Let’s talk about bees.
What I like most of all about bees is that they’re feminists. The quee bee-a abelha rainha– rules the hive. She gives orders to all of her female worker bees, which pollinate flowers, build the hive, guard against any sort of intruder, and create honey. (Fun fact: honey = bee vomit.) Besides honey, bees also produce wax, propolis-which has incredible healing properties and was used by the egyptians to embalm bodies, and geléia real, which literally translates to royal jelly, and is the material which the queen bee is fed before she hatches.
The queen bee leaves the hive only two times in her live, one of which is to mate. She exits the hive, collects the sperm of about twenty male bees, and then returns. Those sperm are then dispensed by the queen bee for the remainder of her life as she lays eggs within the hive. The male bees, called zangãoin Portuguese, serve only to donate sperm and have no other function in the hive. After the queen bee collects the sperm of a zangão, she cuts off the male’s penis, effectively killing him.
Here in Brazil, a number of abelhas nativas, or native bees, exist. Unlike the majority of bees, which are European by origin, Brazil’s native species are African by origin. In most native species, the queen bee is the only one in the hive with a stinger, which she uses in order to defend her hive against other queen bees which may attempt to invade.
I learned all this last week, when my fellow fellows and I took a field trip to a local beekeeper’s house. We were introduced to the basics of beekeeping, learned about various species of bees, and sampled a bit of honey straight from the hive. My personal epiphany: I want to become a beekeeper.