Skip to content Where Legends Are Made
Finance and Operations Apply to UA Make a Gift

Inside Track with Fajack

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Or What University Business Can Learn from a Bees-Nest


I became a beekeeper two years ago.  What began as a simple way to pollinate my vegetable garden, quickly turned into a full-fledged hobby.  In the early days of COVID, beekeeping was creative outlet amidst the challenges that came with the pandemic.  Through an online course, I learned about – and became fascinated by – this collaborative, industrious species.  I am not the only one; bees are among the most studied creatures on the planet.

I am intrigued by what we can learn from bees in regard to teamwork and organization.  Bees are highly evolved and perform a variety of collaborative, complex tasks together.  I could not help but notice the similarities between my backyard beehive and our organization here at the University.

Everyone Matters: Every bee has a defined role in a beehive, just our team members have clear responsibilities and duties on our campus.  Bees work together and often handoff their jobs to other bees who quickly adapt to continue their work, just like our cross-trained employees who can step into another position with ease. 

Actions Over Words: Bees communicate effectively within their hive and can be a reminder to us that “actions speak louder than words.”  It is an ongoing job within the hive to remove debris and waste material.  Bees are in constant motion to maintain a clutter free hive.  At Alabama, distractions and clutter can emerge to cloud our judgement and effect our productivity.  Whatever your distraction, look for solutions that eliminate stress; discover resources or inspiration through the Learning Management System, WellBama, the University Medical Center, and professional development classes offered through HR.  Who knows – it could be finding a new hobby.

Obstacles Abound: Hives and beekeeping are not without their challenges – I assure you.  There is more work involved in maintaining healthy hives than you would think.  Mites, beetles, viruses, and diseases are all potential threats that can weaken a hive.  Hives need to be monitored to prevent these things from occurring.   As an institution of higher ed, we are faced with challenges every day.  We must be diligent in planning for the future so we can be better prepared. 

All Together Now: Growth has its challenges: as space becomes crowded, bees leave to form a new colony, and a new bee is selected and groomed to become the queen.  Throughout Finance and Operations, we see employees retire or change positions with new employees hired to fill their role and business continues. 

Stings Proceed Success: One of the first questions I get asked about beekeeping is, “have you ever been stung.” The answer to that is yes – several times.  It hurts a little while and then the sting goes away.  We get stung at work too: perhaps an unkind comment, a challenging task, or inconsistent communication.  It might hurt a little, but we eventually forgive and forget, and it does not stop us from continuously doing our jobs.

We can learn a lot from bees.  The sky’s the limit in what we can accomplish together – just like the bees.  Below are fascinating observations about bees that I hope you find interesting. 

Have a Bee-utiful day!



 Interesting Bee Facts

  1. The honeybee is the only insect that produces food eaten by a human being.
  2. Around one-third of human food comes from a bee’s pollination, as they collect nectar and pollen.  More than 80% of plants on the Earth have been pollinated by bees.
  3. Bees have long tongues that look like a straw, called probosces.  They use these special tongues to siphon out nectar from flowers. 
  4. Worker bees live only six to eight weeks. 
  5. The queen bee that rules the hive is significantly larger than all the other bees and can live up to five years.  She can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. 
  6. Bees have two stomachs.  One is used to digest food; the other is for the nectar they collect to bring back to the hive.
  7. Bees have heightened senses.  Their sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than a human to help them detect pollen and nectar.
  8. Bees have five eyes.  Two you see, and three more small ones in the center of their forehead.  This aids in detecting the polarity of the sun even when it’s cloudy out.  It’s how they set their internal GPS.
  9. A bee’s brain is about the size of a sesame seed, but bees have remarkable memories and are quick to learn things. 
  10. Bees only leave the hive when it is sunny.
  11. Bees do a “waggle dance” when they find the perfect source of nectar, to alert other bees in the hive.  If it is farther away than a football field, the dance is a figure eight. If it is close, they do the dance in a circle.  The bee will also give directions based on the angle of the sun.  The more excited a bee is, the bigger or richer the food source is. 
  12. Bees rest at night, but they don’t sleep. 
  13. Worker bees that are not collecting nectar have other jobs in the hive.  Some are nurse bees that care for developing bees.  Others make and repair the wax honeycomb or guard the entrance.  There are even mortician bees to remove bees that are dead or dying. 

(Joyce Venezia,Suss. October 20, 2021. 13 Surprising Facts about Bees. Google. April 12, 2022).