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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

24 June 2020: Rev'd John Owen, Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with Privett

Rev'd John Owen - Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with PrivettA Society of Harmony

Since Roman times, the honey bee colony has been regarded as something to be marvelled at. Earlier naturalists have thought honey bee organisation is an example of divine harmony, which in their view, human society has often lacked by comparison.

In a summer colony of 40,000 bees, the queen establishes a society in which order and purpose allow the whole of the colony to flourish. The active bees, the worker females, are divided into foragers, nurses, guards, and attendants, while the queen herself lays the eggs which develop into adult bees and replenish those which die. The colony reproduces by swarming, when the old queen takes herself off with many of the bees to search of a new home. The remaining bees then allow a new queen to be released and continue the life of the colony.

Recent research from Nottingham Trent University has discovered that the departing queen communicates with the worker bees by making quacking and tooting sounds, which let them know when it is time to release a new queen. Previously it had been thought that the queen made these sounds to communicate with other queens. Not so, says the new research. There is close communication between the queen and the workers, and we might say, mutual respect for their different tasks in the colony.

The last months have shown us in human society that we all need one another: front line workers in hospitals and care homes are vital to our society’s health and contribute a huge amount to the well-being of the whole community. Communication between workers and providers, carers and politicians, the cared for as well as the caring – all this makes for human flourishing.

We shall be nearer the harmonious society of the honey bees whenever we remember the things which have brought us together these past few months, and which we shall still need if we are all to have fulfilling lives in the society of the future.

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