About Bees (November 12, 2004)


I had another blog one time where I wrote some short devotionals for my congregation here in Madison. I came across them the other day and, well, here is one of them. I have preserved my original thoughts and language so they might appear a bit strange.


I mentioned that I have been reading Edwin Way Teale’s wonderful volume A Book About Bees originally published as The Golden Throng. The book is fascinating reading even for the non-entomologists among us. He writes with an enthusiasm and joy for for his work as if bees were the pinnacle of the created order. He is, at times, childlike in his wonder of their existence.

Here is what I read on page 148 of the slim book:

Anyone who watches day after day the infinitely varied activity of the bees finds and increasing source of amazement in the manner in which each insect, like a cog in a smooth-running machine, plays its part. Some bees, apparently just the right number, are standing guard at the door; others, apparently just the right number required for the task, are air-conditioning the interior; others are feeding the grubs, cleaning the hive, producing royal jelly for the younger larvae, storing honey, gathering pollen. And so, under the varying conditions of the year, each active worker of the hive goes about her appointed tasks”

Now, if that is not enough to make you want to host your own hive of bees in your living room, then consider this: ‘Appointed tasks–appointed by whom? In olden days, it was accepted that the queen, or the king as she was then called, directed all the activity of the colony, issued orders, apportioned work, functioned in the manner of a general deploying an army. This, of course, has been proved a fallacy. The queen has her appointed tasks just as the workers do. She, too, is but the servant to the spirit of the colony” (148).

I don’t really feel like commenting too much on this. Bees have a lot to teach us if we are inquisitive enough to sit silently, if not bravely, outside their world and watch. Nothing has to tell bees that there is work to be done and that certain bees should do the work that they were specifically designed for doing. There is no fighting. There is no pawning off work to other bees. There is no squabbling about who did it last time or who has already done it and is tired of doing it. It just gets done.

I’ll close with Teale’s thoughts:

Scientists who study the bee–chemists who analyze the content of the royal jelly, microscopists who attempt to count the sperm cells in the pouch of the fertilized queen, physicists who measure the stresses of the honeycomb, all reveal the physical characteristics of the bee and its surroundings. But beyond this lies that intangible, mystical force, the spirit of the hive, running through all the activity of the golden throng; ordering the lives of the insects; molding them into the compact, unified, efficient commonwealth we know” (153-54).

If one were unaware of the title of the book or its particular subject matter, one might almost be convinced that Teale had spent some time in a church that truly knows God.

Always for God’s Glory!

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