A honey bee colony is composed of thousands of individual bees. Almost all of these bees are female workers. The workers spend their whole life working on behalf of the colony. Newly hatched workers take care of the inside of the colony, cleaning out honey cells, taking care of the young, and tending to the queen bee. As these workers get older, they begin flying out to gather nectar (which they use to make honey) and pollen (which is used to raise young bees).
Like all good little communist workers, the worker bees continue to work until they literally burn out. During the year, a worker bee lifespan is about 42 days. Some workers will get eaten by a variety of animals or other insects, while others fall victim to pesticides or bad weather. If she manages to survive all of these dangers, an old worker bee that can no longer contribute to the hive faces a dilemma. If she tries to retire to work a less intensive job, her sisters will pull her out of the hive and throw her off the landing board. Most spent workers instead commit a sort of bee-suicide, simply flying away and dying alone.
Life for the male bees, called drones, is not much better. Drones are larger and have better eyesight, but gather no nectar or pollen. Instead, they simply eat off the stores that their sisters build up. Drones fly out during the day looking for a virgin queen to mate with. If they succeed in this endeavor they die, as certain…body parts…break off during copulation. If drones don’t mate by the end of the year, before the onset of winter, the other worker bees will throw them off the landing board and keep them out of the hive, since they aren’t needed for the winter and take up space. I imagine this is a sort of “This is SPARTA!” moment for the worker bees, freeing themselves of the loafers that sat around guzzling their gathered honey all year.
Even the queen, who can live up to five years, doesn’t live the glorious lifestyle we would associate with her title. She lays anywhere between 800 to 3,000 eggs a day in the hive, allowing the hive to grow and stay strong. But as a queen ages and struggles to maintain this level of activity, the hive will begin building a queen cell, where it will raise a new queen. Once that new queen returns after mating, the honey bees will ball up around the old queen and smother her to death.
Honey bee society almost perfectly mirrors communism. No bee owns anything. The honey cells are open to all bees. Everyone does their job for the good of the hive. This model can be amazingly productive. Some honeybee hives can produce over a hundred pounds of honey in a year. Considering that a gallon of honey takes around 55,000 “bee miles” of flight to produce, the bees certainly prove that a communist society can produce good results when everyone is dedicated to the cause.
But bees also show the dark side of communism. Once a bee is no longer useful to the hive, its cast out to die without thought or mercy. Whether it is workers that are used up, drones that never mated with a virgin queen, or a queen that can’t lay enough eggs, the hive is fast to discard any bee deemed no longer useful. There is no bee retirement. Heck, bees can’t even live alone, as experiments have shown they die if not in the hive despite having plenty of food and water.
Honey bees give us a glimpse into what communist perfection looks like, a world that can be both amazingly productive and savagely dehumanizing at the same time. While not everything translates from bee to man, the similarities do exist. I wonder if bees were placed on this earth by God to teach lessons about ourselves. Wisdom is often described as learning from the mistakes and successes of others. Perhaps we would be wise to learn from the honey bee before attempting to model our society after a hive.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, consider purchasing a book from the author or donating to Da Tech Guy.