Worldbuilding: Consider Arctic Bees

Ran across a throwaway line about arctic bees in an SVSSS fic. There are some creative writers in that fandom, taking full advantage of the fact that Proud Immortal Demon Way was canonically a badly-written hash with excellent monsters, to do some really neat worldbuilding.

So. Arctic bees. What if you want something like that in your story?

First, decide how close to real-world biology you want your bees to be. Do you want “arctic bees” to be just another name for an actual Earth species? Do a quick search on bees in Alaska, Siberia, Greenland, or the Scandinavian countries. You probably want to do that anyway for ideas, even if you plan to base them more on magic or alien biochemistry.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the weirdness of bees, a few questions might come up. Should your arctic bees be solitary or colonial? Do they make honey? If so, how thick, and what quantities? Does it have the same healing properties as honeybee honey, based on hydrogen peroxide and high sugars dehydrating bacteria? Does it have extra qualities? Do the bees make wax? Propolis? What tree saps, resins, or other substances do they use? Are they strictly nectar/pollen-eating types, or are they like wasps and open to a little insect (or other!) meat as well?

Moving out into the wider world, if they’re bees, that implies flowers. What’s blooming, and when?

Note, you probably don’t need a month-by-month breakdown of this unless it’s important for plot purposes. (Or you just want neat background color.) You should put in details if the flowers are doing something unusual. Blooming in the middle of an icefield, for one. Invoking elemental fire to melt away the snow so they can grow. Or maybe they’re flowers of Ice itself, growing due to the magic left over by a long-forgotten battle between fay of ice and flowers.

And while we’re on the subject of striking visuals, what about those bees? Are they in the typical white/yellow and dark-banded mode? Green like mason bees? Or striking blues and whites to fit the winter theme? If the last, you might want to think about if you’re doing snow colors, or going with the more realistic theme of “coloration meant to deter predators”. Consider the blue-ringed octopus! If your arctic bees’ usual fellow species recognize that shade of blue means a sting that freezes you from the inside out, it’d have to be a really crafty critter who could plunder those hives.

Your characters are likely crafty. But are they clever enough?


17 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Consider Arctic Bees

  1. Crap, now I’m world building the arctic bees. What if they’re red and white (or black)? Because they burn you from the inside out? That would be much more threatening to a bunch of ice demons, make diluted stings a valid treatment for things like hypothermia, and provide a very nice visual against the backdrop of a snow field. The bees that freeze you are in the Lava Fields.

    Which would make an arctic bee nest actually fairly warm, the honey should have properties that make it taste spicy or it might be a steady diet of pine tree resin, and yes I am thinking of a video game. Where you have a chill meter, and you have to warm up periodically, so there are sheltered nooks that block the wind. The reason those nooks are warm is because there’s a beehive there. The honey would be healing/warm up potions. You can choose to gather honey, but then you have to deal with receiving fire damage from the bees, and the colder the area is, the more damage the bees do.

    And the Lava Fields are only possible to traverse because of the beehives creating cool spots. The honey there is colder, stiffer. Minty. Nothing says “f-off” like getting ice damage in a lava field. And it would mean you could have people living out way, way far in the fields because they wanted to be left alone. A hive at certain locations around the village to keep things manageable… or at least you can carry a hive with you to make sure you can traverse things. But then you run the risk of what to do when a fight breaks out…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You just know that somebody would try to cross them with temperate climate bees, to make those more snow-resistant.

      I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Well… it’s all about energy, in the end. IIRC, staff at Scott-Amundsen Station need to eat roughly 5000 calories/day to survive the cold.

    So, where do the Arctic Bees get their energy? And, being small, how do they survive the cold more than 5 minutes when foraging? (wooly-mimmoth bees?)

    Easy answer: magic. They soak up ambient magic from ley lines.

    Harder answer: they’re carnivorous, and can eat animal fats (the Inuit survived the cold in part by eating lots of whale blubber and other high-calorie foods)

    Or, honey being a very calorie-dense food… maybe there are arctic *flowers* that somehow survive the cold, and need pollinators? Symbiotic evolution?

    If the bees are mid-Arctic instead of *Polar*, with a short spring/summer that has flowers, followed by a mostly-dormant winter, then the bees would need to really *surge* their nectar collection during the brief warm weather. Also liable to be pretty aggressive — think African honeybees rather than European.

    Bees nesting in geothermal vents? Or deep caves?

    Termperate-climate bears love eating beehives (honey *and* bees, sugar and protein together!). I bet polar bears would be equally interested. Then there’s what an Arctic Honey Badger might look like….


    1. Ah! The arctic honey badger- it has proven to be much like it’s cousin, for all it’s differences. It’s smaller, rounder, much furrier and admittedly, adorable- and it, too, doesn’t give a $#!+. Until it does. In fact, dare I say, it’s temperament is in fact worse. Should it be slighted, well- as the saying goes, revenge is best served cold. And it has plenty of time to chill, and plot.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A wolverine with a vested interest in keeping everything else away from it’s sweets stash. If that means intentionally stirring up the hive at the sneaking approach of a would be competitor, and then sitting really still

        That said, how do the bees handle the dark? Do they look a little more like a moth than a bee, for extra cold protection?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh! I like this! Fradra is supposed to be mostly modeled after Greenland and Scandinavia, so lots of arctic flowers.

    My mind had been slowly going in this direction because the flowers need some kind of pollinator. Arctic Bees will work for the moment, though I am leaning more towards the name Fradra Bees instead since that’s where they live.

    Fradra is always cold and my notes on the kingdom/group of islands say that there’s always snow on the ground. So there will be patches of green and white in the spring.

    I like the thought of the white and blue bees best.


    1. Maybe Blue and Red, bi-elemental bees. Hot in winter, cold in summer? Just Do Not bother them in between! Think serious frostbite that burns, or rapid temperature changing venom. Think Frost heave in flesh and bone….

      Liked by 1 person

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