Death of a Hive

Once, a hive of bees lived together in perfect harmony. The worker bees busily did the work of the hive; they knew where the pollen was and how to collect it. The drones cared for the queen and helped populate the hive. The queen, of course, laid the eggs and gave meaning and direction to the whole hive. As they cared for her, she cared for them and gave generation upon generation.

One dark spring day, the Queen died before her replacement was born. The hive was thrown into chaos and confusion. Some worker bees continue to collect pollen and create honey, since that was what they knew. They continued in the old traditions and the old haunts, reproducing the old ways and old days. Thus, honey was still being made and stored away. But no new bees were born. All that remained were the few final eggs the queen laid before she died, and these eggs and new larva formed the basis of the hive’s long-term hopes.

Some worker bees, sterile as they were, reasoned that the hive had need of a leader and that they, experts in where the flowers were and how pollen was to be stuck to their legs for transportation, could assume the role of the queen. The drones joined with the new worker bees, the new queens, since they needed to serve someone or something and continued, in some small way, to care for the few remaining eggs and larvae. A few, though, ceased to serve anyone other then themselves.

Some worker bees remained traditionalists, though they were just as sterile as the worker-queens. These older worker bees remembered the old queen and continued to produce honey with traditional methods. However, they were focused on maintaining the traditional ways and largely ignored the new queens and the ways of the hive.

Both sets of workers were, of course, to unable reproduce but the crisis demanded their immediate attention — to the maintaining of the tradition of honey-making and creating order and efficiency. An uneasy alliance was formed for the good of the hive. Meanwhile, the drones continued to care for others or themselves.

By the end of spring, the remaining queen-workers were larvae when the queen died. Almost all traditional workers had died off. The new class sought to bring about improved efficiencies and new ways of doing things, by providing other drones and workers with guidance as to when and how to gather pollen.

The first generation of worker-queen advice had conflicted little with the traditional gathering techniques. But over time, as the youngest workers grew up and the oldest workers died, few maintained the previous traditions. Large groups of workers focused on new techniques of gathering pollen exclusively from the spring tree flowers that populated the plains, and the annuals that lay on old laws; mainstays like clovers were forgotten.

Meanwhile, the drones began to eat their way through the honey rather than care for the new larvae. No new workers — whether the new queens or traditionalists — or drones were being born by this point in early summer and, thus, an aging population of traditional workers were producing most of the honey.

Access to the royal jelly was given, though primarily for the worker queens as a way of sustaining their leadership, which was necessary to provide order to the hive. More and more Drones and workers, past the end of their life cycle, began to die off – solving, the new generation of workers queens rejoiced in their private moments – the problem the declining honey supply.

When a lost egg hatched, the hive rejoiced at the possibility of a new worker or drone. But it was a true queen.

They killed her immediately.

They despised the freakish creature. The new generation no longer had the capacity to recognize their queen.

It was summer. The hive was functioning well enough, now: there were enough workers. The old drones and workers had died and the amount of honey that remained served the remaining bees.

More time passed. By late summer, the final worker-queen died of old age among the bodies of its siblings. The hive was empty.

A bear wandering by was disappointed by the lack of honey and local biologist blamed the empty hive on hive collapse disorder — the sudden death of workers leading to the death of the queen.