hive in a pocket of his old leathern doublet; and when he put on this coat to take one of his long walks in the forest in search of wild bees’ nests, he was very glad to have this hive with him, for, if he did not find any wild honey, he would put his hand in his pocket and take out a piece of a comb for a luncheon. The bees in his pocket worked very industriously, and he was always certain of having something to eat with him wherever he went.  He lived principally upon honey; and when he needed bread or meat, he carried some fine combs to a village not far away and bartered them for other food.
He was ugly, untidy, shrivelled, and brown. He was poor, and the bees seemed to be his only friends. But, for all that, he was happy and contented; he had all the honey he wanted, and his bees, whom he considered the best company in the world, were as friendly and sociable as they could be, and seemed to increase in number every day.

One day, there stopped at the hut of the Bee-man a Junior Sorcerer.  This young person, who was a student of magic, necromancy, and the kindred arts, was much interested in the Bee-man, whom he had frequently noticed in his wanderings, and he considered him an admirable subject for study. He had got a great deal of useful practice by endeavoring to find out, by the various rules and laws of sorcery, exactly why the old Bee-man did not happen to be something that he was not, and why he was what he happened to be. He had studied a long time at this matter, and had found out something.

“Do you know,” he said, when the Bee-man came out of his hut, “that you have been transformed?”
“What do you mean by that?” said the other, much surprised.
“You have surely heard of animals and human beings who have been magically transformed into different kinds of creatures?”
“Yes, I have heard of these things,” said the Bee-man; “but what have I been transformed from?”
“That is more than I know,” said the Junior Sorcerer. “But one thing is certain–you ought to be changed back. If you will find out what you have been transformed from, I will see that you are made all right again. Nothing would please me better than to attend to such a case.”
And, having a great many things to study and investigate, the Junior Sorcerer went his way.

This information greatly disturbed the mind of the Bee-man. If he had been changed from something else, he ought to be that other thing, whatever it was. He ran after the young man, and overtook him.
“If you know, kind sir,” he said, “that I have been transformed, you surely are able to tell me what it is that I was.”
“No,” said the Junior Sorcerer, “my studies have not proceeded far enough for that. When I become a senior I can tell you all about it. But, in the meantime, it will be well for you to try to discover for yourself your original form, and when you have done that, I will get some of the learned masters of my art to restore you to it. It will be easy enough to do that, but you could not expect them to take the time and trouble to find out what it was.”
And, with these words, he hurried away, and was soon lost to view.

Greatly disquieted, the Bee-man retraced his steps, and went to his hut. Never before had he heard any thing which had so troubled him.
“I wonder what I was transformed from?” he thought, seating himself on his rough bench. “Could it have been a giant, or a powerful prince, or some gorgeous being whom the magicians or the fairies wished to punish? It may be that I was a dog or a horse, or perhaps a fiery dragon or a horrid snake. I hope it was not one of these. But, whatever it was, every one has certainly a right to his original form, and I am resolved to find out mine. I will start early to-morrow morning, and I am sorry now that I have not more pockets to my old doublet, so that I might carry more bees and more honey for my journey.”

He spent the rest of the day in making a hive of twigs and straw, and, having transferred to this a number of honey-combs and a colony of bees which had just swarmed, he rose before sunrise the next day, and having put on his leathern doublet, and having bound his new hive to his back, he set forth on his quest; the bees who were to accompany him buzzing around him like a cloud.


As the Bee-man passed through the little village the people greatly wondered at his queer appearance, with the hive upon his back. “The Bee-man is going on a long expedition this time,” they said; but no one imagined the strange business on which he was bent.
About noon he sat down under a tree, near a beautiful meadow covered with blossoms, and ate a little honey. Then he untied his hive and stretched himself out on the grass to rest. As he gazed upon his bees hovering about him, some going out to the blossoms in the sunshine, and some returning laden with the sweet pollen, he said to himself, “They know just what they have to do, and they do it; but alas for me! I know not what I may have to do. And yet, whatever it may be, I am determined to do it. In some way or other I will find out what was my original form, and then I will have myself changed back to it.”
And now the thought came to him that perhaps his original form might have been something very disagreeable, or even horrid.
“But it does not matter,” he said sturdily. “Whatever I was that shall I be again. It is not right for any one to retain a form which does not properly belong to him. I have no doubt I shall discover my original form in the same way that I find the trees in which the wild bees hive. When I first catch sight of a bee-tree I am drawn towards it, I know not how. Something says to me: ‘That is what you are looking for.’ In the same way I believe that I shall find my original form. When I see it, I shall be drawn towards it. Something will say to me: ‘That is it.'”
When the Bee-man was rested he started off again, and in about an hour he entered a fair domain. Around him were beautiful lawns, grand trees, and lovely gardens; while at a little distance stood the stately palace of the Lord of the Domain. Richly dressed people were walking about or sitting in the shade of the trees and arbors; splendidly caparisoned horses were waiting for their riders; and everywhere were seen signs of opulence and gayety.
“I think,” said the Bee-man to himself, “that I should like to stop here for a time. If it should happen that I was originally like any of these happy creatures it would please me much.”  He untied his hive, and hid it behind some bushes, and taking off his old doublet, laid that beside it. It would not do to have his bees flying about him if he wished to go among the inhabitants of this fair domain.


For two days the Bee-man wandered about the palace and its grounds, avoiding notice as much as possible, but looking at every thing. He saw handsome men and lovely ladies; the finest horses, dogs, and cattle that were ever known; beautiful birds in cages, and fishes in crystal globes, and it seemed to him that the best of all living things were here collected.  At the close of the second day, the Bee-man said to himself: “There is one being here toward whom I feel very much drawn, and that is the Lord of the Domain. I cannot feel certain that I was once like him, but it would be a very fine thing if it were so; and it seems impossible for me to be drawn toward any other being in the domain when I look upon him, so handsome, rich, and powerful.  But I must observe him more closely, and feel more sure of the matter, before applying to the sorcerers to change me back into a lord of a fair domain.”

The next morning, the Bee-man saw the Lord of the Domain walking in his gardens. He slipped along the shady paths, and followed him so as to observe him closely, and find out if he were really drawn toward this noble and handsome being. The Lord of the Domain walked on for some time, not noticing that the Bee-man was behind him. But suddenly turning, he saw the little old man.
“What are you doing here, you vile beggar?” he cried; and he gave him a kick that sent him into some bushes that grew by the side of the path.  The Bee-man scrambled to his feet, and ran as fast as he could to the place where he had hidden his hive and his old doublet.
“If I am certain of any thing,” he thought, “it is that I was never a person who would kick a poor old man. I will leave this place. I was transformed from nothing that I see here.”
He now travelled for a day or two longer, and then he came to a great black mountain, near the bottom of which was an opening like the mouth of a cave.  This mountain he had heard was filled with caverns and under-ground passages, which were the abodes of dragons, evil spirits, horrid creatures of all kinds.  “Ah me!” said the Bee-man with a sigh, “I suppose I ought to visit this place.  If I am going to do this thing properly, I should look on all sides of the subject, and I may have been one of those horrid creatures myself.”

Thereupon he went to the mountain, and as he approached the opening of the passage which led into its inmost recesses he saw, sitting upon the ground, and leaning his back against a tree, a Languid Youth.
“Good-day,” said this individual when he saw the Bee-man. “Are you going inside?”
“Yes,” said the Bee-man, “that is what I intend to do.”
“Then,” said the Languid Youth, slowly rising to his feet, “I think I will go with you. I was told that if I went in there I should get my energies toned up, and they need it very much; but I did not feel equal to entering by myself, and I thought I would wait until some one came along. I am very glad to see you, and we will go in together.”
So the two went into the cave, and they had proceeded but a short distance when they met a very little creature, whom it was easy to recognize as a Very Imp. He was about two feet high, and resembled in color a freshly polished pair of boots. He was extremely lively and active, and came bounding toward them.
“What did you two people come here for?” he asked.
“I came,” said the Languid Youth, “to have my energies toned up.”
“You have come to the right place,” said the Very Imp. “We will tone you up. And what does that old Bee-man want?”
“He has been transformed from something, and wants to find out what it is. He thinks he may have been one of the things in here.”
“I should not wonder if that were so,” said the Very Imp, rolling his head on one side, and eying the Bee-man with a critical gaze.
“All right,” said the Very Imp; “he can go around, and pick out his previous existence. We have here all sorts of vile creepers, crawlers, hissers, and snorters. I suppose he thinks any thing will be better than a Bee-man.”
“It is not because I want to be better than I am,” said the Bee-man, “that I started out on this search. I have simply an honest desire to become what I originally was.”
“Oh! that is it, is it?” said the other. “There is an idiotic moon-calf here with a clam head, which must be just like what you used to be.”
“Nonsense,” said the Bee-man. “You have not the least idea what an honest purpose is. I shall go about, and see for myself.”
“Go ahead,” said the Very Imp, “and I will attend to  this fellow who wants to be toned up.” So saying he joined the Languid Youth.
“Look here,” said that individual, regarding him with interest, “do you black and shine yourself every morning?”
“No,” said the other, “it is water-proof varnish. You want to be invigorated, don’t you? Well, I will tell you a splendid way to begin. You see that Bee-man has put down his hive and his coat with the bees in it. Just wait till he gets out of sight, and then catch a lot of those bees, and squeeze them flat. If you spread them on a sticky rag, and make a plaster, and put it on the small of your back, it will invigorate you like every thing, especially if some of the bees are not quite dead.”
“Yes,” said the Languid Youth, looking at him with his mild eyes, “but if I had energy enough to catch a bee I would be satisfied.
Suppose you catch a lot for me.”
“The subject is changed,” said the Very Imp. “We are now about to visit the spacious chamber of the King of the Snap-dragons.”
“That is a flower,” said the Languid Youth.
“You will find him a gay old blossom,” said the other. “When he has chased you round his room, and has blown sparks at you, and has snorted and howled, and cracked his tail, and snapped his jaws like a pair of anvils, your energies will be toned up higher than ever before in your life.”
“No doubt of it,” said the Languid Youth; “but I think I will begin with something a little milder.”
“Well then,” said other, “there is a flat-tailed Demon of the Gorge in here. He is generally asleep, and, if you say so, you can slip into the farthest corner of his cave, and I’ll solder his tail to the opposite wall. Then he will rage and roar, but he can’t get at you, for he doesn’t reach all the way across his cave; I have measured him. It will tone you up wonderfully to sit there and watch him.”

“Very likely,” said the Languid Youth; “but I would rather stay outside and let you go up in the corner. The performance in that way will be more interesting to me.”
“You are dreadfully hard to please,” said the Very Imp. “I have offered them to you loose, and I have offered them fastened to a wall, and now the best thing I can do is to give you a chance at one of them that can’t move at all. It is the Ghastly Griffin and is enchanted. He can’t stir so much as the tip of his whiskers for a thousand years. You can go to his cave and examine him just as if he were stuffed, and then you can sit on his back and think how it would be if you should live to be a thousand years old, and he should wake up while you are sitting there. It would be easy to imagine a lot of horrible things he would do to you when you look at his open mouth with its awful fangs, his dreadful claws, and his horrible wings all covered with spikes.”
“I think that might suit me,” said the Languid Youth. “I would much rather imagine the exercises of these monsters than to see them really going on.”
“Come on, then,” said the Very Imp, and he led the way to the cave of the Ghastly Griffin.
The Bee-man went by himself through a great part of the mountain, and looked into many of its gloomy caves and recesses, recoiling in horror from most of the dreadful monsters who met his eyes. While he was wandering about, an awful roar was heard resounding through the passages of the mountain, and soon there came flapping along an enormous dragon, with body black as night, and wings and tail of fiery red. In his great fore-claws he bore a little baby.

“Horrible!” exclaimed the Bee-man. “He is taking that little creature to his cave to devour it.” He saw the dragon enter a cave not far away, and following looked in.  The dragon was crouched upon the ground with the little baby lying before him. It did not seem to be hurt, but was frightened and crying. The monster was looking upon it with delight, as if he intended to make a dainty meal of it as soon as his appetite should be a little stronger.
“It is too bad!” thought the Bee-man. “Somebody ought to do something.” And turning around, he ran away as fast as he could.

He ran through various passages until he came to the spot where he had left his bee-hive. Picking it up, he hurried back, carrying the hive in his two hands before him. When he reached the cave of the dragon, he looked in and saw the monster still crouched over the weeping child. Without a moment’s hesitation, the Bee-man rushed into the cave and threw his hive straight into the face of the dragon. The bees, enraged by the shock, rushed out in an angry crowd and immediately fell upon the head, mouth, eyes, and nose of the dragon.

The great monster, astounded by this sudden attack, and driven almost wild by the numberless stings of the bees, sprang back to the farthest portion of his cave, still followed by his relentless enemies, at whom he flapped wildly with his great wings and struck with his paws. While the dragon was thus engaged with the bees, the Bee-man rushed forward, and, seizing the child, he hurried away. He did not stop to pick up his doublet, but kept on until he reached the entrance of the caves. There he saw the Very Imp hopping along on one leg, and rubbing his back and shoulders with his hands, and stopped to inquire what was the matter, and what had become of the Languid Youth.

“He is no kind of a fellow,” said the Very Imp. “He disappointed me dreadfully. I took him up to the Ghastly Griffin, and told him the thing was enchanted, and that he might sit on its back and think about what it could do if it was awake; and when he came near it the wretched creature opened its eyes, and raised its head, and then you ought to have seen how mad that simpleton was. He made a dash at me and seized me by the ears; he kicked and beat me till I can scarcely move.”
“His energies must have been toned up a good deal,” said the Bee-man.
“Toned up! I should say so!” cried the other. “I raised a howl, and a Scissor-jawed Clipper came out of his hole, and got after him; but that lazy fool ran so fast that he could not be caught.”
The Bee-man now ran on and soon overtook the Languid Youth.
“You need not be in a hurry now,” said the latter, “for the rules of this institution don’t allow the creatures inside to come out of this opening, or to hang around it. If they did, they would frighten away visitors. They go in and out of holes in the upper part of the mountain.”
The two proceeded on their way.
“What are you going to do with that baby?” said the Languid Youth.
“I shall carry it along with me,” said the Bee-man, “as I go on with my search, and perhaps I may find its mother. If I do not, I shall give it to somebody in that little village yonder. Any thing would be better than leaving it to be devoured by that horrid dragon.”
“Let me carry it. I feel quite strong enough now to carry a baby.”
“Thank you,” said the Bee-man, “but I can take it myself. I like to carry something, and I have now neither my hive nor my doublet.”
“It is very well that you had to leave them behind,” said the Youth, “for the bees would have stung the baby.”
“My bees never sting babies,” said the other.
“They probably never had a chance,” remarked his companion.

They soon entered the village, and after walking a short distance the youth exclaimed: “Do you see that woman over there sitting at the door of her house? She has beautiful hair and she is tearing it all to pieces. She should not be allowed to do that.”
“No,” said the Bee-man. “Her friends should tie her hands.”
“Perhaps she is the mother of this child,” said the Youth, “and if you give it to her she will no longer think of tearing her hair.”
“But,” said the Bee-man, “you don’t really think this is her child?”
“Suppose you go over and see,” said the other.
The Bee-man hesitated a moment, and then he walked toward the woman.
Hearing him coming, she raised her head, and when she saw the child she rushed towards it, snatched it into her arms, and screaming with joy she covered it with kisses. Then with happy tears she begged to know the story of the rescue of her child, whom she never expected to see again; and she loaded the Bee-man with thanks and blessings. The friends and neighbors gathered around and there was great rejoicing.
The mother urged the Bee-man and the Youth to stay with her, and rest and refresh themselves, which they were glad to do as they were tired and hungry.
They remained at the cottage all night, and in the afternoon of the next day the Bee-man said to the Youth: “It may seem an odd thing to you, but never in all my life have I felt myself drawn towards any living being as I am drawn towards this baby. Therefore I believe that I have been transformed from a baby.”
“Good!” cried the Youth. “It is my opinion that you have hit the truth. And now would you like to be changed back to your original form?”
“Indeed I would!” said the Bee-man, “I have the strongest yearning to be what I originally was.”
The Youth, who had now lost every trace of languid feeling, took a great interest in the matter, and early the next morning started off to inform the Junior Sorcerer that the Bee-man had discovered what he had been transformed from, and desired to be changed back to it.  The Junior Sorcerer and his learned Masters were filled with enthusiasm when they heard this report, and they at once set out for the mother’s cottage. And there by magic arts the Bee-man was changed back into a baby. The mother was so grateful for what the Bee-man had done for her that she agreed to take charge of this baby, and to bring it up as her own.
“It will be a grand thing for him,” said the Junior Sorcerer, “and I am glad that I studied his case. He will now have a fresh start in life, and will have a chance to become something better than a miserable old man living in a wretched hut with no friends or companions but buzzing bees.”
The Junior Sorcerer and his Masters then returned to their homes, happy in the success of their great performance; and the Youth went back to his home anxious to begin a life of activity and energy.
Years and years afterward, when the Junior Sorcerer had become a Senior and was very old indeed, he passed through the country of Orn, and noticed a small hut about which swarms of bees were flying. He approached it, and looking in at the door he saw an old man in a leathern doublet, sitting at a table, eating honey. By his magic art he knew this was the baby which had been transformed from the Bee-man.
“Upon my word!” exclaimed the Sorcerer, “He has grown into the same thing again!”
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From: The Project Gutenberg EBook of:  “The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales” by Frank R. Stockton (1887)
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.
You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.net
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“Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing, my honey-making bees,
They left the musk, and the marigolds and the scented faint sweet-peas;
They gather’d in a darkening cloud, and sway’d, and rose to fly;
A blackness on the summer blue, they swept across the sky.
Gaunt and ghastly with gaping wounds—(my soldier son, alas)!
Footsore and faint, the messenger came halting through the grass.
The wind went by and shook the leaves—the mint-stalk shed its flower—
And I miss’d the murmuring round the hives, and my boding heart beat slower.

His soul we cheer’d with meat and wine;
With women’s craft and balsam fine
We bath’d his hurts, and bound them soft,
While west the wind played through the croft,
And the low sun dyed the pinks blood red,
And, straying near the mint-flower shed,
A wild bee wanton’d o’er the bed.”

From “The Bees of Myddelton Manor”, by May Probyn, found at http://bartelby.org/246/1002.html

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In the work that I do, I am often asked what is the difference between leaders and managers.  So here is an attempt to describe the difference:
Leaders lead people. In order to lead people they need vision of a possible future and a sense of purpose. And they need to convince others that this vision and purpose are something that are worth working towards. Leaders  have to master uncertainty and lead people when the future is uncertain and the outcomes are unclear. To that extent, leaders will need to fall back on their own values and beliefs and express (when questioned) what the future might look like.  They will often answer uncertainty with more uncertainty, but dress it up in a coat of confidence such that the followers believe in the body language and are less concerned about the ideas or words.
Managers manage work. The work might have other people doing the work or it might have machines doing the work. Enlightened managers should also be leaders. But when the people become machines without a purpose other than to turn up and do the work and get a wage – and when the managers become lazy and start bullying the workforce, then managers are on the rocky road to redundancy – working towards redundancy of the process they are managing and, ultimately, redundancy from the organisation they are working for.
Therefore, Leadership is normally described in a positive light – because it is easy to see when leaders are being effective and have enthusiastic followers. Quite simply, mis-leadership is not such an interesting idea, because the followers simply stop following and move on to follow something else!
However, we constantly struggle with the two poles of management – good management and mis-management – simply because our employment laws and the ways that companies create contracts often lock-in the bully-boy mentality to a process, system or business relationship that others will follow simply to earn a wage.
In beekeeping we have a term for a colony that is being well-managed (not just by the queen, but when the system is stable). It is when the colony is “queen-right”.  In other words, there is single laying queen in residence that gives off enough pheromones to keep the colony happy.  It is not simply that the queen is a good leader, but that the pheromones are strong and bind the colony. I often think human societies behave in the same way – except that our pheromones are words!
When the colony is not “queen-right”, there are no binding pheromones.  In such cases, the colony starts to become stressed.  If a queen does not appear from a queen cell in three or four weeks, it is likely that workers will start laying unfertilised eggs.  Although flying bees will continue to bring nectar and pollen into the hive, the hive will eventually die off because no new bees are being produced by the colony.  I have often found that a hive in this state also becomes aggressive – but not in every case.  So in this case there is no “leadership” in the sense that there are no binding pheromones from the queen – yet lots of day-to-day management of tasks that are instinctive behaviours by the individual bees.
Interested to know what others think about these ideas!

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“How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the Day
From ev’ry op’ning Flow’r!”
“How skillfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.”
“With these exclamatory and somewhat clumsy lines, Isaac Watts apotheosized the honey bee in his Divine Songs in 1720; and by making the lowly bee a noble exemplum for the dilatory to emulate, he was paying the ultimate tribute to the symbol of an age.  Startling as it seems, the bee, a mere insect, was consistently  glorified by that most sophisticated and urbane of cultures, Augustan England.  What the lark was to the Elizabethans, the rose to the Cavaliers, the nightingale to the Romantics, the bee was to the Queen Anne wits, detesters of the outdoors  almost to a man.  Swift, Addison, Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, Mandeville – all delighted in writing about the bee; and among them, with the aid of Dryden, Temple, Eustace Budgell and Goldsmith, they turned the honey bee into a virtual paradigm of Neo-Classicism.”
.
“This is not to say that the bee was a symbol peculiar to Restoration and XVIIIth-century men of letters.  In Euphues and His England (1580), John Lyly hit upon the happy phrase, “busie as a bee.”  Shakespeare used the bee to enforce his images of sweetness (Julius Caesar, V.1.34) and ubiquity (The Tempest, V.1.88). Sir John Suckling in “A Ballad upon a Wedding” emphasized the voluptuous quality of a lady’s mouth by saying it was as red and curved as if a bee had stung it; and John Cleveland constructed an elaborate metaphysical conceit in complimenting a lady as being sweet enough to delude a bee.  Milton, Marvell, and Coley made casual references to bees.  And in the XIXth and XXth centuries, poets have referred to contented bees in foxgloves, bees murmuring innumerably, bees unconcerned with pedigreed clover, and bees making glades loud on the Lake of Innisfree.”
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From “That Neo-Classical Bee” by James W. Johnson

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In his book “Sacred Geometry – Philosophy and Practice”, Robert Lawlor has an interesting picture on the connection between sacred geometry and the honey bee.  Lawlor draws attention to the ubiquitous relationship between One and the Square Root of Two (or 1:1.41421356…) and shows this in the diagram below:


Sacred Geometry and the Honey Bee - Mysteries of the Melissae

Excerpt from page 31 “Sacred Geometry – Philosophy and Practice”

Next to it he writes a rather elegant piece on the root:

“The Root of a Plant, like the mathematical root, is causative, the former being embedded in the earth, the latter embedded in the square. The visible growth of a plant , its proliferation into specificity, depends upon the root for stability and nutrition. The Plant root nourishes because it is able to break down ( divide) the fixed, dense mineral constituents of the soil.”

“In the vital sense the geometric root is an archetypal expression of the assimilative , generating, transformative function which is root. Like the vegetal root, the root of 2 contains the power of nature which destroys in order to progress ( it severs the initial square) and it also contains the power which instantaneously transforms 1 into 2 ..”

Further on in the book, Lawlor states that:

“The Fibonacci Series perfectly delineates the breeding pattern of rabbits, a symbol of fecundity, and the ration of males to females in honey bee hives”.

The Fibonacci Series is a mathematically beautifully elegant number that I came across when I was about 13.  I was so excited when I discovered it, that I thought I had created one of the most brilliant mathematical break-throughs of the twentieth century – only to find that Fibonacci had beaten me to it (and prior to that Indian Mathematicians) many centuries before!   The golden number (as it is often called) is denoted by the Greek letter phi and approximately equal to 1.61818….

If Lawlor is right, it  would mean that there would be many more drones in my hives than I see every year… the male to female ratio (drone to worker ratio) is not anything like 1:1.6… – there are far fewer drones than that – and many of them are probably itinerants from other colonies!  The proportion also changes through the year – as the drones are pushed out of the hive in the Autumn by the worker bees and there are none in the hive over winter (unless it is a queenless hive).  This is probably because the drones eat three times more than the worker bees!

So, as elegant as some of the theories are in this book, I feel that sometimes the myth is created to make the magic!  However, I am sure you will agree that there is much evidence on the other posts on this site that there is still considerable magic in studying the lore of the honeybee!

The book contains amazing insights and illustrations on the theme of sacred geometry.  You can see more if you take a look at the link below:

Originally found at: http://www.milliande.com/Mysteries-of-the-Melissae-Sacred-Geometry-and-the-Honey-Bee.html

See also: https://beelore.com/2008/01/20/the-melissae-and-aphrodite-in-ancient-greece/

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We think in this age of beekeeping as a small time pursuit for either the small business or for some form of esoteric pass-time. In the past bee-keeping was anything but that. As an industry in Eastern Europe it probably reached a climax around 1200-1400. The reason that Eastern Europe was probably much better at producing honey than the west was simply that it had larger relatively undisturbed forests…. Or at least the forests had a smaller head of both human and domesticated animal population. Large quantities of grazing will eventually produce grass, whereas a smaller quantity of grazing will induce flowering ground cover and ideal areas for bees.

Couldn't find a picture of a Bee Tree from Russia!

The Germans in classical times used to venerate their beekeepers (this reference I can not find) and they achieved a priest like significance within their tribes. I could never quite get my head around this until I understood the economic significance of honey as well. Most of the following comes from Studies in Historical Geography (1983 Volume 1 (Academic Press) edited by Bater and French). The particular essay is Russians and the Forest by R.A. French p23-44.

French talks of the vast quantities of berries that could be picked by the peasants of Russia with productive areas producing up to 100kg/hectare of berries (bilberries and cowberries) per year as well as up to half a ton of mushrooms etc. However the honey was the most impressive with one village in 1599, Oreshenko in Belorussia having 1044 “bee-trees” listed in their records. 94 were oak and 950 were pine. 99 swarms were counted with an occupancy of roughly 10:1. In other parts the occupancy got as high as 6:1.

Bees made it into the Russian law books in the 12th century when the law codes, Russaya Pravda, were produced. In 1529 Lithuanian statutes also laid don laws against bee-tree destruction, determining that you could not go too close when ploughing or damage the tree by fire. In economic terms bees provided the most valuable forest resource and was one of the key drivers to eventual Russian expansion into Siberia.

Just how important was this industry? It was a major trading commodity in both Russia and Lithuania. As an example one nobleman, one Prince Suyatoslav of Kiev, had a honey store, in 1146, that totalled 500 berkovtsy, or 80 tonnes. At some times peasants were supposed to give half their honey takings to the crown in Russia, so honey became the business of everyone from peasant to csar.

In some areas peasants were employed to look after the crown’s bee-trees, and even in making new ones. (This was done by hacking out appropriate hollows in the trees.) The volume of honey produced was one thing but also beeswax was bought and sold as well. In the sixteenth century Customs Rolls of boats going down the river Neman to Konigsberg 600tonnes of beeswax was recorded as having passed by in just 6 weeks. Even in the 18th century the trade continued with the expansion towards the south and east and prime honey lands were moving east and south with the expansion. At that time the Province of Voronezh was exporting 900tonnes of honey per year. It was thus not really difficult to see why both the peasant and the aristocracy were interested in bees.

With the expansion of Russia in the 16th to 20th centuries one finds the forest quality of the interior diminishing and thus the bee-farming being pushed more often than not towards the frontiers. Here the “natural” (I am not a fan of this word as it implies no human interference, which is rubbish) forest was less disturbed and the berries still proliferated and thus was the perfect bee place. The more livestock the less bees I am assuming.

(Kindly posted by Archie on this site.)

Picture from: http://www.beesfordevelopment.org/info/proceedings_HTW1/thailand_international_honey_trade_status.htm

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Honeybees have been “voting” in single winner “elections” for 20-50 million years.  They’ve held far more elections than humans, for a lot longer, and to decide something that mattered to each bee voter a lot more than most election winners matter to most human voters: where should we locate our new nest?

Each spring, about half the inhabitants of each beehive leave with their queen to start a new hive –  in a swarm usually containing between 2000 and 20000 bees.  The most important decision they need to make is: where to build that new hive? They usually find about 20 different options within about 100 square kilometers, and about 90% of the time, the bee swarm succeeds in selecting (what appears to entomologists to be) the best one. Occasionally, however, they select a sub-optimal choice or even fail to reach a decision. The latter is very bad since there is only one queen – who cannot be divided in two!

Details: Lindauer in observing 19 swarms reported 2 that failed to reach a decision. In the first, the swarm split in two, each trying to get the queen to go to its choice; but after it became clear this attempt failed, the swarm rejoined and recommenced negotiations, which after two more days resulted in an agreement. In the second instance, the swarm had still failed to find an attractive housing option even after 14 days, at which point it ran out of stored food and inclement weather approached. It then, apparently as a fallback option, decided to construct the new nest in open air right then and there, contrary to the usual policy of nesting in natural hollows. Open air nesting usually leads to the death of the hive in the winter, but in this location the winters were mild enough to make survival probable.


So bees, while not perfect decision makers, are quite good. To provide a little perspective, consider the “plurality voting method” that is the most commonly used system in human single-winner elections.

Computer simulations  show that 1283 plurality-voters, given 10 choices, will succeed in choosing the best choice 32% of the time. While 32% is better than just making a random guess (10%), it is a far worse performance than bees.  If the simulated-humans instead employ “approval voting” (approving choices with value greater than midway between the best and worst available) then they get the best choice 54% of the time – better, but still far worse than bees. If the humans use 0-100 “range voting” (scoring the best choice 100, the worst 0, and the rest linearly interpolated) then it’s 79%. That is at least approaching bee-like decision-making quality.

As the internet allows us to do more sophisticated voting for many ranges of issues, surely there is still yet more we can learn from the bees to make better decisions for the planet!  I wonder how one can get these ideas over to politicians, though, who will often have self-interest higher on their agenda than good decision-making.

More at: http://rangevoting.org/ApisMellifera.html

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Whenever I visit my hives I come away feeling much calmer.  Non-beekeepers are often amazed when I say this.  They assume that I would become more stressed with the “threat of the sting”.

But the inverse is true.  After my seasonal dosage of stings which occur naturally when beekeeping, any stings after them become little more than a pin-prick.  This was true even at the height of the stinging season last July when I had two very buzzy hives and (rather stupidly) opened both up the same afternoon at the end of an inspection.  They managed to sting me through my suit at least 20 or so times!  The effects were that, overall, I felt better, not worse!

No, the threat of the sting is not a problem.  But the calming effect is intriguing.  And I have a feeling that, apart from a sort of bee-sting-therapy, it is the actual vibrations that the bees give off that helps to create this overall calming effect.  I have discussed this idea with other beekeepers – and none has yet disagreed.

This is definitely one of the areas that has to do with “beetwixt and between” – especially for those of you interested in the non-physical aspects of  bees and beekeeping.  Yet the research seems to be fairly scant.  Or maybe I simply have not yet come across it?!

So, to celebrate the coming of the new year, I intend to write a number of casual posts on the theme of Bee Vibrations.

Hope you enjoy and keep buzzing good vibrations for the rest of the year!

Photo from: http://www.ace-clipart.com/

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