December 27


How the Bee Chose the Hexagon

By Tresta Neil

Called to Learn, Curiosity, Fiction Story, Home Education

A Story About Communication And Family Relationships 

(written by Tresta Neil for the Millennium Press in 2015)

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

Grandpa Webb loved the outdoors, there wasn’t anything he didn’t know. We cousins would try to find something he didn’t know about and he would ask, “Oh, you don’t know that? Well, let me tell you.” Then he would proceed to tell an “in the beginning” story. Grandpa’s stories were never boring, they were an adventure all by themselves.

This early, summer morning was no exception. We were on a walk together at his ranch he named, “Dos Piños.”  I loved taking walks with him. I believe he had special eyes, because he would point out things I never saw on my own, like flowers just waking up, ants building a tower or the elk across the meadow. I was glad to get away from my brothers and sisters they were all younger and they always annoyed me. I knew family was important, but I enjoyed being away from them far more than being with them.

Grandpa pointed to a wasp nest hanging off a tree limb. The wasps had not woken up, it was still quiet. 

“Why not?” I asked.

“Wasps are not very friendly. They are the opposite of bees. Sta, do you remember I owned bees when we lived in Colorado, right?” Sta was not my real name, it was a name given to me by my cousin who couldn’t say my whole name, so he said only the last syllable - it stuck.

“Yeah, I remember. What do you mean by 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 use their stinger to protect, they only have one stinger that they give their life to use.  The wasps sting multiple times.”

“That is a lot of opposites. This reminds me of the difference between Christ and Satan.” We had just learned about the three voices in our heads in Sunday School, God’s, Satan’s and my own curiosity. 

“Yeah, and it also applies to their homes. The wasps’ nest rely only on the geometry of the hexagon to provide structure and order. While bee hives use this same geometry by in alternating hexagonal tiers like a wax crystal to give it extra strength.” 

“I remember the point about your beeswax story. New wax is white and clean and over time it becomes dark, stained and impure just like we do when we sin. Heat purifies the wax, but the only way to make it white again is to put it in the sun light. We need the light of the atonement to become pure and white again.”

Grandpa almost skipped the next few steps. He was silent for a moment and then said, “Good. I’m happy you remember the POINT. The lessons learned and its application matters more than the details of the story. God will hold us accountable for the lessons we learn and implement not the detail of the stories we know.”

“True Grandpa, but the stories help me remember the point.” I smiled up at him and added, “I also remember how much honey a bee makes in her lifetime. It is still is crazy to me. Only 1/12th of a teaspoon. I think about this whenever I feel small or I don’t think I’m doing very much. I remember the bees and know that all of my work will be added with other people’s work - what I do really does matter.”

“Sta, you bring me great joy when you remember these lessons. You have a good memory and if you implement them in your daily life, God will guide you your whole life.” Grandpa put his arm around me and gave me a side squeeze. “Do you know why the bee chose the hexagon shape?”

“No, Why did they choose that shape? Why is it special?” I asked.

“Sta, I love your curiosity.” Then in his storytelling voice, said, “Let me tell you how it happened.” 

Oooh, I could hardly wait, I loved grandpa’s stories. They helped my imagination and often made me think. The best thing about them was that I could remember them forever. “Oh, another Webb Wisdom.” 

Grandpa smiled. This is the name we cousins gave grandpa’s stories. We would often compared stories late at night during family reunions. They were rarely the same and this made us feel special and unique. 

 “In the beginning,” Grandpa always began his stories with the same words. “God gave the bees their mission and told them how to fulfill it, but he asked them to come up with a design to hold the honey. 

The largest bee began the conversation, “Let’s try random  shapes, with no equal sides, just a squiggle.” They all considered this idea and soon ruled it out. 

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

“This shape would create idle bees,”  The bee with the blackest stripes made it clear for everyone to understand, “because each bee would have to wait for its turn to create a random shape to fit the other random shapes.”

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

Cosbee remembered the area of a circle was larger than any other shape. He 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 hold more toppings than square pizza’s.” I also remembered how fun it was to make them with my siblings.

“What a great comparison.” Grandpa continued.

 Some of the bees gathered circle shaped flowers and put them in rows. 

“Nope, this will not do. This would not be efficient and we want to efficient bees.” They recognized the empty space between the circles would be waisted or have to be filled in with more wax. They all agreed.

“We need to find a shape that takes the least amount of wax.” The bees knew that they needed to make the least total perimeter, because it would take an intake of eight ounces of honey to produce one ounce of wax. 

“We need a shape that tessellates seamlessly,” Cosbee said.

“What does ‘tessellate seamlessly’ mean, grandpa?” I asked.

“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.”

“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 eye brows, “that’s exactly what the bees thought.” He smiled and continued.

“Squares, triangle or hexagons tesselate.” Cosbee declared.

“Hexagons!” Beeanca said at the same time someone else said. 

Squares would be easy and we could all make this shape at the same time.” 

“True…” they said as they entertained the idea. This would solve the problem of idleness and it would be an efficient use of wax. 

“Rule out squares,” a voice from the back declared, “it is a shape that falls in on itself. It is not stable enough.”

I didn’t want to interrupt grandpa again, but I remembered stacking blocks exactly on top of each other. I agreed with the bees, squares were not steady, they could easily be pushed over. Also, when we made structures using straws and marshmallows, square easily collapsed.

 Little Beeanca tried again, “We should use hexa—”

Triangle are a strong shape.” said Beebee. Many had heard about the strength of triangles during the creation. “Ok, let’s try it.” Several bees brought in tiny twigs and lined them up in triangles. Everyone observed the design.

“It can’t be pushed over like the squares,” one beee observed.

“It would be easy to work on it together at the same time.”

“But, it would take a lot more wax to build,” a bald bee said. 

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

Cosbee looked down at her, “Yes, it’s starting to look that way, why do you think it is the best, Beeanca?”

She beamed, “There is a hexagon shape within the triangles. It will take less wax and hold more honey.”

Cosbee looked at the triangles and then up at the whole group and said, “I believe she is right, hexagons are our best bet, they will hold more honey than  the square or triangle. They also tesselate opposite, making it easier for us to all work together.”

 “I agree” many of them said aloud at the same time,

“Let’s try it with wax.”

Some 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 long hexagons. “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,” she answered excitedly.

“Agreed!” he turned to the group, “all equal sides.” 

“Besides this is a job God gave us to do, best do it perfect and the same just as he is.”  Beeanca concluded.

Grandpa looked me in the eyes and ended his story with a wink and a smile. The sun was just peaking over the horizon. 

“Only perfect hexagons for honey perfection, eh grandpa?”

“You betcha! Let’s head back home. I think grandma may have some honey we can put on our toast when we get back.” We turned around and he said, “There were some side effects to using the hexagon, that the bees didn’t realize until later.” He paused.

“Tell me, what were the side effects, Grandpa?” He loved to pause to get me to be more curious. “What could possibly be bad about hexagons?”

“Wait a minute, I didn’t say bad side effects.”

“You mean there are good side effects?” I asked.

“Sure there are, the bees discovered their hexagonal grid of three-corner, 120-degree joints that minimized labor and maximized interior space also provided great strength. Which was needed when they added the compression weight of the honey.”

“Whoa, that was a mouthful. I think what you said was the bees didn’t know they were also building a strong structure. Right?”

“Yes, you got it, Sta. The bees reached their goal of creating a container that held the most with the least amount of wax. With the hexagon they could hold a lot of honey. Did you know that one and one-half ounces of wax holds four pounds of honey?” 

“Whoa, that is success! Go, bees!!” I raised my fist into the air. “Good side-effects are awesome.”

Grandpa stopped and turned to face me, “You, sweet girl, are now a beehive structure expert.” He bowed as if I were royalty. “You now know how bees chose the hexagon.” 

I laughed and hit him in the arm. “You’re funny, Grandpa.” We continued our walk back home. “In all seriousness, I did learned a lot more about bees.”

“Good. What values were important to the bees?” Grandpa asked.

Efficiency, staying busy, working together, not being wasteful… Oh, and increasing strength by using wax, maximum space with little material are some of the values of bees.”

“Since you told me you know the secret behind my stories,” grandpa winked, “tell me, what was the point or moral to this story. Wait, first tell me which character you identified with?”

“I think I was most like Cosbee.” 


“Because I know stuff and share it with others. And I like being a leader.” Yep, this was all true, I had never put it into words or even thoughts, but yes, this describe me well. Maybe I could learn to listen like Cosbee too.

Grandpa then asked, “Who do you think is like Beeanca?”

This one took me a minute. I had no idea. She actually annoyed me, but she did have the right answers. “The Holy Ghost?” I said sheepishly. 

“Yeah, how?” Grandpa asked.

“She was always talking, trying to get people to listen to her, she had the right answer. All things like the Holy Ghost does.” I paused. Grandpa didn’t interrupt my thinking. “She kind of reminds me of my little sister, too. She often tries to get  my attention and I try to ignore her.” 

“Oh, what is God trying to tell you?”

I didn’t think the conversation would change to this subject. “I should listen to her more.” I also thought it would make her feel loved and maybe less annoying to me. The other thought I had and didn’t share with grandpa was, if I found a job or something to work on together with my brothers and sisters that we might be able to get along better, just like the bees worked together. 

“Cool, I can’t wait to hear the end of that story.” Grandpa winked again. “Ok, what is the point to the story? Or what is your take away?”

“I don’t think this comes from bees directly, but from the way you told your story. I learned a problem solving strategy.”

“Whoa, tell me more.”

“In the story the bees worked together to solve the problems. They came up with solutions and tried them until one worked. Then there was Beeanca who kept trying to give her answer. I think she really is like the Holy Ghost and if we would listen to the Holy Ghost from the beginning we could probably not have to go through so many mistakes.”

“Wow, you got things out of the story I hadn’t thought about. God sure is smart, he can teach us all something different from the same story.”

“It is interesting. Hey, we learned about bees in homeschool last year. May I share one of my favorite lessons?”

“Sure!” Grandpa smiled. We were almost back to the house where grandma would have breakfast ready for us. The sun was fully in the sky now and I knew grandpa would want to get working.

“God created bees with an instinct to go to only one type of flower. This is so that they can carry the right type of pollen to the same type of flower. Otherwise we would have mixed up flowers and fruits. If bees picked up pollen from apple blossoms and dropped them into the female parts of a zucchini blossom, well, it wouldn’t work. Isn’t that amazing? God is smart to make them only go to one type of blossom.”

“Wow, that is amazing, I didn’t know that, but it makes since. Our bees only got nectar from the clover flowers. God is wise! Let’s get inside, see if grandma has that honey I mentioned.”

I was excited to try the honey, but I was more excited to find a project my siblings and I could work on together. “Strange that a story about hexagons could help me love my siblings more.” I thought to myself, “Grandpa sure is good, and he didn’t even know I had a problem. But God knew - he IS wise.” I looked up and whispered, “Thank you!”

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