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Archive for February 22nd, 2012
Marvelous. But creepy. Fascinating. But creepy.
Deeply, deeply creepy.
I’ve heard my entire life about how bees have a hive mentality, but I don’t think I really understood that phrase until last night’s beekeeping class. I’ve heard about hives having their own immune system, capable of clearing out dead or diseased bees, not allowing sick or invading bees to come into the hive. Last night I learned that a hive also has a stomach and a brain. Just one. Individual bees don’t go out and get a bite to eat or get a drink of water. Workers go, they get the food and water, and bring it back where it’s shared completely by the members of the community. A hive will share its food down to the last iota, and only then will it die of starvation as a whole. The hive workers will decide, as a whole, when it’s time to forage, when it’s time to kick out the drones, and when it’s time to create a new queen.
The political analogies would make Thomas Payne proud. Or, perhaps, Karl Marx. The true power in a hive rests with the workers, not with the queen. It’s such a poor name for her, she has no control over the population of the hive, she just lays eggs. With the hive as an organism, she’s just the naughty bits, the pure biological imperative drive. When the hive determines that she is no longer capable of being an effective queen, they start rearing a new one. The workers control the creation of a next queen. I’m not sure if it’s the communist uprising that lead to the USSR, or the French Revolution. The workers demand new leadership, and they end up with a new queen, but of their choosing.
In the end, the queen has nothing to do with reproduction. No more so than the cell division in your body has anything to do with reproduction. The bees are not the organism, the hive is the organism. It reproduces, but does so through the swarming process, not the egg laying process. Within the human organism, internal reproduction (cell division) is asexual, external reproduction (baby makin’) is sexual. With bees, it’s the opposite. Sexual reproduction within the organism, asexual reproduction to make additional organisms.
It makes me see everything that was wrong with my hive-of-humans story I wrote a few years ago and never found a home for. I’ll probably end up doing a complete ground up rewrite of the whole thing, once I’ve taken a few more classes about bees.
Creepy, creepy bees.