- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Claire Preston isn't a beekeeper but she's written an informative book titled Bee.
Published in 2006 by Reaktion Books,
Her 10 chapters tantalize us with such headings as "The Reason for Bees," "Biological Bee," "Kept Bee," "Political Bee," "Pious/Corrupt Bee," "Utile Bee," Aesthetic Bee," "Folkloric Bee," "Playful Bee," "Bee Movie" and the last, "Retired Bee."
But back to Bee.
Preston traces the history of bees (Apis mellifera) to southern Asia: bees probably originated in Afghanistan, she says. They were imported to South America in the 1530s and to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1621. Native Americans called them "The Englishman's fly."
Preston calls the bee "Nature's workaholic" and borrowing a comment from Sue Monk Kidd's superb novel, The Secret Life of Bees, remarks: "You could not stop a bee from working if you tried."
"The most talented specialists (in the bee colony) are the workers," Preston writes. "They are the builders, brood-nurses, honey-makers, pollen-stampers, guards, porters, and foragers, and those tasks are related to their developmental age."
"All worker bees, in other words, take up these functions in succession as they mature, with the newest workers undertaking nursing, cleaning, building and repair in the nest, somewhat older workers making honey and standing guard, and the oldest bees foraging for pollen and nectar."
Frankly, bees are social insects in a highly social organization. They don't waver from their duties. The queen's job is to mate and then lay eggs for the rest of her life. The drone's job is to mate and then die. If the drones make it to autumn, the worker bees drive them from the hives "to die of starvation," Preston writes. "This exclusion of some hundreds of drones each autumn is one of the most remarkable sights in the animal kingdom. The workers are pitiless: drones do no work in the maintenance of the colony and cannot even feed themselves, so they cannot be allowed to overwinter and consume precious resources."
It's a sad time, to be sure. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, tells us she feels sorry for the drones. "They're cold and hungry and get pushed out of the hive."
And, as UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says: "First the workers quit feeding them (drones) so they're light enough to push out."
But as winter ebbs away and spring beckons, soon each hive will be teeming with some 50,000 to 60,000 bees. And all those worker bees--which Preston calls "agricultural workers"--will be turning into Nature's workaholics.
They'll never be promoted to CEO, though.
Not a chance./st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/st1:placetype>/st1:placename>/st1:placename>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:city>/st1:country-region>/st1:place>/st1:country-region>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:city>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>