Sometimes nature shows us a more elegant, but not necessarily simpler, way of going about our everyday lives. Last week while experimenting with home-made lip balm, I received unexpected guests in the form of four honeybees. It could be the fragrance of the melted beeswax or the added essential oils (Rose geranium, Lavender and Cape snowbush) that attracted them to my kitchen. Although an experienced beekeeper remarked that the beeswax lured them, I prefer to think that the bees loved the blended fragrance!
This experience made me think about how much the amazing honeybee (Apis mellifera) can teach us about sense of smell and fragrance preferences. Bees have an acute sense of smell and are choosy about which plants they pollinate. While reflecting on this, the following questions came to mind: How do they choose flowers from a bewildering number of options? Do they also feel overwhelmed by all the fragrances at their “perfume counter”? And how do they inform their friends about their discoveries?
The Beekeeper explained: A scout bee goes out foraging for nectar and pollen. She is attracted to the brightly coloured flowers and their fragrances. Eventually she will find flowers with usable nectar and will return to the hive to communicate her discovery by doing a waggle dance. Research indicates that the waggle dance of the scout bee transfers the direction, distance and quality of the food source.
If I could be a scout honeybee for a day, I would spend most of my time visiting the following fynbos flowers and their wonderful fragrances: