To Bee or not to Bee

The Transformation

The nineteenth day in the short life of a worker honey bee is a day of transformation, a moment they were waiting and preparing for since birth. This day is a fusion of ecstasy, excitement and assertion. The celebration begins, as if on an impulse and the buzz of thousands of cheerful bees of the same age is actually melody to the ears. The harmony of their flight resembles a euphoric assemblage in an elevated state of enjoyment. The gleaming eyes and good physical shape reflects their determination while rejoicing the start of a new phase of their life. It is an exercise in self assessment and expression of their power because a new chapter of greater responsibility is unfolding before them.

A Visible Phenomenon

Actually, this visible phenomenon is a small phase of intense training known to humans as orientation flight. The experience of orientation flight is absolutely mesmerising. Always facing the hive, the worker bees of above eighteen days of age, take flight in small circles and gradually expanding the flight radius, fly for some time. This happens in the afternoon and after some time this action ends abruptly, again as if on a signal. Orientation training done, the hum of the intense activity is now conspicuous by its absence. The change is perceptible, there is hushed silence. This short duration phase of strong movement is a regular feature because in a bee hive large numbers of worker bees are achieving that delightful age every day. It is therefore, generally possible to enjoy this pleasant occurrence daily. 

A Small Lifespan

The worker bees have to accomplish a lot in a small life span, so every moment is important. Till the age of eighteen days, they work within the beehive and now is the time to face the world head on. Humans have to understand that this activity is not a waste of time or resource, it has a well thought out purpose. This flight is essential to memorise the topography in minute details so as to avoid disorientation during flights. It is also necessary to exercise the wing muscles to build up the necessary strength. The orientation flights help enable the bees to strive continuously to get the maximum amounts of nectar, pollen and other resources, not only to cater to the immediate needs of the colony but also to build up enough reserves for adverse periods. The honey bees are silently and continuously on their mission, till suddenly, as a bolt from the blue, humans step in. Their inevitable annihilation through unwise human intervention suddenly becomes a reality. 

Human Blunders

I have, with sorrow and a feeling of total helplessness, personally witnessed, time and again, the unfortunate and unnecessary ‘massacre’ of the bees as a result of human blunders. In forests, in rural and urban environments, through incorrect process of honey extraction, humans have always ensured the eradication of honey bee settlements en-masse. The result has been a gradual but distinct deficiency of pollinators everywhere. This situation adversely affects agriculture and the ecology. Indifference imperils the balanced ecosystem and ignorance endangers the continuance of their species. 

Is it fair to make the honey bees suffer for no fault of theirs?
With our ‘Live and let die’ attitude towards these tiny pollinators, we might as well be committing hara-kiri.

About the author: Mr. Rakesh Gupta

Rakesh Gupta is a passionate bee keeper who has been practising migratory beekeeping since 2004. 

As part of Golden Hive Foundation, he has been conducting interactive workshops and creating awareness about the bees and the necessity of their conservation. 

He brings with him experience, exposure, passion and an innate desire to spread the word about the amazing nature of the bees.

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