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Bees at work (IV): The life of the bees at the hive.

Have a magnificent, stunning, and blessed week of January 2022. It is Monday, and we wish to amuse you with the story of the bees, mainly how they live, what do bees accomplish through their life, how are they organized to live, and why the bees colony is an “organized complexity living system”.

Sorry for not posting last Friday. I was not procrastinating. I have been tense and preoccupied for several weeks. Last Friday, I went to a gifted doctor in the morning, someone with carats of experience, who placed my annoyance concern in the right dimension and fixed it. Shortly afterward, my cognitive apprehension faded away. Thereafter, I was able to concentrate on my reading assignments for this saga preparation. These books are the basis that supports today´s publication. Time helps to figure out how to structure the content of my publications, particularly when I have a lot to read, and simultaneously I am affected by something physiological or physical that disturbs my peace of mind. In my quest to become an author, I am also learning to resolve worries causalities, repair hazards or perils in order to do my job perfectly well, or let inspiration reach accurately to our intellect. So, let´s begin.

A bee cleaning her cell. Illustrative and non-commercial image. Source:

How are bees organized in their apiaries or hives? To explain what bees do, we must first recognize that bees are not the same. Each colony has three sorts of bees, with their respective roles that are much different depending on the kind of bee that we are talking about. Let´s proceed to describe in detail the three types of bees that coexist in the hive:

Three types of bees.

Bees are a group-level unit of biological organization. We are lucky to still have Professor Thomas Seeley in our times. He wrote a book of 327 pages “The Wisdom of the Bees”, and much of what I will share today comes as a summary from this book’s readings over the weekend.

According to Professor Seeley, an expert about bees at Cornell University, bees can´t be seen as a unit animal (insect) that lives in a community to breed and produce honey. When we talk about bees, we must get the message about them as a group-level unit of biological organization. It is not the sum of each bee as an individual that matters, but the community of bees all together integrated into a higher-order entity.

The bees’ colony is a complex entity. It arises through a sequence of stable subassemblies, with each higher-level unit being a needed hierarchy of lower-level units. This idea is defined as the principle of complexity through “stratified stability”. In simple terms, successfully integrated societies (as the colony of bees at the hive) occur only when all the organisms inside that colony cooperate strongly among the lower-level entities and work all together to form a complex higher-level entity, that acts all together in a perfect harmonious integrated manner of social physiology.

The beauty of the colony is established by the workers. The colony of bees at the hive functions and operates year over year because they have learned to evolve through millions of years, in how to devote themselves as a highly integrated society around the process of food collection for its complex organization. “The honeybee foraging provides a paradigm of the analytic work needed to disclose the mechanisms which integrate a group of organisms into a functional whole”. Gathering food or forage for the hive triggers a set of activities inside the hive that is made by the workers according to each worker age. This tells us that the complexity of the life of the bees inside the hive is the result of the gathering of resources outside the hive. This activity is made by the workers. So, we will focus mainly on the workers. I am not dismissing the study of the queen or the drones because it is not important. Of course, to reproduce and deposit eggs in each cell is cleverly awesome and it is the beginning of life at the beehive, but the workers are the core of the complex organization of the bees. Before explaining what activities of the bees workers during all their lifetime are, we will begin with the workers life history.

Before adulthood, each worker passes through different stages of life. Each individual or worker bee goes through a complete metamorphosis for 21 days. This process is categorized into 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  Between the stage of grown larva and pupa, there is an intermediate stage in which the larva spins a cocoon inside its cell, this period of 3 days is called prepupa.

The Worker’s life cycle until is able to become a young worker bee.

What are the wonderful worker bees doing all the time? Mainly working. There are several activities that bees do during all their lifetime. Bees do not only collect food, but they are engaged in so many things at once, since they are born as young bees after they leave the wax cell nest.  “When a worker emerges from her cell in the comb, her anatomical features are all fixed, but the full development of her glandular system takes places only afterward, in a complex pattern which mirrors the changes in the bee´s behavior (and activities) over her life”. What we mean with the last phrase, is that the secretions of the bees also vary. Brood food is secreted by young workers. Bees wax is secreted by middle-aged bees and enzymes for converting nectar into honey by older workers, who are usually doing the foragers ‘profession.

The activities of the workers’ bees are:

Activities of the worker bees.

If you watch the percentage of time that each worker bee dedicates to each activity during their lifetime, we can basically group the category of the worker bee by the amount of time that each bee commits to a specific role in the hive (or outside the hive). Each worker bee is continuously evolving for the resultant sequential next role to play. NO worker bee can do shortcuts, because biologically the development of the glands and its secretions determine when and what the bee is able to do what comes next.

Worker bees’ activities during their lifetime vary.

How do they live in the hive? Let´s describe the house of our beautiful workers.

Nest Architecture: The combs inside a beehive hang vertically and each is made of two layers of horizontal cells, with openings on opposite sides of the comb. On a natural set-up the hive general layout of a honeybee nest inside a tree looks as follows: 

The architecture of the hive.

We have covered what we hold for today. In our next publication we will continue with subject number 5 of our outline: Why are bees crucial for human civilization. If you wish to download the slides that summarize our today´s post, please click here:

Music Strategic Session:

Why did we choose the song Baba Yetu in our last post? We have picked Baba Yetu (in the Swahili language is translated to English as “Our Father”). The universal prayer that Jesus taught us to crave was arranged to become a choral orchestra hit some years ago. What took my heart with this song was the capacity of human beings to sing all together in different tempos and styles, a message that is deeply connected to cooperation in high complex societies.

Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done
On earth, as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

“Our Father” prayer.

Today´s song is all about U2. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Three versions of Bono and his team, a band that shaped our taste for music during the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s, and more. Do you know that Bono happened to visit El Salvador in the middle of our civil war? It is being said that he was traveling on a peace mission with his wife in Chalatenango (a state from our country) when he got trapped in the middle of a confrontation attack between the Government Army Force and the Guerrilla. Bono tasted, himself what was the meaning of living a conflict that no one wanted. The first video is the original version. The second one is a version of U2 in a LIVE show with The New Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir from New York, and the third one is the most recent one released as a soundtrack for the movie Sing 2, interpreted by Scarlett Johansson and Bono. We will explain why we picked up this song in our next episode, as our contribution to celebrating the 30 years of the El Salvador peace agreement.

After our mission of peace will be fully accomplished in El Salvador we are heading home, aren’t we, beloved Alejandro Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi? For those who don´t understand yet, I am deeply crazy and head over heels in love with Alejandro, the man I was supposed to marry since the year 2001. May the Lord grant us to be together soon.

Thank you for reading to me. In our next episode will continue flying our bee´s journey, with you.

Sources of reference used to produce this episode.


Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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