Monday, February 5, 2007

Of Honey Bears and Worker Bees

Take your standard grizzly bear. She loves honey and in spring and summer she makes trouble for the poor worker bees that try to mind their own honey-business. But, as in all things natural, the bear's sweet tooth serves the purpose of keeping the bee population down. Come winter, the bear goes into hibernation and the bees are left alone for a while. The bear-bee life goes on, as always, in cycles. Up, down - up, down.

Isn't dynamic stability boring, though? During the winter the bees decided they needed a better honey regime. They plan to share as little of their honey as possible with that pesky bear.

The bees came up with a new bear-raid remediation plan: they split up their beehives into smaller units and stuck them here and there, instead of having just a few large ones. Clever little bees...little hives everywhere. Spread the risk around, eh? And because the bear has been extending her hibernation recently (did the bees slip her a mickey?) there are lots and lots of hives around.

The bear finally wakes up (she always does) and she's REALLY hungry from her over-extended hibernation. She looks around and her eyes light up! There's a hive just outside her den - she quickly gobbles up the honey but it was too little - the hive was too small. But she is a happy bear, nevertheless, because no more than ten bear-paw paces away there is another hive and then another and yet another. Before you know it the bear is feasting on one hive after another and the bees are helpless because they are just too few of them in each hive to make trouble for the bear. Then, another sort of bee-trouble arises: as the bearish news fly from one hive to another bee-panic sets in and it's every bee for herself. Not really much choice: sit tight and get eaten or fly to safety - but fly to where? Every hive is too small to accommodate excess bee-refugees and there is no beehive big enough to organize a counter-attack.

Result: one happy fat bear, millions of homeless bees. And the price of honey goes up, way up.