We know how much you dislike that annoying buzzing sound in your ear whilst sipping on that aperol spritz, but bees become much less imposing when we realise the impact they have on our lives and how societally similar they are to humans.
From Sarah Burton’s 2012 Alexander McQueen collection, Giambattista Valli’s bee bracelets, Valentino’s embroidered outerwear, and our
SS14 collection, to beauty products like Burt’s Bees and Bee Good, bees have caused quite a stir in our world. Alexander McQueen SS13
Alexander McQueen SS13
Giambattista Valli Fall 2012 Couture
Valentino Couture Fall 2013
Yet despite the attention of the catwalk shows and beauty presentations in our
stratosphere, we’ve failed to pay attention to what is happening in their
world. Remaining at a distance with these highly advanced creatures, we haven’t given them enough attention. In one Ted Talk, given by bee scholar, Maria Spivak, she discusses the world’s crop production dependence on pollination, artificial pollination, bee politics, and why the bees are in danger in great length. [embed]https://www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing#t-885366[/embed] Within Spivak’s speech, it becomes extremely clear that these black and yellow organisms have a similar outlook on life to us: functioning as a community and serving one another, in turn for the greater good of the individual. According to Maria, bees even have their own pharmaceutical outlets
Whilst Spivak’s sixteen minute speech informs us of the many similar parallels between bee societies and ours, it is still impossible for us to understand how codependent, and yet how similar, our two species are.
However, Laline Paull’s The Bees
may bridge the gap. A tale of a worker bee, Flora 717, and her struggle and persistence within this 'beecosystem', has wowed international audiences. Paull’s tale profiles Flora, a bee born into the lowest caste of her society. From the beginning she proves a bold female protagonist, with a quick knack for learning and a strong disposition; and her ability to speak makes her a standout amongst her mute caste of sanitation workers.
According to Spevak, bees have their own systems of “healthcare”: some workers are deemed “the sick police” and are instructed to execute or remove members dissimilar to the rest of the hive; and in the first section of the book, Flora, due to her grotesque and off-coloured skin, is to be executed. Her wit saves the day, though, when she catches the attention of the priestess bee. Her displays of courage through encounters with a preying wasp, her enemies within the hive, and the circulating secrets of her cohorts, provide Flora with a high status within the hive; and soon after this, she abandons her caste to serve the priestess and adopts a new identity, suitable for her newly acquired privileged lifestyle. Caught between a conflict of maternal love and personal identity, Flora has to decide for herself what matters most.
Laline Paull offers a tale of courage, politics, and socioeconomic upheaval. Flora 717’s character is relatable and Paull’s acute knowledge of bees helps us see the world from her perspective. As described by Margaret Atwood as a “gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives,” The Bees
proves to be a highly praised masterpiece of science fiction. Highlighting pressing environmental issues, lessons of human nature, and factual insight into the lives of bees, Paull teaches us how to see eye to eye with bees through compound eyes.
But the 20,000+ species of bees in our world need help, as our demand for their labour increases and bee population rates sink. By avoiding pesticides, planting bee friendly flowers, eating friendly honey, (like Toca, an amazing honey brand from the mountains of Galicia)
and understanding the lives of bees, are a few quick remedies that will help the cause. So, flip the pages through Laline Paull’s The Bees
, plant some foxglove, and eat some Toca honey, because the bees need us as much as we need them.
God save the queen.. bee.
*All bee photographs from Sam Droege, USGS for National Geographic.
**Typography in feature image by Sophia Smith