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A Busy Little Bee
Honeybees are social, busy, little creatures. A day in the life encompasses: foraging for scarce sources of pollen; humming and dancing hellos to other worker bees; caring for larvae; brewing royal jelly; defending the hive from aliens; and concocting sweet, golden treasure. They live in a complex society revolving around the overall well being of the hive. They collect pollen to feed the colony, defend each other, and die for each other. They are hierarchically organized to operate as a single cohesive unit carrying out a role they were born into, nature’s own pristine example of dharma.
Is this surprising considering they are mere insects smaller than a human thumb?
I have always wondered if there are ever any rogue bees born into this society that want nothing more than to forsake foraging or to instigate utter anarchy. I thought I was an exception to nature’s rule; I considered myself a rogue bee in the large and esteemed colony of high school.
I emerged from my elementary, hexagonal cocoon and, instinctually, began crawling out of the nursery. Entering my next stage of development—the hive—for the first time was quite overwhelming.
Faint walls of honeycomb, covered with agglomerating bees pulsed in the distance. Claustrophobia, however, did not set in. How could it when my eyes frantically searched for the beginning of the ceiling? Everywhere I looked thousands of worker bees flitted about engrossed in an assortment of activities: volleyball, football, theatre, speech and debate, basketball, choir, DECA, band, book club, swimming, cross-country, soccer, etc. They zoomed around me, blurring my vision with colors of yellow and black, as they fraternized amiably with their associate worker bee, drone, soldier, and queen network. I realized all the buzzing amounted to an overwhelming, humming crescendo. I did not even need my ears; the varying vibrations of the interworking of such an institution I picked up on with my legs, arms, and feelers. Dizzy, dazed, and disoriented, I attempted to insert myself into this methodical structure. I tried to find my niche in my new community.
The volleyball members ignored my arrival, interest, and passion for the sport. The Invisible Children club did not involve its members much because of the disorganized and shy officers. Knowledge Masters contained bees whose brains moved as fast as my hovering wings, too lightning fast for me. The speech and debate bunch caught my attention though. I liked performing and acting; according to the speech kids I boasted some talent too. After so much fumbling through the hive I was glad to discover a safe haven to rest my bruised arms and legs. I began interacting, for the first time, with other bees, which broke the newborn, awkward barrier. My incessant, nagging hunger for acceptance started to finally dilute as I reaped the nectar of competition and associate interaction.
My stay with the speech kids was brief though. Tension mounted and the soothing humming I became used to transformed into an aggressive, ear jarring threat. So, I retired my acting career to continue my dismal pursuit of acceptance. I flew off disheartened, alone, and unwanted. I flew to what I approximated to be the middle of the hive and levitated there, contemplating life.
My depression gave birth to anger. The anger stemmed from my frustration with the rigid infrastructure of the hive and how foreign I felt. I wanted to fly away and take my chances of being accepted into another beehive. However, at the same time I wanted to instigate chaos and disorder just to see how my anal-retentive workers would handle the situation. I wanted to be a rebel, an anarchist within this bee community.
I wanted the furry inside my little body to keep building; however, I could not hover in the air forever. The school bell rang and I returned back to the hive floor ready for these agitated emotions to momentarily be forgotten in the distraction that classes and knowledge absorption momentarily create.
I discovered something though in this distraction, something that reminded me how I was part of nature’s hierarchy and not some special, miscreant case.
My chemistry class required me to engineer, design, and test a scientific question of my choice to compete in the high school district and state division of science fair. So, my sophomore year I tested the effects of carbon dioxide and bacterial enrichment on tomato plants. As arduous as the process was, I fell in love with it. As a result, during the final two years in the hive I took a specific course designated to pure scientific inquiry. This class allowed me to meet not only fellow lab bees that boasted the same passion as I did, but provided me the opportunity to—in my own way—better society. Instead of destroying the world the bees work so hard on to maintain homeostasis, I discovered what part I played to better it. I found my niche, my role in the hive—scientific competition. I felt at home, satisfied, content.
I worked my way up the bee hierarchical structure. I started out nursing larvae and eventually started foraging for nectar and pollen. I yielded the ultimate reward my senior year though, as much as I loved sniffing the wildflowers and buzzing around the aired desert.
My senior year I carried out my research on honeybees. Honeybees, for the past two decades, have been suffering from a plight of colony collapse disorder. Although there is no known cause of this disorder, one primary theory blames the honeybees’ inability to ward off the varroa mite parasite. I tested to see whether spinach acid, which is an organic, chemical treatment applied to kill these tick-like parasites, detrimentally affects the short-term lifespan of honeybees. My curiosity into the lives of bees landed me at the Arizona State University bee lab with over three thousand bees. Three days a week I fed, cleaned, counted, and recorded the number of dead bees in the pursuit of scientific truth.
I learned this chemical does not detrimentally affect the short-term lifespan of honeybees, therefore, offering beekeepers an alternative pesticide treatment.
I won first place in my category at the state science fair and an opportunity to represent the United States in the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering fair. The ultimate, sweet reward.
It finally felt good to become an integrated part of the hive: working together, breathing together, humming together, scurrying together, and contributing to society together. I went from an alone, strange, invisible bee to a prominent and consequential member of the hive who loved science. Solving the bees’ problems became my specialty, my vocation. However, I possessed no idea just how much the real and allegorical bees would help solve my problems too.