Salute the black and yellow

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Ariel Fana’afi Ioane

Usually when you turn a light on in your house, you’ll get what you expect- light. And maybe a few moths with geckos nearby; watchful eyes flickering, they silently salivate their prey before pouncing for a possible midnight snack.

The lights in my house are slightly different. Switch a light on between the hours of 9pm and six in the morning and you’ll find the geckos, the moths, light…and a huge swarm of bees, hovering over the long, fluorescent bulbs. Courtesy of the growing beehive that rests between two outdoor rafters of our house. 

Despite the fact that I have stood on a countless number of them, each with gritted teeth and clutched fists before going off the handle about how stupid bees are (while reaching for the baking soda)…I find them quite admirable.

They are part of the largest phylum of Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda; in the sub-phylum Mandibulata, Class Insecta. This class is identified by having three body parts, three pairs of legs, and in some occasions, wings (usually two pairs). They are the only class of invertebrates that have flying members. This includes our stripy, “buzzy” buddies.

Bees are famous for making one of the most influential substances known to man in the art of medicine and culinary expertise- honey. It is the only known food that does not spoil, or go off. Fridge or no fridge, it will stay perfectly fine. Honey is made by adult bees to nourish their larva, and also as a source of food during hibernation.

From observation, the able bodied bees venture out of their hives to collect nectar from flowering plants. What they do basically is eat as much nectar as they can. Once full, they hover back home. Scientists are still baffled at how these amazing creatures are able to create honey out of this collected sweetness. It is a process unknown to humans, so you can see why we rely heavily on these insects to make it for us. 

Honey was a very important part of life in Ancient times.

It was used in Ancient Greece to soothe burns and minor cuts, as well as an aphrodisiac when mixed with chickpeas and sweat from whoever you were trying to get to fall in love with you (yes, disgusting, but I guess a lot of women and men were desperate in Ancient Greece!!)

In Rome, it was an essential part of cuisine. It was used as a source of sweetness, since sugarcane wasn’t available to the Early Empires in those days. 

A particular delicacy that used honey was fattened snails. The slimy things were taken out of their shells and placed into a saucer of milk mixed with honey. Snails love milk so they slurp it up.

The sweetness from the honey just made the stupid creatures thirstier so they would slurp even more!! Until they were taken to be fried and served with wine sauce, of course. They also used honey mixed with ashes of dogs’ teeth to make their toothpaste (since they didn’t have peppermint paste). 

Honey was used in Egyptian baths with milk, as a means to obtain smooth, succulent skin. Pharaoh Cleopatra in particular, used these baths as one of many alluring distractions to keep her foreign visitors from leaving…these “visitors” included Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, very ‘close’ friends of Cleopatra.

They helped her get back the throne of Egypt. All thanks to her honey milk baths, plus other things…ahem, back the 21st century!

All these ancient civilizations depended on bees to provide them with a constant supply of honey, in order for their people to function. This required a lot of work and determination. Like its Insecta brothers the ants, bees are very hard workers. Day in, day out they tirelessly work at whatever job they are designated with. 

William Shakespeare described the work of bees very skillfully in his play Henry V called “For So Work the Bees.”

For so work the honey bees,

Creatures that by a rule in nature teach

The act of order to a peopled kingdom.

They have a king and officers of sorts;

Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,

Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,

Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,

Make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds;

Which pillage they with merry march bring home

To the tent royal of their emperor. 

For so work the bees. Tirelessly they work, for days on end until they die. For me, watching a few bees swarm over a light, though annoying at times; serves as an inspiration for those times when I feel like not doing anything; when the works seems to be too much.

Too much schoolwork. The tutorial problems are undoable. The rubbers too far away for me to reach, I don’t feel like picking it up. I’m too tired to wash the windows today, tomorrow’s another day. Sound familiar? 

The Bible says lazy people end up being poor, because they put no effort in anything productive that might benefit them. Wishful thinking without moving to put things into place is very unhealthy. If you think and live like this, you’re bound to be going downhill. 

Nothing good ever comes easy. Looking at a bee and its determination is sometimes a kick in the teeth for me, but if a small bee can stay true to its purpose in life, why can’t I? Trees won’t plant themselves, PhD’s and Degrees don’t pop out of nowhere. You can’t just pick up and instrument and assume to learn how to play it the next day. It takes discipline and work. Something we must all embrace from the humble bee. 

The next time you see a bee buzzing around, don’t squash it with your Sunday Samoan newspaper roll. Take it as a reminder to be proactive and diligent. 

One day you will the taste the honey made from your hard labour. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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