The wisdom of bees – Fear and respect for all species

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Photo by Leandro Fregoni

Fools do not praise generosity;
Misers do not go to the world of gods.
The wise rejoice in generosity
And thus find happiness in the afterlife.

(Dhammapada 177, translated by Gil Fronsdal)

Alone together

Until 11 years ago, I lived alone in a long-term mountainside retreat, with a self-built terrace for my caravan and vegetable garden. I built a very simple porch roof to provide some shade on the south side. I erected wooden poles to support a green tarp roof. Over time, I noticed that there was someone living in a hole in one of these posts. It was a huge, dark, fluffy bumblebee. I don't think it's a xylophagous bee; rather, he had found the hole and made it his home.

One of the most fascinating things about living alone in the forest is that you are very far from being alone! With all kinds of invisible creatures and beings as companions, the smallest of animals can be a relative, a friend. This is how it happened between the bee and me, sitting quietly in meditation or busy buzzing. Even in bad weather, from inside my trailer, I could sense the bee's presence nearby. I intuitively looked out the window and saw her coming or heading towards her little wooden house. It was like a kinship, just the two of us in our respective caves, doing our own things, but with a sense of camaraderie. We are never alone in the world, even if we intend or wish to be.


Wriggling dance

If you've ever seen bees in a hive, you know that community is at the center of their existence. This is true for many insect species. Bees collect pollen and together produce honey and care for the queen bee, as well as the health of the hive and the community within it. Because animals like bees communicate nonverbally, instinctively, and intuitively, we tend to think of them as less civilized or less complex than human beings. But I would say it is the opposite: insects have complex communication and navigation systems, resulting from their innate biological technology. They may show signs of emotions that we only attribute to humans or primates, such as frustration or anger, grief or loss, contentment and connection. We have not yet scratched the tip of the iceberg of research into animal emotions and psychology. In my opinion, we should therefore assume that they are more or at least more important. as as complex as we are, and let's give them the respect they deserve. Bees communicate through sound and movement. Many scientists have dedicated their work to their study through their expertise, passion and dedication. One such scientist, James Nieh of the University of California, San Diego, offers the following about his bee topics:

They can tell each other where to go, how far to fly, and how far to travel to find the food source. Basically, the more time she spends shaking or stirring, the farther away the food source is. Another amazing aspect of this communication system, which hasn't been studied as clearly, is the fact that bees can actually use sound in a certain way. They can generate sounds during waggle dancing, but the main way they use sound is to feel them through vibrations.*

Photo by Boba Jaglicic


Most of us live in human communities, whether large or small, simple or complex. And we somehow assume that our societies, communities, neighborhoods, and families are superior to those of the animal kingdom (or kingdom). But when we look at how much conflict we have in our human culture, we might think twice about our sense of superiority. It takes unusual circumstances in the insect realm for conflict to arise. Things tend to go smoothly because insects instinctively and intuitively interact with each other for the common good, the primary goal of survival and well-being. In other types of animal societies, things may get a little more complicated, where some members may be ostracized for various reasons, but we might take to heart the qualities and abilities of the insect, mammal, marine and world worlds. birds, and see what kind of models all kinds of creatures can be for us.


Interspecific generosity

I recently heard of a woman who found a bee that seemed in distress, perhaps hungry or thirsty. She noticed that he only had one wing and was therefore unable to fly. She carefully gathered the bee into an enclosure and began offering freshly picked flowers every day. She also offered him water and the bee lived for about three weeks. During this time, she became very emotionally intimate with the creature.

Such stories, although very simple, touch me deeply. In my opinion, a large part of our purpose as human beings is to care for others, regardless of their species or condition. If we can offer, we will. One of my Buddhist lamas says that there is no greater offering, apart from our meditation and prayers, for all beings to achieve enlightenment and be free from suffering. The second greatest offering is that of a home and shelter for others. Whether temporary or permanent, she asked, how much housing have you offered? For many of us, we may not be able to provide elaborate accommodations for other human beings. But for animal beings, there are a multitude of opportunities to provide home, shelter, care, food or warmth. And that's something important for us to do, and not only for our own families, children, pets or animals close to us. As we commute, travel, or go about our daily lives, if we see an animal in any level of distress or need, we should take the time to offer them some comfort, reassurance, or food. In this way, we fulfill what it means to be fully human, embodying care and compassion for all beings.

May the lives of all bees and bee colonies prosper and improve, not only to pollinate the world's food sources, but also for their own sovereignty and well-being.

Photo by Esteban Abalsa

* The dance of the bees (Inside Science)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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