One-on-one, the bees just didn’t stand a chance

The hornets, far larger and heavier, would snatch and overpower the bees, mid-air.

The honeybees appeared to be losing.

Then something remarkable happened.

Perhaps something humans can learn on how to overcome the Covid-19 crisis.


1. Be coordinated

After about a week of the onslaught, the bees started coming together. The bees would swarm at the entrance of the hive, forming a protective boundary.

The hornet (in orange) at the centre of the Bee-Ball defence: Photograph by Ingo Arndt, National Geographic, March 2020

Each time a hornet came too close… bee-defenders would tackle the hornet to the ground… and keep piling on… to form a ‘bee-ball’ (see picture).

This bee-ball would then engage their flight muscles, raising the ambient, temperature until the hornet succumbs to the heat.

Covid-19 is our ‘hornet’ equivalent.

Our valiant first responders and front-liners are our defenders who sacrifice so much. We all stand a better chance of flattening the curve through a coordinated response. They deserve… we deserve… an intersectional top-down and ground-up approach. Beyond borders. Rising above the blame-game.

Will we be able to coordinate better as a species?


2. Be adaptable

Each worker bee is capable of doing every job necessary for maintaining the nest. From gathering nectar, cleaning, mending and… yes, even disinfecting the nest … a bee adapts to what’s needed for the health of the colony.

What about us?

With unprecedented levels of home-office, home-schooling and the impact on our everyday interactions … will our relationships… family ties … social fabric … emerge healthier for our efforts?

Will we be able to adapt our behaviours for the greater good?


3. Be considerate

From working together to melt beeswax in order to shape the hive – to cooling the nest by fanning their wings… the colony relies on its members’ collective effort.

Yet, the bees faced another threat. While fending off the hornet attacks, other bee colonies would often raid in an attempt to steal its honey.

In these Covid-19 months, we have demonstrated incredible acts of solidarity. Grassroot volunteerism to global supply chain activism have risen to the occasion at lightning speed.

Yet sadly, when anxiety is not contained, panic buying escalates. After all, no one wants to be the last one left empty-handed, hungry and vulnerable. Such hoarding reflexes only feeds the tension.

Will we be able to look back at this time and say we acted with utmost consideration?


Healthy and stronger together

We already know what’s needed. Just as Bill Gates and Bruce Aylward stated in their TED Talks – strong health systems, medical reserve corps, inter-disciplinary cooperation, rapid response teams etc. It’s what countless of others have echoed.

We also already have what it takes. As seen with SARS, MERS, Ebola and countless ‘hornets before. In time, we will overcome Covid-19. And perhaps even climate change.

What I wonder… is whether we can harness the momentum gained from this collective experience…

… or once this is ‘over’ … will we heave a sigh of relief … and quietly fall back on our ‘old ways’?

Will we be able to…  coordinate… adapt… and be considerate …for the longer term, the bigger picture and the greater good?

I certainly hope so.

Ultimately, the health of all our colonies depend on it.

Adapted from a National Geographic article, The Secrets of Bees, March 2020 – by Jason Bittel and photographs by Ingo Arndt.


“Individually, we are one drop.

Together, we are an ocean”.

– Ryunosuke Satoro

About the Author

Selena is a seasoned business executive having spent 20+ years in consulting, change management, HR and complex matrix organizations across five continents, with the aim for uncovering healthier and easier approaches. Selena left a successful ‘corporate life’ in 2016 … toward what would be her next era of meaningful work.

She now works with individuals and institutions in transition to speed up time to success by addressing unconscious resistances, delivering a bespoke experiences (read what people say about working together).

As a CPA, an accredited Coach, as well as trained in the psychoanalytical approach to transformation and a meditation practitioner, she seamlessly weaves corporate and experiential, Eastern and Western as well as ancient and modern approaches – to unlock resistances and get results. Originally from Malaysia, she and her French husband now call Zürich home.