New Respect For A Bumble Bee

During a month of prayer and fasting we have been focusing on the theme “Preparing the Way”.  It suggests an active endeavor on our parts.  And certainly there is a lot of activity underway in preparation for our move to our new church facility. And just as certainly, it is the consensus of our church that God has done the calling in this move.  Therefore, we can rest assured that He is leading, preparing the way for us and guiding us as we explore the means and methods for accomplishing it.  But today I want us to focus on what God has already done to prepare each of us individually for what lies ahead.

Yesterday Stephanie Cox referred to the Body of Christ as she talked about the church.  She shared Max Lucado’s imagery of the church as a battleship, with different groups doing different jobs. Each one of us has a unique set of characteristics and skills to contribute to the Body of Christ in a way that make the impact of the total church much greater than merely the sum of its parts.

Exodus 35:31-32, 35    Psalm 139:15-16    Psalm 100:3     Ephesians 2:10

Thelma Wells, a speaker with the Women of Faith conferences, wears a bumble bee on her collar as a constant reminder of God’s power.  She says, if one goes only by man’s understanding of the laws of aerodynamics, a bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, and yet it does.  Perhaps you know someone who has a favorite animal or plant or place – a hummingbird, butterfly, frog, an oak tree, or a mountaintop, or seashore, or whatever.

Brave Buffalo, a Sioux Indian, in  a book entitled “By the Power of Their Dreams” says:  “I have noticed in my life that all men have a liking for some special animal, tree, plant, or spot of earth.  If men would pay more attention to these preferences and seek what is best to do in order to make themselves worthy…they might have dreams which would purify their lives.” 

One reason Aesop’s fables and even certain parables are so popular is that they provide an image that people can immediately relate to, they can envision themselves in that place or as that person or as that certain animal, like the tortoise and the hare, or the goose that laid the golden egg, or the prodigal son.

In 1997 I had a particularly disturbing dream about being a bumble bee sharing life with an eagle.  I woke up teary, telling Bill how sad it was, feeling that it reflected the incompatibility I had felt at times with him.  I told him I wanted us to be like a perfectly matched pair of cardinals instead of  this mismatched union of an insect and a bird.

Well, just recently I felt compelled to learn about bumble bees in order to better understand this unsettling image. We all have seen the big, fuzzy insects recognizable by their robust shape and black and yellow coloring. What I’ve learned about the Bombus species is interesting to me and, I think, will be interesting to you, as well.

They are an opportunistic species, making the most of their special size and shape.  Because of the way they’re built, they can forage in cool, unfavorable weather.  It allows them to seek nectar earlier in the cool spring and earlier in the day than honey bees can.  Because of their size, they require large quantities of nectar to fly and build colonies.  Interestingly, their tongues are longer than other species to allow them to profit from a wider variety of flower types, too.  And when they can’t access the nectar through the flower, they’ll bite into the base of the nectar spur on the flower to get access to it.  They are the only group of their species to engage in this kind of “nectar theft”.

Secondly, they are agitators.  They vibrate their wings at higher frequency to trigger the release of pollen.  They make things happen!

Thirdly, they are social bees, however, bumble bees are considered the least advanced of the social bee species.  Their colonies, with nests that are smaller than other species, last less than a year with the males and workers of the old colony dying off with the first frost of autumn while the newly mated queens hibernate over winter in a hole in the ground, emerging in the spring to start a new colony on their own.  They are constantly having to start over.

Also, they are experienced in the process of “trial and error” which gives them resilience and flexibility.  Since they don’t have highly evolved means of communicating information the way some species do, like where to find the most rewarding flowers, they have to fumble around and learn to forage for themselves as individuals.  Their first efforts are generally slow, clumsy,  inefficient, and wasted on visiting nutritionally worthless flowers.  Within hours, though, the young bee acquires the habit of “majoring” on one prevalent and valuable flower resource while “minoring” on one or more less rich or less available species of flowers.  This habit of “majoring” and “minoring” was first described in 1976 by a scientist named Hienrich who also showed that the choice of “major” flower for the day was made by the individual bee and that  other bees from the colony major on different flowers for a given day.  This “flexible” foraging technique allows bumble bees to take advantage of temporary abundances of one flower species while keeping aware of changes in quality or appearance of other flower resources that may bloom later in the spring and summer.  It also allows bumble bees to take advantage of the fact that different flowers produce the bulk of their nectar crop at different times of day.  So, they’re resilient and flexible and make maximum use of the flower resources as a group.

They are also persistent.  Bumble bees use a variety of visual and non-visual clues to locate suitable flowers and will keep returning to the position occupied by a useful flower even after the flower has been removed.  I personally think that shows a strong sentimental streak and unfaltering optimism. They forage for longer hours and in worse weather than honey bees and will range up to two and a half miles from their nests.

Finally, bumble bees  respond to their environment with what one might almost call emotion.  When a bumble bee leaves a rich, highly rewarding flower full of nectar he makes a slow, short, turning flight almost like he’s reluctant to go.  But when he leaves a low yielding flower, he’s out of there in a long straight flight as if commenting unfavorably on its poor reward.

All in all the bumble bee is a pretty remarkable, adaptive insect that is very valuable in horticulture and agriculture as an efficient pollinator.

Perhaps I should rethink my sadness over seeing myself that way and be glad that God has put this bumbling, error-ridden bee, who is opportunistic, agitating, and persistent, with an eagle so that together we can accomplish things for His kingdom that a pair of cardinals couldn’t.

Now, I challenge you to think about the characteristics or tendencies that you have. Maybe you think of them as weaknesses or handicaps.  But  maybe God has given them to you for a purpose.  And that purpose is, very likely, one that can be completely fulfilled within the context of the Body of Christ.  If you spend time with Him, He will reveal to you how He desires to use those innate characteristics for His purposes.

As members of this Body we need to be loving, accepting, and forgiving of one another, with whatever foibles and faults we have.  As God prepares this whole Body for its coming role in our field of ministry, we have much larger territories to roam and we’ll likely have to start earlier and stay later in 

weather and other conditions that may be less comfortable and may call for unconventional methods.  We can trust, however, that he has already put among us some of the bumble bees as well as some of the eagles to carry out the tasks.

The Beeholder’s Eye – (added 11/21/23)

The bee’s eye is a marvel of biology. It is covered with hairs that act as a shield against pollen and consists of thousands of small lenses called ommatidia. These lenses allow the bee to see a range of colors, including ultraviolet, and are highly sensitive to movement. This enables the bee to spot flowers and other sources of nourishment, as well as evade potential threats.
But what truly sets the bee’s eye apart is its structure. Unlike our own complex eyes, the bee’s eye is made up of many simple eyes that work together to provide a wide-angle view of the world. With a visual field of 280 degrees, the bee can see almost everything around it without turning its head. This is particularly useful for locating flowers and avoiding predators.
In addition to its impressive visual capabilities, the bee’s eye also processes information at lightning speed. This helps the bee make swift decisions about where to fly and what to do, both essential for its survival.
Overall, the bee’s eye is a crucial part of its anatomy and a testament to the power of nature. It has developed over millions of years to help the bee thrive in its environment.