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A Look at Bees Through the Spectacles of Scripture

Sunshine sparkles on the dew covered leaves of a melon plant stretching its vines across the damp soil. A fragile blossom slowly opens its large orange pedals to reveal the delicate stigma and the stamen carefully laden with pollen. Deep down within the corolla from where the stigma and stamen sprout forth oozed a fresh sweet drop of nectar. Today will be the only opportunity for the flower to obtain enough pollen from another melon flower to fertilize at least one hundred seeds within the ovary at the base of the flower. If the pollen does not come, then no seeds will form and no melon will grow. By tomorrow, this flower will have withered. The blossom must be pollinated today or the flower will die and the melon will be lost.

The warm sun has also encouraged the first bee to launch herself from the ledge of her hive into the thick damp air, rich with the aroma of earth and plants. Without hesitation she sets out in her assigned direction. Using the position of the sun, a belt of magnetic particles around her waist, and sensory hairs to compensate for the morning breeze, she will always know exactly where she is and where she could find her hive once again as she buzzed out of sight.

Her mission is to find pollen and nectar, bring it back to her hive, and let others know where the best gathering prospects might be. Her eyes searched the blurred landscape passing beneath for the bright splashes of color advertising the nectar and pollen for which she is searching. Her antennae waggled to detect the faint scent of a flower mingled with all the other scents of the morning. Before long her wings brought her to the melon patch where the large bright orange blossom beckoned for service and to be serviced. She slowed her pace and descended. Ultraviolet patterns on the corolla directed her in for a perfect landing and pointed toward the waiting drop of nectar. In her haste she bumped the stamen and a shower of pollen rained down upon her fuzzy abdomen. She reached in with her glossa (sucking tube) and sucked up the nectar. Before leaving, she quickly combed pollen from the hairs on her body and packed it into the baskets on her legs.

Her time was nearly up. She knew exactly how much liquid honey she had left in her stomach to fuel her flight back to the hive, but she had time to visit a few more flowers. Nearby was another melon blossom, and another and another. Today the melons would be opening their blossoms. Today the bees would concentrate on gathering nectar and pollen from the melon patch. This would be most efficient for the bees and most effective for the pollination of the melons. The bee hurried back to inform the hive of her discovery. Back at the hive she circled furiously and wagged her abdomen in a specific way to communicate the direction and distance of her find. She perfumed the air with melon blossom scent to make sure the other workers found the right kind of flowers. Soon thousands of bees were off and on their way to harvest the day’s bounty of nectar and pollen.

The melon blossom visited first by the first bee needed another visit. Pollen had been taken from the blossom, but because it was the bee’s first visit, no pollen had been carried to the blossom. The blossom would have to secrete more nectar and wait for another visit from a bee that had already been to another melon blossom. As the day grew warmer, the hum of bees in the nearby flowers came and went. Some bees nearly landed on the blossom, but they could tell by a lack of electrostatic charge on the pedals that the blossom had recently been visited and would not yet have enough nectar to make a visit worthwhile. By early afternoon, however, the blossom had produced a new drop of nectar and had acquired a slight buildup of electrostatic charge. The distinctive 160 cycle per second hum—about the E below middle C—grew louder signaling the approach of another bee. The bee landed and bustled into the blossom scattering a cloud of pollen on the stigma as she hurried to the nectar, drank deeply, and then hurried away again. The blossom had received its first dose of pollen capable of producing seeds in the melon. By the days end, the blossom had been visited by some beetles and a bumblebee that brought more pollen. The flower’s work was finished. It had attracted bees bearing pollen necessary for the development of a melon. The corolla would now wither away while the seeds in the ovary developed and the melon grew large and plump.

This description of the interaction between a bee and flower is based upon the discoveries scientists make as they study the world of insects and plants. Man is discovering new wonders in the insect and plant world every day; wonders so astounding that ungodly scientists are forced to confess that their theory of evolution strains to explain them. These are wonders that harden their hearts while at the same time bring the believer to his knees in humble adoration of God who has fashioned the intricate behavior and distinctions of some twenty thousand different species of bee.

Man finds many wonders in the bee when he looks through his sin corrupted spectacles of science, but with the spectacles of scripture we see all the wonders come together into one glorious whole that renders endless praise to the Creator of all these things. To begin with, God speaks in His word directly about the sting of bees and the honey they produce. God has equipped the insects which busily flit from flower to flower, doing the important work of pollination, with a painful sting to defend themselves in their vulnerable work. If they were not given this protection, they would be easy targets for birds and they would be helpless against animals that would take honey from their hives. In the Old Testament, God called (Isaiah 7:18) the bees with their pain inflicting weapons into His service as He prepared a place for His people. God miraculously used the hornet (which is a species of bee) to swarm together and drive out some of the inhabitants of Canaan for the Israelites (Exodus 23:28; Deut. 7:20; Joshua24:12). But when Israel turned from God to follow the idol gods, God strengthened the Amorites, “And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah,’’ Deut. 1:44. David writes in Psalm 118:12 that his enemies surrounded and chased him like a swarm of angry bees. The idea of an angry swarm of bees chasing you is dreadful indeed and directs our attention to the wonder of God’s saving grace.

In some other passages, God speaks concerning the honey which bees produce. I will not go into detail on these verses, but it is clear in general from the outline below that honey is used by man for food, and the sweetness pictures the delight we experience in covenant fellowship with God.

Honey

Exodus 16:31; 2 Samuel 17:29; Proverbs 25:27; Song 4:11; Isaiah 7:15; Matthew 3:4; Luke 24:42

  • Not to be offered with sacrifices. Leviticus 2:11
  • Found in rocks. Deut. 32:13; Psalm 81:16
  • Found upon the ground. 1 Samuel 14:25
  • Samson’s riddle concerning. Judges 14:14
  • Sent as a present by Jacob to Egypt. Genesis 43:11
  • Plentiful in Palestine. Exodus 3:8; Leviticus 20:24; Deut. 8:8; Ezekiel 20:6
  • Plentiful in Assyria. 2 Kings 18:32
  • An article of merchandise from Palestine. Ezekiel 27:17

Outline from Enhanced Nave’s Topics (but not original Nave’s Topical Bible) copyright © 1991, 1994,

NavPress Software.

As we bring bees into focus under the biblical truth of the cosmos we begin to notice some other wonders of the bee. The word “cosmos” is a Greek word that describes anything that has an orderly arrangement. The whole universe is a cosmos. The world is a cosmos. The church is a cosmos. The human body can be called a cosmos or “microcosmos.” The world of bees is also a cosmos; in fact, the very word for “bee” in the Hebrew is “deb-o-raw” which comes from the word “dabar” which means “to arrange or speak.” Bees have long been recognized as a social insect with a systematic way of life.

God created the complex system of bee behavior to work in perfect harmony with the tremendous variety of plants that God gives to man to use in service to Him. God created each plant so that it would produce a seed after its own kind in the way of receiving pollen from another plant of its own kind. For this work God created thousands of different species of bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, birds, and even bats. Each creature is designed uniquely to pollinate a certain kind of flower. Some are very general pollinators, but other creatures are designed to pollinate plants that can be pollinated by no other creature. For example, the nectar of the Madagascar orchid is located at the end of a tube eight inches long. The Macrosetia butterfly is the only insect with a glossa long enough to reach the nectar. One reason for creating creatures that pollinate only certain kinds of flowers may be to ensure that the pollinators would visit all the kinds of plants to preserve their kind in the earth and not favor just one type of plant. God created the world of bees and plants to be a cosmos; an orderly arrangement that reflects the beauty of every work of God.

Another fascinating example of the bee-plant cosmos is the Meadow Sage flower. God created this flower with a gate mechanism that can be operated only by a bee or bumblebee, and no beetles or other insects. The gate mechanism is connected to the stamen (part with the pollen) and the stigma (the part that receives pollen). With the first visit, the gate lowers the stamen to powder the abdomen of the bee. Then the stamen wilts and the second visitor opens the gate and lowers the stigma which picks up the pollen on the abdomen of the bee from another flower. This mechanism prevents self-pollination that would weaken the next generation of plants. These harmonious interactions are only a minute piece of the vast and intricate puzzle of the cosmos created and fashioned by God; a dim picture of the church cosmos which God is in the process of creating; an example of the order and harmony of Scripture. ❖