The bee: why this insect is so special
Text: Sarah Domogala
Contributor: Francis van Schaik
You can see the bee as an insect or a pollinator, but if you delve a little into the bee, you can also see it as an intelligent being in close contact with the cosmos. It is not for nothing that ancient cultures accorded her a sacred status.
The bee: a special insect
The honeybee never tarries. She buzzes and rolls through flowers and drinks sweet nectar, sometimes from hundreds of flowers a day. It is already 200 million years old and has changed little in all that time. The bee probably originated at the same time as the first flowers. These primordial flowers started out modestly, but became more and more beautiful in appearance and smell, with more nectar and pollen, making them more attractive to insects such as bees. Pollen sticks well in their hairy fur and so began the magical game of pollination that we know to this day and which allowed many new types of fruits to arise on earth. As a by-product of all that loving wealth, the honeybee creates honey, which we can eat and use as medicine.
Bees are not only deeply intertwined with life on earth, but also with us humans. They give us honey, fruits, vegetables and nuts that we like to eat, and they live and work together, just like us. They even dance together, just like us. The sleuth bees fly out in spring and summer in search of food sources. When they find it, they return to their colony to tell the bees where to find the food. They do this by performing a dance that shows in detail how far the flight is to the food source – one second of vibration equals a hundred meters of flying – and whether it is in the direction of the sun or the opposite. In this way, the dance accurately points the way to other bees. It is reminiscent of the ritual dances we know from indigenous peoples, in which stories are acted out to bystanders.
Honeybees have lived among humans for a very long time. The ancient Egyptians already kept bees in elongated clay combs that together formed a buzzing wall full of honey. The bees were held in high esteem, for the Egyptians believed that bees came directly from the tears of the sun god Ra and were therefore of divine descent. Honey was also sacred to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and there were many myths and stories in which bees were endowed with human intelligence and divine powers. It was said that a bee colony has its own energetic field that is made up of vibration from which the bees can ‘tap’. This ensures that they can recharge again and again and that harmony reigns in the hive and it requires less effort to keep the temperature and vitality of the colony high.
Reverence for beekeepers
For thousands of years, bees have been praised for their healing qualities and connection to the divine, and an atmosphere of reverence, mystery and unapproachability enveloped both the honeybee and the beekeeper. For example, Napoleon used the symbolism of the bee to show his power; he had his cloak embroidered with hundreds of bees of gold thread.
After the discovery of America, the bee began to lose its sacred status when sugar cane, and later sugar beet, could be grown cheaply to extract sugar. Honey was no longer so important. These days, bees are downright struggling. A bee colony needs biodiversity to be able to feed properly, and bees are starving because of the large fields of monoculture in our country. A field full of blossoms or corn sprayed with insecticides produces one-sided and even poisonous food. More and more worker bees do not return to their colony, so that the entire colony eventually dies.
In the Chinese province of Sichuan you can already look a little into the future: here all bees and pollinators have virtually died out due to long-term use of insecticides. The apple trees are now pollinated by hand by people, they climb trees and pollinate each blossom with a special brush. It paints a sad picture. “No other living creature on earth can feel so lonely and lost as man,” philosopher Rudolf Steiner once wrote in a lecture on the honeybee. According to him, bees teach us the lesson of deep connection. A bee colony is an organism: all bees are independent, but serve a common, higher purpose. Each bee colony has its own collective soul, which is equivalent to the individual soul of man. For example, a bee colony has a higher consciousness that is active in the cosmos, just like us, says Steiner. “The bees show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They exemplify unselfish love powers manifested in soul warmth and wisdom which the bees transform into zealous acts for the good of the whole.”
Francis van Schaik is a coach of young people and also a student of human relations with nature. She is a regular contributor to our online magazine.