Truth, Understanding, Insight

Bees, Shells and Design in Nature

7th July 2008, mgh,hej


1) Honey Bees challenge Evolution

The bee is a challenge to any evolutionist, even from the times of Darwin. It is an extraordinary example of a case for creation and intelligent design. From the plant to the beehive there exists an intricate network of operations, each depending on one another for the bee to survive at all.

The complex Design of the Beehive

Bees construct combs of wax cells that are used to store the honey they produce. They are very efficient storage facilities that are used for food for the bee colonies during times when flowers are not available. The bee constructs consistent hexagonal wax cells of exactly the same shape in the beehive. Each comb contains two sets of cells, one opening on each side of its faces. A clever design technique is used to join the cells on each side to strengthen the overall comb, and prevent honey flowing from one side to the other. This is achieved by an offset between the cells on each side, and so the middle of each cell abuts against the point where the walls of the three cells meet, strengthening the partition that separates the cells. The partition consists of three planes which meet at a particular angle, to make the centre of the cell its deepest part.

The honeycomb has a remarkable construction with row upon row of these hexagonal tubes. The honeycomb is vertical with horizontal storage tubes, which are two faced with different tubes on each side. Two of the six sides of the tubes are always vertical and each tube slopes slightly downwards towards the middle of the comb, to prevent the honey from running out.

The remarkable thing about the complexity of the beehive is the simplicity from a design point of view, even though this would be a very hard design to come upon by chance. In human terms, it is like the construction of a very well designed building, fit for exactly the purpose it is used for and with nothing extraneous. Architects know that this is hard to achieve and those architects who can achieve this simplicity are venerated in their profession. This is the work of an intelligent designer who knows the full end-use from the time of design. In comparison, an evolutionary approach to building would be the sequence of home-owners who have each in an ad-hoc manner extended the house over the years. Such a design is simple in its construction procedures, but results in a complex yet inefficient result when seen overall. This is exactly the opposite of what has been achieved by the bee's designer. This shows that the honeycomb was designed with the complete overall effect in mind, rather than being worked out over time. It is only when the design is fully complete that any of its elements are useful.

Bees teach Engineers

For two thousand years written records show that mathematicians and architects have studied the geometry and engineering skills displayed in the honeycomb. The only patterning that would allow all walls to be shared would be triangular, square or hexagonal. Of these three, hexagonal tubes use less wax in construction for the volume of honey stored, which displays economy of resources, a characteritic of all intelligent design. Each tube ends in three rhombuses that come to a point. The corner angles of these end walls measure approximately 70 and 110 degrees to give the maximum volume for this configuration. Again here, there appears to be a strong suggestion of intelligent design to achieve the best possible outcome in the production process.