In Honeybee Democracy, Tom Seeley researched the question, “How do honeybees select a new home?” Honeybees naturally swarm. Swarming is the way honeybees reproduce. The queen and two-thirds of the bees in the hive leave the hive and congregate on a branch, the eave of a house, or a fence post, while the rest of the bees remain in the original hive. These bees will make their own new queen from a fertilized egg left by the departed old queen.
Now the queen and two-thirds of the bees, numbering from 10,000 to 20,000, wait, say on a tree branch, sending a few scouts in search of their new home. The scouts return to the swarm and share their site information in a dance. Some scout bees dance in smaller circles indicating their chosen new home is a short distance from the swarm. Another bee will dance in larger circles indicating their choice is a long distance away. Eight to ten scout bees will dance their information to the rest of the hive.
As the bees dance circles, some dance with more vigor, indicating they enthusiastically prefer their choice. Observing the scout bees’ dance, other bees begin to follow the scout bees to have a look at the possible choices. More bees inspect the sites of the enthusiastic scout bees, while the poorer sites have fewer followers, until all of the bees choose one preferred site.
At this time up to 20,000 bees, having decided by consensus, take off for their new home. They forming a cylindrical circle in the sky over 200 feet high and around 100 feet in diameter. What a beautiful sight this circle of bees in the sky is, as they go together to their new home.
Just a side note: How do honeybees know to find a new home by consensus when we humans have such great difficulty? Well, honeybees have more experience. They have been here for around 30,000,000 years; humans, around 200,000.
But we can learn from nature’s circles. Maryknoll sisters, as well as the Affiliates, use consensus in decision-making. Yes, circles! “That’s what it’s all about!” Let’s do the Hokey Pokey.
NOTE: Roger Schiltz claims the world record for dancing the Hokey Pokey (a circle dance). He said they danced with 300 children in Tanzania on the Day of the Child, when they were Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Tanzania. In his honor we danced the Hokey Pokey at the 2017 MAC.