Bees function within female-run communities. Male bees are almost useless. How that compares to humanity… depends on your viewpoint. This World Bee Day, after finding out more about the female-led societies of bees, we decided to run a little test and ask ourselves: does the world need men?

First, we asked the internet. The reviews were mixed. Science’s answer is yes; mainly for procreation purposes. The Goddess of Pop, Cher, however, replied to the question with: “Like, for what?” Which is an equally reputable answer. 

Then we asked our team. Content Creation Manager, Tess Lowery said: “Need? No.” 

Our Director of Food Security, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Mwandwe Chileshe responded: “It’s good for biodiversity, from that perspective all species are needed.”

Senior Director for Content Creation, Imogen Calderwood responded: "As individuals? No. As a society? Most definitely yes — we need everyone!" 

Senior Manager for Digital Campaigns, Thato Noinyane, came through with an introspective answer, saying: “I guess from the perspective of survival of the human race, women need men. But the world has changed so much and traditional roles aren’t central points in this society. As mental health has become a key conversation, people are seeking to become their best selves which means looking less externally for happiness or a fulfilled life. We are searching for more authentic relationships and partnerships.”

“The only challenge with this is that more and more women are seeking healing than men,” she continued. “So back to the question, do we actually need men? Maybe the answer and perspective depends on how much internal work one has done.”

With such conflicting answers, we decided to go back to the bees — it turns out that they had the answers for us all along. In fact, bees have so much to teach us about the power of women and how a feminist society can work. 

These are a few key lessons we’ve learned about feminism and female leadership from bees. 

1. Trust a woman in leadership

Queen bees hold their reign because they create the life being born into the hive. The worker bees trust her entirely to continue populating the hive. In essence, she leads by serving. 

What’s interesting is that, similar to a democratic society, the worker bees decide on their queen bee, and if they are unhappy with her, they can end her reign. While by nature, a male bee (called a drone) cannot lead the hive — a contrast with humanity — there’s still much to be said about how the hive trusts the leadership of a female bee.

They trust her movements, and her decisions on who to mate with to produce more workers. On the human being side of things, we can learn a lot from bees about the importance of elevating women into leadership positions, and trusting them to serve and further the community while they are there. 

In fact, women leaders have proven to be very adept at leading peaceful and happy communities. The 2023 World Happiness Report, for example, showed that the top three countries with the happiest populations are all led by women: Finland, Denmark, and Iceland.

2. Women should be at the forefront of, well, everything

The female bees do everything, while the male bees don’t do any work. According to National Geographic, “they spend their whole lives eating honey and waiting for the opportunity to mate.” 

It means that a functioning hive is impossible without female bees at the forefront of everything. They lead the community, they clean and build the hive, they forage for food, they care for and nurse sick bees — they run the entire society, because they were born to do so. 

This is a key lesson for human communities. Women can be anything they want to be, and are capable of being at the forefront of any and all spaces; if only they are trusted to do so and the space is made for them to be there.

3. When men are no longer necessary, kick them out

During the autumn and winter seasons, it’s common for worker bees to give male bees the boot, evicting them from the hive.

That’s it. That’s the lesson. Kick men out every winter. 

We’re just kidding, of course. The reason that workers kick out the male drones is because food generally gets too scarce to feed the whole hive in the winter, and because the male bees do no work and are the least necessary, they get kicked to the curb. 

This is actually in contrast to humanity, for which, when food becomes scarce, it’s women who bear the brunt — in times of food insecurity, women typically eat last and eat least. This is for a couple of reasons, including a restriction of women’s rights and the exercising of deep-seated and oppressive gender norms. In fact, of the 690 million people who are food insecure globally right now, 60% are women and girls

The lesson actually is that men shouldn’t lead or participate in spaces where their interests are not to further serve the society, but only to feed from it. With that said, nobody should be, regardless of gender.

4. Value the work women do

Bees are incredible communicators, and never keep vital information to themselves — this includes where to find the food and how to help others. 

Fascinatingly, worker bees reflect human society in that its women that are often the ones trusted to find and share food, and to take care of the community as a whole. This is seen as important work within the hive. 

Contrarily, it’s not often seen as such when it comes to humanity. Care work and providing nutrition is the kind of work that goes unseen and unpaid in human society, and its women and girls that are disproportionately impacted by the lack of appreciation and value of this work — ​​women and girls are responsible for over 75% of unpaid care work in the world. However, it is some of the most important work in all of society, with this kind of work contributing more to the economy than sectors like manufacturing, commerce, or transportation. 

We can learn from bees to appreciate this care work for its importance to society and the value it brings.

5. Society cannot exist harmoniously without women

Worker bees know that they have specific roles to play, and are consistently working on a bigger picture: a harmonious and well-oiled hive. They communicate effectively and fulfill their work knowing that it’s not only them that will benefit from the work they do, but everyone else in the hive as well. Because of this, they run harmonious and often peaceful societies. 

When it comes to humanity, women have proven to be extremely effective in mediation and peacekeeping for their ability to connect with communities, and to communicate effectively. We should learn from bees that women can be essential in keeping the peace and helping to build strong institutions. 

What is the answer then? Does a society need males? Well, yes. They tend to serve a purpose, even if, when it comes to bees anyway, that purpose is to eat honey and procreate. 

The larger lesson here is that while men are of course completely necessary to our world and society, we should also never underestimate the power of women to lead too, and we should never forget the benefits of female leadership.

Naturally, bees have it all figured out, and we salute them for the lessons they’ve taught us about the importance of women-led communities. 

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

5 Things Bees Can Teach Us About Feminism

By Khanyi Mlaba