December 27


How the Bee Choose the Hexagon (short)

By Tresta Neil

Called to Learn, Family Relationships, Fiction Story, Home Education, Math, Tresta's Story

 “You won’t want to be near that tree in a few hours.” 

I believed Grandpa Webb knew everything about the outdoors. “Why not?” I looked at the tree he was pointing at and couldn’t see anything, at first. “Oh, I see a hive, didn’t you tell me bees were harmless?”

“Yes, Tessa, bees are usually harmless, but those are wasps and they are not very friendly. They are the opposite of bees.”

We were on an early morning walk together at his ranch, he named, “Dos Piños.” It had mostly small trails through many juniper trees.

“What did you mean by they are opposite?” I asked.

“Wasps make their nest out of paper from their spit. Bees make strong wax homes. Wasps enter their nests from underneath and bees from the side. Bees make their honey comb pointing upwards and wasps nests point down. Bees only have one stinger that they give their life to use and wasps sting multiple times. Wasps eat bugs like aphids and rotten food while bees eat neater from plants. ”

“That is a lot of opposites,” I gasped.

 “Yeah, and it also applies to the structure of their homes. The wasps’ nest hang downward, off tree limbs or roofs and rely only on the geometry of the hexagon to provide structure and order. While bees build up  using the same geometry by alternating hexagonal tiers almost like wax crystals.”

“Cool, and crystal grow up and outward too.”  I chimed in.

“Tessa, you have such a curious mind.” In his storytelling voice he said, “Let me tell you how it happened.” 

I could hardly wait, I loved grandpa’s stories. “Yippee, more Webb Wisdom,” I teased him. This is the name we cousins gave grandpa’s stories. Grandpa smiled at me then put out his arms as if to give a speech to a thousand people.

“In the beginning,” Grandpa always began his stories with opening words of the Bible. I smiled. “God gave the bees their assignment and duties and asked them to come up with the design for their honey containers. 

 Beecher began the conversation, “Let’s try a simple squiggly shape.” They all considered this idea and soon ruled it out.  

“This shape would create idle bees,” Cosbee explained, “each bee would have to wait to see what the previous shape is before he could start making his shape to fit the other random shapes.”

“Oh, we don’t want to be standing around, we want to be busy bees. It will have to be equal sized shape that we all know how to build.”

Beeanca, the littlest bee, said, “We should use hexagons,” but no-one heard her. 

Cosbee remembered the area of a circle was larger than any other shape and reminded the group, “Let’s try circles, they would hold the most honey.”

I interrupted, “I learned that when we made homemade pizza. Round pizza holds more toppings than a square one.”

“Good comparison.” 

 Grandpa continued. Several bees gathered circle shaped seeds and put them in rows. What they saw was shocking! 

Grandpa made a shocking face and I made one too.

They recognized the empty space between the circles would remain empty or have to be filled in with wax. “Nope, this will not do. This would be wasteful and we want to be efficient bees. We need a shape that takes the least amount of wax.” It would take eight ounces of honey to produce one ounce of wax. 

“What does ‘tessellate seamlessly’ mean, grandpa?” I asked. It was a cool word and it was really close to my name, “Tessa and Tessa-late.” 

“It means a shape that covers a surface by a repeated use of a single shape or several different shapes, without gaps or overlapping. Remember the tiles on your bathroom floor, they are octagons and squares, they cover the whole surface seamlessly or without holes.”

“Yeah, I remember.” 

“The bees wanted to use ONE shape that would tesselate.”

“Oh, that would be hard… Wait, the kitchen floor has squares.”

Grandpa raised his eyebrows, “that’s exactly what the bees thought.”

 “Squares, triangle and hexagons tessellate seamlessly.” Cosbee remembered.

“Hexagons!” Beeanca said at the same time someone else said, “Squares would be easy and we could make many at the same time.” 

“True…” they said as they entertained the idea. “This  would solve the problem of idleness and wastefulness,” Beebe observed.

 “Rule out squares,” a voice from the back declared, “it could easily be pushed over.”

I didn’t want to interrupt grandpa again, but I agreed with the bees. When we made shapes using straws and marshmallows, the squares easily collapsed. 

 “True, this would make for a weak home and we want a reliable home for our baby bees,” said Cosbee. Little Beeanca, in her strongest voice tried again, “We should use hexa—”

“Equilateral Triangles are a strong shape.” said Bambee. Many had heard about the strength of triangles during the creation. “Let’s try it.” Several bees brought in tiny twigs and lined them up in triangles. Everyone observed the design. It met all the criteria.

Beeanca made her way to the front and said, “The hexagon is the best shape.”

Cosbee looked down at her, “Why do you think it is better than the triangle, Beeanca?”

She beamed, “There is a hexagon shape within the triangles. Can you see it? God made water crystals and snowflakes using the hexagon shape and water is super important to this earth.

Cosbee looked at the triangles and then around at the whole group and said, “Hexagons may be our best choice.” 

“I agree” said Beebe, “Plus, it will take less wax and hold more honey than the triangle and still be reliable.”

“And they tessellate in alternating rows, which makes it stronger,” said Bobbee.

 “Sweet, let’s try it with wax,” said Beejay.

A few of them ate honey until wax oozed from their bodies.  They chewed it until it became soft and began molding it into hexagonal shapes. 

Some started making oblong hexagons. “Wait, what type of hexagon shall we make?” 

  Cosbee turned to Beeanca, “What do you think?”

“It shouldn’t be just any hexagon, but the perfect jewelers’ version - a precise, equal length, perfect hexagon, just like a snowflake,” she answered excitedly.

“Agreed!” Colbee turned to the group of workers, “Equal on all sides.” 

Later God inspected their work, “Well done. The hexagon is efficient, reliable, strong, functional and balanced, an excellent choice.”

 Grandpa looked me in the eyes and ended his story with a wink and a smile. 

“Let’s head back home. I have a hankering for some of grandma’s honey.” As we pause to turned around Grandpa faced me, “Tessa, you are now a BSE, beehive structure expert.” He bowed as if I were royalty, “and you know why the bees chose the hexagon.” 

 I laughed and hit him in the arm. “You’re funny, Grandpa.” We continued our walk back home in silence. 

Grandpa spoke first, “Tell me which character you are most like?”



“Because I know stuff and like to share it with others, and I don’t listen to what everyone says.”

Grandpa asked, “Who is most like Beeanca?”

This one took me a minute. She actually annoyed me, but she did have the right answers. “I’m not sure, the Holy Ghost?” I answered sheepishly. 

“Oh, how?” Grandpa asked.

“She had right answers just like the Holy Ghost does.” I paused. Grandpa didn’t interrupt my thinking. “She kind of reminds me of my little sister, too. She tries to get my attention and I ignore her.” 

“Oh, what is God trying to tell you?”

“That I should listen to her more.”

“Cool, I can’t wait to hear the end of that story.” Grandpa winked again. “What else did you learn from the story?”

“I learned a way to solve problems.”

“Whoa, tell me more.”

“In the story the bees worked together to find a solution. They came up with ideas and experimented. I think Beeanca really is like the Holy Ghost, if the bees would have listened to the her at the beginning, they would have came to the solution a lot faster.”

“Wow.” Grandpa said, “Isn’t it great how God can teach us all something different from the same story?” We were almost back home. “What are you going to teach me next time, Tessa?”

I giggled, “Oh, grandpa, that’s silly, I don’t teach you. Race you back to the trailer.” As I took off, I thought I heard him say, “Oh, yes, you do.”

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