Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bee
I was stung as a child.
I was sitting on my friend’s swingset and felt something land on my head. I thought it was a beetle, and so I curiously reached up to grab it. What I felt was a jolting, angry pain and after much tears (and my mom’s friend removing the stinger) I developed
After that day, the sight of a fat, black-and-yellow bee would be enough to send me running, waiting for the hairy beast to finish its floral rampage and fly off to desecrate some other helpless tulip or geranium. And anything that buzzed near my ear with the same frequency as a hair clipper would bring about an exotic, flailing dance as I promptly dashed to the nearest safe haven (mostly indoors).
My fear of bees carried me throughout most of my life. It wasn’t until I was in my early adulthood that I learned just how fascinating a creature the bee is. And not only that, but also how much benefit there is in learning from it.
Be like a bee
Though small and seemingly insignificant, there’s a lot we can learn from bees.
1. They’re busy
Worker bees make up the majority of the bees in a hive. At every stage in a worker bee’s life, there’s a task for it to do. As it grows older, the number of responsibilities it has also increases. By the end of a bee’s life, it has been a cleaner, a childcare worker, a construction worker, a honey producer. Idle bees are ostracized from the hive and eventually kicked out. Every amount of work the bee does is for the benefit of the hive.
For us, it’s a reminder not to waste your life. It’s in work that we find our purpose. This doesn’t necessarily mean your job, either. Maybe it’s your volunteerism; maybe it’s your school work; maybe it’s as simple as cleaning garbage off the sidewalk. Sadly, it’s possible that a bee may have a more productive life in it’s short lifespan than we do with the most active years of our life.
What are you doing each day to help yourself, others and the world?
2. They aren’t greedy
When a bee goes to a flower to gather nectar, it gives more than it takes. Flowers need pollen in order to survive, and so the bee pollinates the flower as it gets the nectar. Bees actively seek plants and flowers that require pollination. And once a bee has pollinated a flower, other bees won’t come near it because doing so will harm the flower. Unlike us, bees don’t focus on “looking out for number one”. A bee knows that it can’t build a hive alone, and so it doesn’t jeopardize other hives for its own benefit, nor does it selfishly hoard resources from the hive.
When we become selfish, it comes at the expense of all others. People continue to suffer while we have the resources to help them, but we become stingy and miserly. By redirecting our attention from “I” to “us”, not only does it benefit us but it benefits everyone around us.
3. They don’t settle for mediocrity
Ever wonder why bees build their hives in hexagons? It turns out that it’s the most efficient shape to use, since it uses the least amount of wax and can store the most amount of honey. And not only that, but bees take from the best flowers. They don’t do anything with just a minimum, passing effort. Everything a bee does, from building hives to collecting nectar to how it communicates with other bees, is done with excellence and precision.
Similarly with us. We shouldn’t just coast through life lazily and carelessly. In whatever good we do, we should do it to the best of our ability.
4. They communicate clearly
Bees communicate through a complex dance that informs other bees of where a good source of pollen and nectar is, including its distance from the hive. Each bee has what’s called a Nasanov gland, which excretes a pheromone unique to each hive. This helps bees distinguish each other. And if they move to a new hive, they will all agree on a new “scent” to distinguish themselves.
For us, speaking is our primary method of communication, but we also communicate through writing, gestures and body language. And with us, our communication can be used to deceive, trick and oppress others. We hide our intentions with flowery words, or complicated jargon. Clear, concise communication is the key to success.
5. They’re beneficial.
All of the above guide the bee towards its greater purpose. A bee doesn’t live for itself: it lives for the hive. It lives for its community. And the community, as a whole, is a benefit to the greater world around it. Bees are responsible for pollinating such staples as almonds, apples, watermelons and more. In addition to pollination, the honey that bees produce has long been used as medicine. The slightly acidic PH balance of honey prevents the growth of bacteria. It’s been used to treat wounds and burns. Honey contains 4 out of the 5 nutritional elements that our bodies need: vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbs. It’s only missing fat. A verse in the Qur’an—from the surah, “The Bee”— states “There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.” (16:69). And, on top of that, it tastes great. Honey is essential to the hive’s survival, and yet they’re willing to share it with us. So too should we be with our sustenance.
So we need to ask ourselves, on a personal and communal level, what benefit do we produce for the world?
It’s no surprise that as human greed increases, as we continue to take more than we’re willing to give, and become so disconnected from the world outside of our own, the honeybee is disappearing. If everyone could be just a bit more like the bee, then perhaps the world could be just a bit sweeter.
“By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad the believer is like a bee which eats that which is pure and wholesome and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something it does not break or ruin it.” –Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
Be Like The Bee | Nouman Ali Khan