When studying honeybees, the number 21 keeps on coming up. Did you know that it takes 21 days for a worker bee to hatch? Or that a bee colony needs to have at least 21 thousand family members before they start actively gathering honey? Perhaps the most controversial relation is that the number 21 is also the eight number in a Fibonacci sequence, also called divine proportion: 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21.
It really does sound like a conspiracy theory, huh? Actually Dan Brown mentions the divine proportion in his best seller “The Da Vinci Code” as the ratio between female to male bees. Well … we are sorry Dan Brown but, you are quite wrong about that, as the actual ratio of worker bees (female) to drones (male) gravitates around 95% to 5%, which makes about 19. There are quite a lot real examples of the code 21 you could have cited, though …
When a queen bee lays a larvae, it takes exactly 21 days for it to hatch. For the next 21 days this new worker bee will be conducting indoor activities. Stuff like cleaning, building, feeding the youngsters and the queen etc. And then it is ready to go outside and start providing for the colony. For how long? Yep, you’ve guessed it – 21 days.
Most people will tell you that a bee lives for 40-45 days. However we would like to argue that a honeybee has its duties even before it hatches. After the first three days, a worker bee’s egg actually has a function. The whole brood can help in the thermoregulation of the hive. By eating more of the food they are given, those toddlers generate heat. This is just one evidence in support of the statement that a honeybee colony can be viewed as an organism. Interestingly enough, if a colony has below 21 thousand members, it does not swarm. Bees have figured out that they need to be between 21 and 45 thousand before they can split up (swarm) into three different families and effectively reproduce the colony.
Now watch this fascinating video about those first 21 days a bee spends as an egg.