I went to lunch the other day with two friends, one a dentist and the other a beekeeper. The dentist's children had grown up and moved out, and she was wondering what her life's purpose would be in this new chapter. Different ideas were bandied around, but nothing sounded fulfilling to her. "I think in terms of bees," said the beekeeper friend. "You're a nurse bee, so you feel best when you are taking care of others every day." Management of a mobile dental unit wasn't close enough to her life's purpose, the beekeeper warned. She'd either have to work in the mobile unit taking care of patients every day or figure out something else. She'd never be content as a manager. The dentist nodded, acknowledging that the beekeeper was right about her. Whoa. I wanted to know more. Here's a definitive guide.
Are You A Queen Bee?
She's the IT girl. Everything revolves around the queen, and there can be only one queen per hive. She's the largest bee in the colony, and she's long and lean -- a stunner. If another female begins to rival her, the queen will use her stinger. She's the MVP -- the colony won't survive without her. All the other bees attend to her, taking care of her every need. Feeding, grooming, everything. She busies herself making chemical scents to keep her faithful followers unified. Males long to mate with her. Mostly, she lays eggs. At her peak, she can lay more than 1,500 eggs a day at 30-second intervals.
A word to the wise: The queen bee is a hot momma for sure, but mature queens are less productive. After a couple of seasons they lose their je ne sais quoi. Queens quickly become yesterday's news.
Are You A Worker Bee?
Do you serve others? Perhaps your purpose in life is housekeeper, nursemaid, construction worker, grocer, undertaker or guard. You take your job seriously. You relish doing things for the good of others, and you enjoy perfecting your skill. Say you're a nursemaid bee. You're only fulfilled taking care of the young, the sick, the weak or the infirm. Take that purpose away and you're lost. If you're a construction worker bee, you make up plans in your head, you are resourceful and dedicated to the physical aspects of building. You like heavy lifting. When the work day is done, you tend to pick up handiwork at home. The Undertaker knows what needs to be done with fallen colleagues, knows how to tend to logistics, takes care of unpleasant tasks. A responsible, solemn gal who feels good about herself for the care she puts into her important work. Same for the Housekeeper, Guard and Grocer. These are the school cafeteria ladies and front desk clerks, the laundress, the cook and the flight attendant. Happy to serve. Love being a part of the community.
Most bees are worker bees. It's a meaningful life, and workers are, for the most part, content with their place in the colony. Workers have stingers, are they are prepared to defend their homeland. They are willing to give their life for the cause -- and if they sting a mammal that's what's going to happen.
After a time doing their jobs, worker bees become foragers, or scout bees. They have pollen baskets on their hind legs to carry back the pollen they slurp up from flowers. They add their bounty to the pot, from which the honeycomb is created. There are thousands of scouts in a colony. If you're a scout, you are happiest when you are out exploring. It gives meaning and purpose to your life. You're also experienced enough in life to acknowledge your personal good fortune and you are proud to have the wherewithal to be able to contribute to the community chest. There are enough of your type that you are, in fact, replaceable, but how fortunate for society that there are so many toilers and kind souls who like to give back.
Are you a Drone?
In bee world, all males are drones, displaying large eyes and a barrel-shaped figure. There are far fewer males in a colony than females, and that's a good thing, because drones are not cut out for working. They don't have wax-producing glands, so they can't help build the honeycomb. They have no stinger, so they can't defend the hive. They don't even forage. They live for the sole purpose of mating. No kidding. Their life's work is to mate with the queen, the only one of the thousands of females around that has fully developed ovaries. It's the highlight of their time on earth, and life ends after the big deed.
You know you're a drone if you only live to mate with the highest of VIPs and contribute nothing tangible to society. You're the pot-belly couch potato who hogs the remote. Everyone else has to pick up your tab. It's unnerving that you don't do chores, but your big eyes are attractive to the ladies, and, hey, life would not be possible without you.