A visit to a local beekeeper recently had me thinking about all we have in common with the little winged creatures and what we could discover about ourselves by studying them.
Debbie Anderson, a Rowan-Cabarrus Community College math professor who has kept bees as a hobby since 2001, showed me around her operation at her home in Zemosa Acres. The Concord neighborhood, with its mix of open fields and heavily wooded properties, is a haven for honeybees in search of a variety of blooming plants.
Anderson's yard, where she keeps four beehives, is thick with maple trees and tulip poplars, the perfect place to study honeybees.
While she explained the different roles of honeybees, the similarities with humans became apparent. "You have your drones, your workers and your queen, only one," Anderson said.
The worker bees are great multitaskers, taking care of the baby bees, cleaning the hive and shopping for nectar and pollen. Does this sound familiar?
Just the opposite are the drone bees, with not much to do all day but hang out together in what beekeepers call drone congregation areas.
"They are like bars," said Anderson. "Drone bees have one function only," she explains, to continue the brood.
While they wait for a visit from the queen, they relax and enjoy the camaraderie of their peers. This may remind some people of their college years.
Then there's the queen. The workers try hard to keep her happy. She is a needy one, though. "She's constantly being taken care of," said Anderson. "They feed her. They groom her."
In the winter, they huddle around her to keep her warm. With the occasional bee buzzing around our heads, Anderson tells me of large-scale pollination, a practice where high numbers of bees, often tractor trailer loads, are hauled across the country to pollinate almond, blueberries, even watermelon crops.
Researchers believe this could be one of the many factors contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder, a predicament where honeybees abandon their hives at alarming rates and just disappear without a trace.
A growing theory among beekeepers, including Anderson, is that overworking the bees causes such stress that they become confused and can't find their way back to the hive.
In the human world, this kind of company downsizing and picking up a heavier workload can cause the same reaction in workers.
Anderson says honey from overworked bees is not the most desirable.
And isn't that what it's all about for a bee, the honey? What's the point of working hard if the honey isn't any good?
For many people, the same philosophy applies, but for a reward that rhymes with honey. Hard work with poor payoff can cause anyone to look for a better workplace.
It just takes a day with a beekeeper to understand more clearly.
So the next time you see a bee, don't swat it, you share more in common than you think, and he may have had a tough day, too.