Reprinted with permission.
This month I am writing to you as Melissa, one of the many names given in ancient times to the queen of the bees. Now I have been around for a long time, and I am always fascinated by the ways in which other beings tell stories about me and my workers and drones. You humans like to observe our hives and keep trying to learn all you can about how we operate.
Lately I have been keeping track of a television program called “Star Trek: the Next Generation”. In it the humans keep meeting strange new civilisations on faraway planets and star systems. But I am convinced that one of the writers of the program has to have been a honeybee in their last life. For the series has created a whole group of beings that act suspiciously like a hive.
Let me explain. They call themselves a collective and they are hostile to the humans in the series. These creatures are known as Borgs. When humans encounter a single Borg, there is such a strong hive mentality that all the other Borgs know about this encounter without being present or being told and it takes a while for the humans to realize this. Somehow the information is spread throughout the hive. If one of the humans destroys a Borg queen, her workers simply build another one in frighteningly quick order.
All are ruled by the Borg Queen and she provides a common direction — much like the queen of one of my bee colonies. The Borg Queen has a unique personality and a sense of individuality that normal Borg drones and workers are not allowed. She is usually the one who "speaks" for the Collective in situations where contact with outsiders is best conducted by an individual. But for the Borg Queen the concepts "I" and "we" are interchangeable. In her own words, she is the "one who is many."
The Queen spends much of her time in her "lair" with her head and spinal column residing in a special alcove. This is very different from real honeybees, but it adds to the drama. When she emerges, she will "re-assemble" herself into a predominantly artificial body — the arms, legs and torso appearing to be entirely synthetic, while the head and shoulders seeming to be organic, but with substantial cybernetic implants. Again, a departure from the real honeybee colony.
Apparently the Borg Queen has been destroyed on a number of occasions, but another queen always seems to take her place. (It is not clear whether more than one queen exists simultaneously, or if a new queen is created when the old one dies.) The Borg's collective nature makes it likely that each Borg Queen has all her predecessors' (and/or counterparts') qualities and memories. Therefore when she speaks as "I," she is presumably referring to all previous manifestations of the Queen, going back probably thousands of years.
What disturbs the humans most of all is their suspicion that the Borgs and their Queen really want all humans to be like them and when a human is captured, the hive begins to mold the captive into something more like a Borg. They call this process assimilation. Now real honeybees just want to go about their business reproducing themselves. There are enough of them that they don’t need to assimilate humans into their midst. But as I said earlier, it adds to the drama. I suspect that we bees are just as mysterious to real humans as the Borgs appear to the humans in the television show.