Wisdom of the Hive

Bees on Honeycomb

Everyone should observe bees to discover their wisdom. These successful insects are truly amazing. One might ask ‘What is the secret to making honey?’ Of course, hard work is involved. I have never heard anyone accuse a bee of being lazy. In fact, we commonly describe an active individual as ‘busy as a bee’. Yet, hard work is not enough.

Dedication: Bees are absolutely dedicated to the goals of the hive. They never wander from their path. They perform tasks as diligently as possible, with as much effort that is needed. They live in the here and now; they focus on each individual task without distraction.

Communication: Bees do not have committee meetings (lucky them), but, believe it or not, they do communicate with one another very effectively! This has been called by some the dance of the bees. Through styled, choreographed movements, bees are able to share information about the location of flowers which contain the raw resources they need to thrive: nectar and pollen. Each hive thrives on high-quality data.

Cooperation: A bee hive is a highly organized society where all the members work together for a single, unified purpose. Like the cells in your body, all operating together for greater good of the organism, the individual bees have a highly evolved since of cooperation. In fact, the needs of the individual, such as reproduction, have vanished for the good of the colony. Their unique evolutionary history and a special haplo-diploid genetic system makes this hyper-altruism possible and very stable where individuals even put aside their ability to reproduce for the success of the hive. ***

Obviously, people are not bees. There are many differences between our species. We do not strive single-mindedly to make honey, but seek to achieve a wide variety of goals. Nevertheless, I believe the wisdom of the hive is applicable in our daily lives: hard work, when combined with supreme dedication, effective communication, and intense cooperation, are keys to success, the secret to making ‘honey’.

*** For more information on ‘how’ this work, see these two seminal papers by William Hamilton on inclusive fitness:

Hamilton W. D. 1964a. The genetical evolution of social behaviour I; J. Theor. Biol. 7:1–16.
Hamilton W. D. 1964b. The genetical evolution of social behaviour II; J. Theor. Biol. 7: 17–52.