Jessica Loudon


22 March 2022


4 minuten

What we can learn from the honey bee about working together

Now that spring seems to be approaching, bees are awakening from hibernation again to search for nectar and pollen. Honey bees have survived for millions of years by working together intensively. And bees also work together outside the hive: the symbiosis between bees and flowers is unique. Flowers cannot live without bees and bees cannot live without flowers.

Pollination of flowers is an essential contribution to the ecosystem. One in three bites we take of our food comes about thanks to the collaboration between bee and flower. Besides that we depend on the bee for the pollination of our crops, we can also learn a lot from this animal. Because, for example, by working together better, we can give the bee, and thus biodiversity, a helping hand. In this blog, our beekeeper Jessica fromLiquid Nature  shares some special and inspiring lessons from the bee.

Collaboration yields more

A bee colony consists of approximately 40,000 bees. Just like in business, bees work from teams. For example, there are teams to clean honeycombs, take care of bee brood or collect nectar and pollen. Every task contributes to the well-being of the bee colony. #improve

Collaboration often promotes the end result. Likewise with the bee. While a single bee can produce about 7 grams of honey, a whole bee colony together produces more than 30 kilos of honey in a few months. The bees achieve this by sharing important information, such as where to get the nearest nectar and pollen. #connect

However, this collaboration goes further than just delivering a larger production. By regulating the temperature in the hive together, the bees survive the winter cold. The bees take it in turns to sit on the outside of the compact winter truss and then warm up in rotation in the warm core of the truss. After all, the survival of the winter by as many bees as possible is important for the survival of the colony. #marvel

By working together, these two bees even manage to open the cap of a soda bottle

How bees make a decision

Every year when the colony has reached the maximum capacity of a hive, the old queen leaves with a swarm of chosen bees to look for a new bee location. A third of the bee population is left with a new queen bee and enough honey supply for the coming weeks. The swarm stays in a compact cluster for a few hours or days near the old hive with one mission: to find a new beehive.


The swarm, dangling from a tree or gutter, looks unstructured at first glance. The thousands of bees are hardly distinguishable from each other, although they themselves seem to know exactly what needs to be done. Coloring and numbering bees in the swarm allowed researchers to observe and analyze the behavior of bees.

For example, it became clear that a number of experienced fetch bees in the swarm are temporarily promoted to scout bees. These forager bees, so called because they are busy collecting nectar and pollen, temporarily stop their task to focus entirely on exploring the environment. With the aim of a perfect new bee home.

Researchers number bees to study their behavior

Lessons from the bee

Through analysis and data collection, we know more and more about honeybees. Beekeepers, such as Liquid Nature, contribute to this. The more we know about the behavior of the bee, the better we can contribute to the well-being of this special animal. In addition, we can also learn a number of inspiring things from the bee:

  1. Collaboration yields much more
    Bees are well aware of this. By sharing knowledge, communicating well and putting the group interests first, the yield, in this case honey, is increased.
  2. Clear Success Criteria
    Scout bees use specific and quantitative criteria to assess potential new homes, such as volume, entrance size and distance from the ground, nectar and pollen availability in the gestation area. Measuring is knowing.
  3. Clear communication
    Once a scout bee finds a spot that meets most of the success criteria, she flies back to the swarm. Through a dance ritual on the outside of the swarm, scout bees communicate to the other bees the value of the potentially new bee home through a so-called dance. In the dance, the angle to the sun indicates the direction, the dance curve indicates the distance from the hive and the enthusiasm with which the abdomen of the bee moves during the dance indicates the quality level of the find.

    Communication through a bee dance

  4. The Greater Importance
    When several locations have been found, all portrayed by means of a bee dance, the decision-making process starts. Bees show their preference by joining a scout bee. The final decision is made democratically. Bees can change their mind several times during the process, because the bee instinct is always open to an even better or more widely supported idea. After all, it is about the interests of the entire group, not of the individual. Out together, at home together.

To use the lessons of the bee

The uniqueness of the honey bees is the synergistic power of the bee colony. By utilizing the common intelligence, working together and putting the interests of the group first in decisions, the people can not only survive, but also grow.

A comparison that Milgro likes to refer to itself. Because by working together on the basis of a shared intelligence, continuously connecting each other, regarding recipients and disposers and considering sustainable use of raw materials as the most important end result, they ensure, just like with the honeybee, that the joint result is a multiple of all individual contributions. added together.

Stay tuned?

Milgro regularly publishes articles and blogs about issues that are close to their hearts, such as the bee. You will also find regular updates on collaborations, the importance of natural capital management and sustainable waste and raw materials management. To stay informed? Follow Milgro on LinkedIn.

More about the bee

Here's what you can do to give the bee a helping hand (link in Dutch). Also read more about  world bee day and the national bee count



Sources | The following sources were used to write this blog: Zeynep Ulgezen (11 februari 2022) Sociale veerkracht essentieel voor bijengezondheid WUR / Jacob van der Wal (4 juni 2020) Besluitvorming in zwermen /  Thomas D. Seeley (2010) Honeybee Democracy / Rini van Solingen, (2020) De bijenherder / Michael O’Malley (2010) The Wisdom of bees, What the hive can teach us about leadership, efficiency and growth