Among the most interesting things to see in the natural world are honeybee clusters. When bees search for a new location, the queen will move to a tree branch or some other surface she can hang onto. The worker bees cluster around her making a large ball. Researchers have noticed that the ball of bees changes shape as various forces like wind or vibration are directed at it. The changing shape fine-tunes the cluster to resist the elements protecting the queen and the cluster as a whole. The question is how the bees know where and how to move to hold the ball together.
Researchers at Harvard University have found that the strain sensed by each bee is the answer. When a bee feels stress from the wind or some other external force, they will move to an area of greater strain. Many bees moving to protect the cluster flattens the cluster’s shape making it more resistant to the source of the stress. The bees are taking more strain on themselves for the good of the cluster.
In fundamental physics, we know that Young’s modulus is the ratio of stress to strain and every material has a value. Understanding the values is critical to engineering structures to prevent material failure leading to the collapse of the structure. Apparently, bees have a high Young’s modulus designed into their genetic makeup to allow the honeybee cluster to survive.
Researchers emphasize that our understanding of insect behavior is in its infant stage. As concerns grow over the loss of bees that are important pollinators, more research is of great importance. Our understanding of God’s designs in the natural world continues to grow. The complexity of even such simple things as honeybee clusters tells us we have a lot to learn. It also tells us much about God’s wisdom and engineering design.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News, October 27, 2018, page 5.