Here are some examples of lessons we could learn from bees: by Phil Chandler
Honeybees live within their means. There are no loans or credit cards in the bees' world; only the resources they themselves gather and store. Their ‘bank’ is their store of food, gathered when conditions permit and stored for the times when foraging is not possible. Like us, bees need to eat every day, and they do everything in their power to ensure a constant food supply by storing it – not so much for themselves, but for bees yet to be born.
Honeybees achieve extraordinary things by working together. Fifty thousand workers can shift a lot of stuff. Co-operation is the key to their success: tens of thousands of individuals behaving as a single organism.
Honeybees demonstrate that division of labour can be highly efficient. And everyone knowing how to do the full range of essential jobs makes for flexibility and adaptability. Bees move through a series of jobs in the hive before finally emerging as food-gatherers. In an emergency, they can revert to their former occupations to make up for losses.
Honeybees make honey while the sun shines. Bees are opportunists, taking advantage of available food as soon as conditions are right. Even when their stores seem full, they will find odd corners to pack with food.
Honeybees behave as though individuals matter, while the common good is always their first priority. Ego is not a feature of honeybees: their first duty is to their family and bees will sacrifice themselves without hesitation if they perceive a threat to the colony.
Honeybees understand that hard times happen, and they are always prepared for short-term interruptions of supply as well as the more predictable seasonal shortages.
Honeybees share: they know there is plenty of food out there for everyone, including other bees and other pollinating insects. Honeybees do not compete head-on with other species: there is overlap in their food sources, but they do not need to drive others from their territory.
Honeybees adapt to their surroundings. This extends even to their use of propolis, which varies according to local conditions, and can protect them against localized pathogens.
Honeybees behave as if they understand that honest communication is at the heart of community. Bees are highly effective communicators, using vibrations and pheromones to pass complex messages around their colony. As far as we know, they are incapable of telling anything but the truth as they understand it.
Honeybees' survival depends on selecting high quality, untainted food from a variety of sources. Because we have assumed control of much of their territory for our own purposes, we are responsible for ensuring that they continue to have access to flowers untainted by toxic chemicals, against which they have no defence.
For almost all of the last 80 million years or so, bees have had flowering plants to themselves. Only in the last 100 years has their natural diet been contaminated with substances they can never before have encountered: man-made chemicals designed to poison them and their kind, some of them cunningly incorporated into the very bodies of the plants they feed on. More and more of these toxins are being spread on crops and on the soil, and the bees have no chance of surviving their onslaught.
If we care about the survival of the honeybee, we must reform our farming and food production methods. The alternative is a world dominated by a handful of powerful corporations, intent on bringing the food chain completely under their control.