All posts in the Living category

My Bees and their Beehive

Published September 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

I count myself lucky that I had a massive beehive right outside my living room window, on the window concrete sun-shade slab. For several months, the two of us- the harmful and dangerous human being, and those harmless gentle honey bees – co-existed without any trouble to each other. They didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them. But this period have me insights both into Honeybees as well as human behavioral aspects, insights that I shall carry with me my entire life. The images of this honey-beehive are given below, which can highlight its closeness to my habitat.
I first noticed them when a few came inside from the open window; I was at a loss as to what to do, till I figured out they were attracted by the light. Only then did I spot the Beehive, and nearly panicked & spoke to the society incharge for immediate redressal of this “grave” threat to my habitat and existence. The bees – they didn’t care too much for me, ignoring me as irrelevant, unimportant and useless, an observation I now agree with!

Note that-  both of us were close – very close, physically, to each other. And yet, I – the larger animal was scared, while they, the infamous stinging bees, were unconcerned. My existence was as much a danger to them; perhaps a greater danger – and yet they co-existed peacefully. We weren’t causing each other too much inconvenience; and yet the Human Being felt threatened. They didn’t sting me, or anyone in my certain knowledge – and yet, we felt threatened by them. Threatened enough by their mere closeness to us to have them removed forcibly. So who is the greater danger to whom? Humans to the bees or the bees to the Humans?

This interchange is emblematic of our overall interaction with the environment and the way we permanently reshape and alter it. While I don’t deny the presence of some risk, the chances of a stone hitting the Hive causing the bees to get irritated did exist, to be frank; the fact remains that the Bees, by themselves, had done nothing to harm or inconvenience us in any way. It only meant that we could keep the Jali windows open, that is all. Even if the bees came inside- they didn’t harm us humans at all. They committed suicide by getting pulled to the light. And yet, instead of finding ways of co-existence with the environment we seek to alter it, just so we can be slightly more convenient and comfortable.

Now move in a little closer – note the execution perfection of the hive, the complete and wonderful perfection displayed by the hexagonal cells and the way it all comes together. This has been achieved by over several hundred individuals working in tandem towards a common goal; I regretfully accept that as of now, I don’t see how we humans can achieve this incredible level of teamwork shown in these images above. And when the hive was broken – the perfection with which they removed the remains in a few short hours was simply breathtaking!

But above and beyond this – the Beehive taught me some other, pertinent and valuable lessons in management, human behaviour that left me speechless. Having observed them from so close for so long –  a distance of barely 2 feet from the 2 feet by 2.5 feet by 8 inches beehive gave me lessons that shall stay with me my whole life. Look at the images above now- and observe. Observe the stunning, nay – mesmerizing teamwork in the way these insects, which aren’t sentient beings, settle together on the hive; observe their focus and their commitment to the common good of the hive. And when disturbed – the speed with which they relocated and renewed taught me a lesson in execution in uncertain times.
This is something that is never found in us Humans – despite being sentient, highly intelligent, thinking, literate and in some rare cases – educated people. Despite this, Humans have rarely, if ever, displayed such commonality, speed and dedication as displayed by these bees. And whenever we have done so – either wonders or disaster has followed. The reason for that is our desires, ambitions play a major role in taking us away from the common purpose, and drive us towards individual achievements, thereby unmaking the good of teamwork. And this happens in almost every Human Endeavour.
Thus, while on the one hand, our higher intellect has made us capable of achieving wonders, our attendant desires have made us incapable of actually achieving those same wonders! Curiously, it is dreams / desires that aid in unlocking potential – unless you desire something, dream – you cannot figure out that such a thing exists -which is why bees will remain bees. But these same desires, when unhindered – binaa lagaam ke ghodaa,  a horse a without a rein – lead us astray, both on an individual level as well as collectively.
It is rather surprising and more than a little shameful if you think of it – animals and insects, operating without a high intellect, can pull off wonders with teamwork; and we Humans, with our high intellect, cannot do anything on a similar scale. When you consider that every Beehive, and many other animals / insects, do it universally, the Human folly of individualism – given to us by western civilization in some ways as well as  driven by our own nature & selfish desires – becomes all the more shameful. The thought of what we can achieve if we were to learn to work together for a common good is tantalizing, and highly attractive – but extremely hard to pull off in reality, considering the ground realities. At this point, take a close look again – you will find a few types of bees – all doing their own roles expertly.
Human desires are our main strength – they drive innovation, and are indispensable. And Human activities are also hugely diverse; thus, the learning we can take from this above example is simple this: we have to find ways to marry the two – individual desires & individual abilities and weld the two into one powerful whole. Therein lies the gist of what leadership is truly about: it isn’t about getting those numbers, that bottom or topline, or whatever. It is about selecting, training and placing the right person for the right job to enable organizational performance and excellence. Each individual has strengths and desires – we just need to, as individuals and as leaders both, find the right sweet spot. In other words, we need to stop chasing the crowd, find what we are good at, choose from these what gels with our desires, control the both of them – and execute.
The above rarely, or rather, almost never happens. We go by rote, we follow the herd, be it education or be it jobs; we rarely analyse and understand either ourselves or our teams, or indeed the organization and the situation, and blindly ape the rest of the world : forgetting that it is the constant execution of the small tiny things that ensures excellence. Forgetting that control over desires, understanding innate talent and strengthening it is the way to succeed, not following the herd. Watching that Beehive gave me these powerful insights, insights that had laid dormant in me – as evidenced by my previous thoughts on this matter.
This applies for organisations as well as individuals; I fact- all organized / individual activity – if you don’t have the right team to execute in a changed external atmosphere, or if your analysis is not as per ground realities – you are almost certain to fail over the long term. The difference between humans and bees can manifest here : a human beehive would probably not be built on the lintel of another species residence, as the inherent danger should be obvious to us. And yet, we always disregard, and build our beehives {individual lives / organisations etc}  the same way, unmindful of the long term risks posed by our approach and our strategy! As proof, we simple have to list the list of brand and company failures in the past…
But the worst part of this entire episode was that I had to, with great reluctance, let go of the Beehive as my colony and my society wouldn’t have it any other way. What is worse, neither would I; the long term risk of an irritated nest so close to home was too great. Yet, it is noteworthy that, left to their own devices, the Bees would not have troubled me at all. In fact, I had gotten used to them living a few feet away. The complete inability of our species to adjust for the environment, and how far we have gone away from it – is the saddest aspect of all.
I for one am very delighted that Parmatma chose me to see this wonder barely 2 feet away from  myself on a daily basis, with its rapturous perfection, teamwork, execution excellence and genius – and the superb beauty of the natural order of things… they have taught me the true meaning of leadership, the true purpose of a leader; they have taught me management; but more than that, above all – the Bees and the Beehive has taught me the power of the environment, and how it is we Humans that are a problem with our ever-increasing desires and selfishness, and lack of adjustment capability…