The Busy Bee

In any given beehive, there are thousands of worker bees. Thousands, responsible for the magnificent maintenance and well being of the hive. The worker bees are assigned vocations according to their age and place in the colony. With time, comes experience and more responsibility. Deep in the safety of the hive young ‘nurser’ bees are busy feeding the larvae a diet of royal jelly, and caring for the intricately structured cells of the hive.

The Sanctuary at St. John's Abbey. Collegeville, MN

The Sanctuary at St. John's Abbey. Collegeville, MN

The builder bees construct each wax cell, meticulously. The hexagons are God’s perfect architecture, with short sides created by transforming preciously produced honey into beeswax at a rate of 8:1.  There is never a drop to waste. The broad honeycombed cells gain strength as they are compressed tightly together, and each nook cradles larvae, honey, or a resting bee. Janitor bees constantly ensure the lattice dwelling is neat and tidy, while protector bees do their part keeping an eye on things.

Because the jobs of these younger worker bees do not depend on daylight, they are up and down all the time. Throughout the seamless days and nights, bees can be found napping within the warmth of the inner cells for short periods of time.  Sleep will come, but for now they get the job done with laser efficiency and purpose. It’s good to be useful when you are a worker bee.

To be clear, the hive houses only a few hundred male drone bees. The rest are female. Lazing around the hive, the drones have one job, and one job alone. In due time they are summoned by the Queen for a nuptial flight of kamikaze-kama-sutra. If he displays enough skill to land the Queen bee, the force of this magic moment causes an explosion SO powerful the poor drone falls to his death whilst leaving a special part of himself still in the Queen Bee. Tragic? Yes, but probably not a bad way to go. Alas, another story for another blog.

Outside view of the sanctuary at Collegeville. 

Outside view of the sanctuary at Collegeville. 

When a young female worker bee matures and its time to take flight, she thanks God to have been given the room to fly. She is ready. A busy bee (as one might say), she has been working extremely hard within the safe walls of her hive and now the possibilities literally open up before her eyes. Spring daffodils, make way for marigolds and the blooms of southern azalea all within in span of only a few weeks. Where does one begin? 

Certainly the hive could use what she has to offer. Without gatherers, without honeybees who are willing to fly far and wide to forge pollen or to scout the landscape for new hive locations, the entire hive would surely come down. Plus, its just so tempting; zinnia, roses, lilies and jasmine.

She loves her job more than life itself. Which is a good thing, because if she uses her stinger even once, she’s dead. While flight is risky and bold, her’s is a vocation of connecting, sharing, growing, and nourishing. She reminds herself each morning that not only do her fellow bees depend on her,  but the flowers need her too.

Older bees had warned her, forging could be exhausting. Forger bees might nap within the bud of a flower, but its typically not safe. Instead, each finds rest in a cell on the outer edges of the hive as the sunsets, and sleeps deeply until dawn. This sounded nice to the bee. Since becoming a flyer, she had still been helping the nurses and cleaners. She worries about the larvae sometimes, and honestly she wasn’t so sure about those younger bees. The other night she found herself reconstructing a few cells, as a simple distraction from all that keeps her up at night.  There has been an ongoing battle with the drones, as she and a few other honeybees fight for equal hive space on behalf of bees everywhere. Lately, she struggles to wind down, and the idea of a rest seems like a luxury more than a forgone conclusion.

Often a forger bee dances, ‘a waggle dance’ for her colleagues. Yes, a waggle. With speed and direction, she shares location details of pollen and other resources according to the hive's location in relationship to the sun. But lately her dancing had suffered. By the time she landed each afternoon, she could barely think. Forgetting where she had been and why she had gone there in the first place, the flowers were nothing more than a blur. With erratic dancing and incoherent directions, her communication skills were in deep decline. She knew she needed a break.

With the support of her hive the bee flew to a favorite field, turned her antennae off, and curled up in the most beautiful bloom she could find. It felt safe. Day and night she was still, until one morning she began to hear the leaves on her stem bending low to the ground with the push of a breeze. The bounce of the flower lulled the bee into a calmness she had longed for, deep in her soul.

Eventually the loud buzzing of another bee zipping by interrupted this listening prayer. Her wings were so tired. When a bee flies, the speed of her flapping wings against the wind creates quite an alarming noise.  Frankly, she was tired of hearing herself buzz. The cradle dipped slowly with the bellowing stem. DOWN, two, three, UP, two, three… the sun bounced off the red petals of the tulip she hid within.  DOWN with the wind… UP, two, three… the bee closed her eyes as she slowly came to terms with how disengaged she had become from the One who created her in the first place. The bee felt ashamed and humbled. She felt gratitude and joy. The bee listened and prayed.