Bees are Smarter Than We – by Dr. Stephen Franson
Mom was right. Again. “Don’t just do something; stand there.” Her play on an old standard. Nowadays, it seems that everyone rushes to “do something” before asking the better question: “Should we?” Here’s another one: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I love “truisms.”
On Friday I took my kids to meet the chickens that provide our organic eggs. I want to make sure that they understand that food comes from farms, not stores. We are fortunate enough to have a wonderful patient family that has restored their sixth-generation homestead into a fully functioning, good old-fashioned, working family farm. They will provide our family fresh vegetables, eggs and honey this season.
Listening to Farmer Bill give a tour of the facility gave me an incredible sense of connection to nature, our food and our past. I learned that bees are smarter than we.
It turns out that the bees know that the optimal temperature for honey production and community sustenance is 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Not 91, not 93. The bees maintain an extraordinary level of organization and communication. Bees are groomed from birth for very specific roles: drones, workers, queens, etc. Worker bees are sent out of the hive to find and retrieve pollen, which is mixed with nectar to make honey. They can fly up to two miles away to find it, and when they return to the hive, they communicate to the outgoing worker bees its exact location using a “dance.” We humans can barely get by without a cell phone signal.
If the temperature of the hive is too low, a signal is sent out to all of the bees to stay in the hive, start flapping their wings and shivering to create heat. If the temperature gets too high, a similar signal is sent to the hive entrance “bouncers” that tells them to stop the flow of bees into the hive. These air-traffic controllers instruct in-coming bees to simply circle the hive until it cools down.
We live in an extraordinary time. What was once thought to be impossible is now commonly done. We no longer ask if, but when. The scope of our capacity as humans seems to be limited only by our imagination and ingenuity. Our effectiveness, however, rests solidly on our understanding and our judgment. We must learn to differentiate ability and effectiveness.
There is an innate intelligence in all living things and systems. Every day we learn more about the things that we thought we already knew. Ten years ago mothers were told that formula was better than breast milk. Twenty years ago we thought that margarine was better than butter. And fifty years ago cigarettes were recommended to asthmatics as a bronchodilator.
Moms face enormous challenges every day. Many of them involve the care of their children. Often mothers face the dilemma of conflicting recommendations around health care. Support or suppress? Observe or interfere? Instincts or instructions?
If Farmer Bill is right, and I believe that he is, 92 degrees has been the ideal temperature for making honey since bees have been making honey – even before we figured it out.
Immunologists now tell us that 103 degrees F is the ideal temperature for fighting infection. They call it the “target temperature” for a robust immune response. They go on to say that this degree of fever response is a critical element in the nervous and immune system maturation process. According to the CDC, suppressing or interfering with an appropriate fever response could lead to long term illnesses such as asthma and allergies. They have even been bold enough to recognize fever as part of an innate intelligence that seems to govern our body’s well-being. Who knew?
I trust mothers. I always ask questions like: “How do they seem to you?” “How do they look?” and “What do you think?”
Mothers have been around for a long time. They’ve been in the baby business as long as there have been babies. There is an unmistakable instinct and intelligence that comes with being a mother. Trust it. There is an inner voice that is your gift and your legacy. Listen to it. This GPS (Genetic Positioning System) is the compass that speaks to you with every turn. Follow it. You know when the hive is at 92 degrees, and you also know when to flap your wings and shiver. Embrace it.
Happy Mothers’ Day.