FEMALE HONEYBEE, BUILDER OF HER OWN CELL
And your Lord revealed the female honeybee; build homes in
mountains, and trees, and in the hives people built for you.
(16- An Nahl 68)
In narrating the doings of the honeybee, the Quran uses the feminine gender. In Arabic, verbs are conjugated according to gender. The use in the Quran of the feminine gender in conjugation shows that the acts pointed out by the Quran were performed by the female bee. The working of the female honeybee is described in the Quran as follows:
1- Building of hive(verse 68)
2- Collecting of nectar, new material for honey production(verse 69)
3- Making honey(verse 69)
All the above three functions are performed by female bees. The unique function of the male, more robust with big eyes, is to fertilize the young queen female bee. The male bees that fulfill this function are expelled from the hive by their females at the end of the summer and, as they are used to being looked after by their females, they then die of starvation.
At the time of the descent of the Quran, men did not know the details of the distribution of work among the bees living in a hive; they did not know that those actively working in the hive were females. They did not know that the function of producing honey and collecting nectar from fruits belonged to female bees. Therefore, it is interesting, indeed, that in listing the duties of bees, the Quran used the mode of conjugation in the Arabic intended for the female gender.
The functions performed by the female honeybee leave us in wonder. The design of the cells in which she will live call for the erudition of a mathematician Honeybees produce their honeycombs in the form of hexagons. (Bee fossils show that this was also the case millions of years ago). Mathematicians inquiring into the reason why this hexagon remained constant and why there were no rectangles, heptagons, octagons, etc. found out that the optimum use of the entire space of unit could be no other than a hexagon, which also accounted for the production of cells using the available material in the most economical fashion. Had the cells been of a different shape, i.e., triangular or quadrilateral, there would be no vacuum, as well. But less material is required to build hexagonal cells than that required for triangular or quadrilateral cells. In many other shapes there would be unutilized space left. Thus the hexagonal cell is capable of storing the greater amount of honey with less wax.
This structure is the result of the combined work of thousands of bees, each contributing to the entire geometrical opus. Mathematicians have proven that no larger space could be arranged with a given amount of wax to fit the geometrical design. The worker bees show how they can realize it in the most economical fashion with what they have.
A French entomologist by the name of Antoine Ferchault posited a geometrical problem referred to as the “Bee Problem.” He stated that “a cell of regular hexagonal cross section is closed by three equal and equally inclined rhombuses. Calculate the smaller angle of the rhombus when the total surface area of the cell is least possible.” Three leading mathematicians, a German, a Swiss and a Brit, tried to solve this problem, and all of them found the following result: 70 degrees 32 minutes. This exactly fits the angle of cells constructed by the female bees. Even the wisest of men could not suggest an improvement on the female bees’ technique of building.
The worker bees’ points of departure in the production process of these cells differ. As the work proceeds, the cells converge toward a central point. The angles of cells at the point where they meet are perfect. It is clear that the construction of this design, the distances between the beginning and the end points and the precise calculation of the positions of their fellow workers display unbelievable exactitude.
The most renowned mathematicians demonstrated the bees’ unerring calculation measured as 70 degrees 32 minutes. However, were we to suggest that these three men of science take a ruler in hand and make a hexagon with perfectly fitting angles; and then add to the instructions given to these three professors, asking that the calculation used to form the hexagons be regular and flawless and that all of them should start from a different place of the hexagon; they would fail in the task. We see that the bees are not only great theoreticians but also skillful practitioners. In the theoretical field, this calculation is incredibly exact, while their skill in applying it is unbelievable accurate.
How do these bees, whose lifetime is only 6 weeks, achieve all these calculations and construction work? To call this ingenuity mere “instinct” does not explain anything. The Quran states that the bee received revelations according to which God’s design and programming were put into execution. Within the span of the honeybee’s lifetime, the cleverest of men could not learn even to count, let alone be the author of such a perfect design. We cannot account for the erudition of bees, certainly not as pure luck. The Creator who created the bee made her with all her potentialities, having solved for her all these mathematical problems. The same Creator sees to it that the bee works for ends that also serve mankind in general.
THE FEMALE HONEYBEE’S ABDOMEN
69- Then eat from all the fruits and flit about the spacious paths of your Lord. There issues from within her abdomens a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for the people. Verily in this is a sign for those who understand.
16-An Nahl, 69
The honeybee has a body that varies in length between 1 cm and 3 cm, and that is divided into three parts: head, thorax and abdomen. The verse quoted above stresses that in the individual female bee there are “abdomens,” which in Arabic is “butuniha,” the “ha” referring to a singular female bee. If the plural of the word “abdomen” was meant to refer to the female bees, then the plural female pronoun “hunna” would be attached to the verb “butuniha.” This makes clear the segmented abdomen of the bee. Inside the abdomen there are two stomachs or crops. When collecting the nectar from flowers, nectar is stored in this honey stomach for transport back to the hive. At the rear of the honey stomach is a valve that prevents stored nectar from passing on into the rear portion of the digestive system, except for the small amount needed by the bee to sustain life.
The colors of honey vary as stated in the Quran. They change according to the climate, season and weather conditions and the sources where nectar is obtained. The color of honey ranges from dark brown to green, among which the light yellow is preferred. In the honey industry, modern countries with developed techniques use a colorimeter to establish the exact description of honey’s color.
THE HONEY DANCES OF BEES
At the beginning of the verse, reference is made to the collection of nectar. The female bees not only produce honey, but also assume the duty of collecting the raw material from flowers to be eventually transformed into honey. During this process of seeking the nectar, incredible phenomena occur.
The bee that has located the spot where there is nectar to be collected returns to the hive to inform her sisters about the location of flowers. The scout bees returning to the hive perform circular dances or tail-wagging movements. These dances indicate not only that the scouts have found nectar or pollen and that the other workers should go out and seek it, but they are actually performing an amazing charade that conveys precise information to their sisters about the direction and the distance of the location of a newfound source.
Sometimes a normal adult must attend a dance course for six weeks while a bee, whose lifetime is but six weeks, is able to perform a dance for communication purposes. The bee’s calculation on her way back to the hive is also of great interest. The bee makes her calculation according to the position of the sun. The sun changes its location one degree per four minutes. The bee that has spotted the location of her food also calculates her return journey as directly and correctly as possible in relation to the sun. She performs this without any error. All these calculations and harmonious coexistence within the hive cannot possibly be explained by pure coincidence or after a six-week-long training. So, all these are innate in her as an endowment of the Creator.
THE HEALING POWER OF HONEY
The verse speaks of the nutritive property of honey, a product of female bees. The regenerative property of honey is confirmed by medical authorities. In addition to its rich vitamin content, among its components are also such minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus as well as such metals as copper, iodine, iron, zinc, and hormones.
Thanks to the easy convertibility of its sugar content, it is easily assimilated. Honey facilitates the functioning of the brain. It contributes to the production of blood, to its cleansing and proper circulation. Honey provides for the requirement necessary for proper functioning of our physiology and also it is used externally in cosmetics and dermatology.
The fact that honey had healing properties was nothing new for communities all over the world. Therefore, we are not claiming that this was not a generally acknowledged fact at the time of the descent of the Quran. However there were also such superstitious beliefs as the healing effect of a camel’s urine, which was later falsely attributed to the Prophet in hadith books. The Quran never justifies any of such false ideas offered as elixirs. Had the Quran been a product of human imagination, it might also have contained at least a residue of such false beliefs.
The distribution of work of bees in a hive and the multiple tasks performed by bees is too complicated to explain within the scope of this book. The ventilation of the hive, regulating humidity and temperature, keeping a perfect hygienic medium in the hive; guarding the hive, discarding the unwanted foreign matter, dead bees, etc., secreting wax, propolis, all are amazing tasks. How can a bee, whose lifetime is but six weeks, know and perform such grandiose artistry? Without an intelligent Creator the coincidence of all these data is certainly unimaginable. Every inquirer into the doings of a bee – to whose properties there are references in the Quran – will observe the sublime artistry of God in the entity of an insect.
4- Also in your creation and spreading of the animals are
signs for people of assured faith.
45-Al Jathiyah, 4