By: Rebecca Kersting Issue: Resource Management Section: Inspirations
A Closer Look at the Bee
The last issue of ICOSA focused on the importance of infrastructure, symbolized by the spider and its web, as the foundation for collaboration. However, infrastructure is only one of five components necessary for true collaboration to occur. In this issue, we will look at how effective resource management can be exemplified by the bee.
Commonly known for their honey-hoarding behavior and their use as a domesticated species, honeybees are among the most studied and best known insects. Their operation, as well as their social nature, makes bees a fascinating specimen.
As eusocial insects, honeybees live in large colonies that consist of strictly defined castes. Each individual bee depends on the colony and can survive only as a member of the social community. The hive consists of queens, workers, drones and soldiers—each with specific roles. Although they are individually weak and tiny, they use the power of their critical mass to execute monumental tasks. The hierarchical infrastructure of honeybees equips them with advanced problem-solving capabilities. Using a simple yet effective colony structure, thousands of individuals with different various job functions are able to align. Bees cooperate to find food, build their hive, take care of the young, and defend the colony. The hive is built to be the core infrastructure for honeybee colonies. Each worker has special glands on the underside of its body that secrete a waxy substance, which they use to construct their elaborate honeycombs. Each honeycomb is comprised of a collection of hexagonal shaped chambers. This shape allows the maximum number of chambers to be packed into the smallest area. These cells are multi-functional, storing and protecting the colony’s most valuable resources—honey to feed the colony when flowers are scarce and protection for, and the numerous developing larvae—the key to the next generation of the hive.
Bees collectively gather and relay information very quickly throughout the population without dependence on a central repository or command center. However, in the middle of a colony where the density of bees is very high, there are thousands of bees whose sole purpose is to convey information. They communicate using complex dances, pheromones, and direct contact. Bee dances are able to transmit information regarding direction, distance, and abundance of food supply. They release pheromones that distinguish one bee from another and when two bees meet, they communicate through the use of their antennae. Every time a bee meets another bee, a new message is conveyed. There is a constant flow of information in and out of the hive, even though some of them will never leave the hive. Utilizing their innate communication skills, bees have constructed an impressive communication system. All bees, from drones, to workers, to the queen, have a specific duty inside the hive. Each bee has an individualized task explicitly designed to fit its strengths. By each fulfilling its duty, each bee does its part in fulfilling the goals of the hive as a whole.
Collaborative organizations are created to provide some sort of value—whether it is a service or a product. Creating a unique collaborative output is dependent upon the availability of resources, combined with the ability to work together and communicate toward a common goal. In this issue we will look at real examples of groups who, like the bee, are finding, organizing, managing, and capitalizing on resources in a unique or exemplary way.