Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sisterhood of the Waggling Hammer-Pants

Astute observers who live in the Northeast will have undoubtedly noticed that June, that famously splendid month filled with beautiful blossoms, BBQs, and bikinis, has been a real Betty Bummer this year. As I consume my own version of "bee tea" and wax melancholy about the rain, I cannot help but worry about my flying friends.

When it rains, honeybees seek cover, just like us. Some of them stay home on "lookout duty" (see above,) while others are hard at work cleaning comb, nursing brood, and tending to the queen. The young'uns (0-10 days old) usually perform these duties. The teenagers(10-20 days old) have more complicated chores like storing nectar brought by foragers, building comb, and making sure that the brood chamber stays properly heated and ventilated. The adult honeybee (20-30 days old and aka "The Fearless Forager,") is most likely to display behavior akin to that of the adult human, dipping under leaf coverings and bar awnings, respectively, to take a "time out" until the rain passes.

At times, it rains for so long that honeybees, like humans, spend more time in their temporary shelters than they had originally anticipated. This proves costly for the honeybees, as each moment spent waiting out the storm means less honey for the colony, and come winter, they could starve. Similarly, each moment an adult human spends waiting out the storm means less money for the landlord, and come winter, they could starve. (Analogies, like plants, require sunlight to grow. Perhaps the reader would prefer a more explicit yet formal induction? Human: Money::Bee: Honey)

The Fearless Foragers wait patiently for gravity to ease up on the raindrops, then scramble to collect as much nectar as possible before the next downpour. Fearless Foragers constantly gather information about flower patches, rain or shine. Dodging fat raindrops, they'll return to their hives with samples of nectar for their friends to try. If the nectar tantalizes their tiny taste buds, they'll pay attention to said Fearless Forager, who will most certainly be performing an intricate dance at that very moment.

Honeybees can fly up to 3 miles to find a sublime patch of honeysuckle or the like, so succulent nectar sources require in-depth directions. The Fearless Forager will perform a "waggle dance," (known in some circles as a "figure-8 dance,) on the dance floor located immediately inside the hive entrance, in front of an eager audience.

For those of you who are kinesthetic learners, follow these steps:
1. wiggle while advancing slowly ahead
2. turn to the left, full circle
3. repeat step 1
4. turn to the right, full circle
5. repeat steps 1-4

The dance conveys a boatload of info:
-the more vigorously a honeybee waggles, the better quality the nectar source. (Whatever naturally blooms at any given time of the year is simultaneously the honeybee's number one choice.)
-one full waggle (steps 1-4) is equal to a certain number of feet, and a bee usually waggles between 1 and 100 times! We humans use units of measurements like yards and miles and funlongs... honeybees use waggles.
-the honeybee angles her body during the dance to precisely triangulate the nectar source using the sun's position at the given moment. Imagine a gigantic protractor drawing straight lines from the sun to the flowers-in-question to the bee's tiny dancing shoes. Now that's some kind of delightful math that I never learned in school!

Honeybees are most concerned with sharing. A honeybee will provide her friends with samples of found riches, assess the quality of the riches and opine her conclusions, then provide detailed directions to the source of the riches. Charmingly, all this is expressed in a sassy little dance!

The honeybee's survival depends on other honeybees. She cannot exist alone; without her sisters, she becomes wholly obsolete. Btw, I'm not just tossing around these feminine personal pronouns to mix up the status quo, I'm saying that the honeybee colony is 85% female, and all the males do are laze around, bang the queen, and die. They can't even sting. They live off the labor of their busy sisters and fulfill their singular purpose efficiently. Just sayin. Let the ladies lovingly labor at leisure, and lovely things will likely happen.

The rain's ghost infests the air completely. If I were a cow, I'd be lying down with my girls. If I were a bee, I'd be a senior citizen. But I'd be a brave forager. And even I, brave, senior honeybee that I'd be, would stay inside tonight.


  1. AnonymousJune 18, 2009

    I resent the belittling of the drone. ma nature divides labor in strange and seemingly disproportionate ways in all sexual creatures.
    My heart goes out to the drone. black sheep, rendered retarded by his sex drive. unable to even comprehend the dance... the pants...
    all those flowers.
    I, for one, am empathetic to the drones burden. Born minority.

  2. sounds like someone found their spirit animal!