Photo: beehive blocks in Greece. Nestoras Gioulatos on Flickr

Bee Pattern Picks

Taking inspiration from the natural world

“Bees offer something for everyone” says Jane Mosley of the British Bee Keepers Association. Being a beekeeper or a lover of bees allows gardeners to be more in tune with the seasons, offers psychologists and scientists understanding of social behaviour patterns and systems, and engineers insight into some of the best builders in the world. We take a look at just some of the many fascinating patterns of bees and the things that they can teach us….

Honeycomb Hexagons

Photo: Gavin Macntosh on Flickr

One of the most famous patterns of bees – the honeycomb. Made up of hexagons each measuring ‘one bee space’, honeycomb is one of the first examples of such structure in nature, which has since been copied in many engineering and manufacturing contexts. The hexagon shape allows for maximum strength with minimal use of material, showing the ingenuity of bees as builders.

The Waggle Dance

Photo: Paul Woodward
Bees use many different patterns of communication – through sound waves (buzzing) and movement. The most famous is the Waggle Dance, used by foraging bees to direct the drones in the direction of nectar. A figure of eight movement is used, showing the angle and distance of the food. This method is particularly innovative as most of the hive is in darkness.

Pollen Rake Spikes

Photo: Charles Krebs
The anatomy of bees kits them out with the tools needed to carry out their important tasks. Pollen rakes form part of their legs, allowing them to scrape together the pollen from the opposite leg, ready to be stored.

Bee Stripes

Photo: Kevin Cole on Flickr
Bee’s famous black and yellow stripes are used to warn predators of their potent sting. The alternate black and yellow allows for maximum contrast. Often the bee’s bodies are black, and fine minute hairs create the yellow banding.

Swarm Patterns

Photo: Lisa Wright/Virginia News
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Exhibited by many animals in the natural world, bees use swarm techniques to travel. This emergent behaviour allows the bees to fly as one super-organism. They communicate and collaborate to find information about new nesting sites, and once they have decided on a space, will use the swarm behaviour to move as a unit.