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Cogs 9
C. Frazier Spencer

Engineers Without Degrees


Our son, Jeff, spent four years in high school taking many courses, including algebra, geometry, and calculus. He then went to Purdue University where he spent another four years in more advanced studies. Finally, the Purdue Engineering Department awarded Jeff a degree in Computer Science. Human engineers around the world go through years of similar schooling.


But what if...?

But what if we find creatures in nature - with no schooling or training - accomplishing complex engineering profects? What then???


A complex engineering project

Imagine an engineer given a special assignment - to maintain a constant 93 degree temperature in a wooden box about 2 feet square and 3 feet high. The temperature can vary by only one-quarter of one degree. Sound challenging? Let's make it even harder, let's add two more conditions to the project:

1) Using electricity is not allowed.

2) The system must work in all types of weather for long periods of time without failure.





Do you think highly educated human engineers using the latest equipment could accomplish the project?


Yet this project is being done routinely every day all over the world!


Who are the engineers who do such a difficult assignment?

Human engineers are not doing it. Instead, it is done by.....honey bees!





Source (1) explains "The temperature inside a beehive during the summer months stays at a virtually constant 93 degrees (to within one quarter of one degree higher or lower) since this is the ideal temperature for the development of larvae. When the temperature drops, the bees release heat by vibrating their thoriaic muscles without moving their wings. When the temperature rises too high, they fan the overheated air by rapidly beating their wings and by bringing water from the outside to cool off the hive. This efficient thermal control is made possible by the specialized receptors in bee antennae, which can detect variations in temperature to within one-quarter of one degree."


let's take a minute and analyze what was summarized so briefly by the authors.


An analysis of surprising information

First, a difference of ¼ of one degree is an incredible narrow range. How quickly each bee must act to either increase or decrease the temperature!


But - it's more than that isn't it? Much more. Because the thousands of bees operate all together as a unit, do they not? We can think of some questions:

How are the directions given?

How does the group know when to start either beating their wings to lower the temperature or to vibrate their thoracic muscles to raise it?

How do they know when to get water?

How much water is needed?

Who stays to beat their wings and who goes for water?


Evolutionists tell us that bees evolved from fruit flies. How did the first generation of 100% honeybees know a constant temperature of 93% had to be maintained or the larvae couldn‘t develop? After all, the first generation of offspring had to have been done exactly right, there would have been no multiple chances for experimentation up and down the temperature range.


A major pillar of evolution is survival of the fittest, right? Right! There are some fifteen million insect species. Over fourteen million other insect species have no such critical temperature requirement for their offspring to be born. Now consider this - a 93-degree temperature requirement has to be a huge impediment to survival. Under survival of the fittest, wouldn't a specie with such an enormous drawback have died out millions of years ago, while species without such a stringent requirement would have survived?


More analysis

Think for a moment about what the authors describe as "This efficient temperature control is made possible by the specialized receptors in bee antennae, which can detect variations in temperature to within one-quarter of one degree."


Why did these specialized receptors evolve just in bees? Fruit flies don't have them. Imagine such a receptor. It is probably the size of a few dots at the end of this sentence strung together. How could something that tiny measure temperatures to within one-quarter of one degree? Does that seem incredible to you?


The authors seem to agree by writing, "The "sense of temperature" which is also located in the antennae of many insects, is a much more mysterious sense. Our own capacities in this regard remain extremely modest."


This writer thinks that in the tiny honeybee's 93-degree temperature maintenance we see an engineering marvel. One that man cannot duplicate, given the same materials, despite all of his technology and university studies.


More than just temperature maintenance

Source (6) gives us more to ponder. "Another example is the task of ventilation. The bees hump themselves up and move their wings about 400 times per second on the landing area of the hive...The hotter it gets inside, or the more moisture-laden the air becomes, the greater the number of bees that will stand there fanning."


The author asks a compelling question, "Who tells them they must? Nobody as far as anyone can ascertain."....


He continues, "The bees have figured out the world's first air-conditioning system......When the weather gets very, very hot...the temperature may shoot up in spite of plain bee fanning....The bees, if it become necessary when plain fanning is not doing the job, lay aside other tasks.


They go out, find water, and bring it back in their honey stomachs in place of nectar. Hundreds of them, even thousands of them carry it. They spread it on the combs, on the inside walls of the hive....The evaporation of the water.....cools the inside of the hive. It provides a crude, but very effective air-conditioning".....


The author then asks, "Who taught the bees this engineering principle? Who tells them when to put it into practice? No one knows." (I think creationists know!)

Hoyt tells us about the efficiency of bees even in cases of fire. "In one case of a barn fire, the heat was so great "that the nearby bee hive nearly burst into flame.... Later it was found "that all the bees had rallied around during the fire and worked on the air-conditioning....Many, many bees fanned furiously throughout the fire at the door on the side away from the flames. Thousands carried water.


And when the hive top was lifted off, everything was intact inside. The outside wall was scorched and burned.... but the bees had saved their wax structure, their stores, and their colony life."

Author Hoyt sums up, "Through engineering know-how their life pattern is highly efficient."


The questions leap out at us. Where did the engineering know-how performed by honey bees come from? How is passed on to the offspring so that every honey bee does engineering assignments? Mindless evolution, or programming from an intelligent source?

Could termites be engineers?

Karl von Frisch, a scientist awarded a Nobel Prize in 1973, is famous for his study of how bees communicate nectar sources by performing intricate, coded dances. Mr. von Frisch's well researched and most informative book "Animal Architecture" (2) supports evolution, which makes his observations all the more striking. Scientist Von Frisch calls termites: "...masters in building and engineering." Let's see why he draws that conclusion. Notice some statements:


"There are more than two thousand species of termites living in tropical and subtropical regions.....All known termite species, like all ant species, are social insects. Their colonies may have over ten million individuals.


.... Termite nests may be gigantic structures...some are 21 feet high...


We have even more cause for wonder when we consider the whole range of termite buildings and the way they are adapted to the most diverse climatic conditions of the countries they inhabit.....


Take, for example, certain species of the genus Cubitermes that live in tropical rain forests. They put roofs with overhanging eaves on their tall mounds, which make them look like pagodas and serve to keep the torrential rains off the main structure.....Termites in arid zones do not build such roofs, showing they definitely are umbrellas, not sunshades......


The treeless steppeland of Australia, baked by the scorching heat of the midday sun, is the home of the compass termites (Amitermes meridionalis). Their towering structures, which may be up to fifteen feet high, and 9 feet long, look as if they had been compressed from two sides. Their two short sides face exactly north and south, so that the surface exposed to the rays of the midday sun is small, while the long sides catch the evening and morning sun...A traveler can quickly get his bearings by looking at the direction of these mounds."


Then the author asks a question for us. "But how do the blind termites orient them so perfectly without a compass?" But the answer is disappointing. "The method by which the compass termites achieve their spectacular results has not yet been studied."


How about air conditioning?

Von Frisch's next heading is the surprising one of: "Air-conditioning in termite dwellings". Yes, it seems termites had air-conditioning thousands of years before humans accomplished it!


Von Frisch explains. "The interior architecture of many termite species is even more astounding. The distribution of the various chambers according to their different purposes is evidence of a definite building plan. But the functioning of a large termitary requires not only the systematic layout of the chambers, but convenient space for the royal cell, the quarters for the different age groups, the fungus gardens, and the associated network of communications.


.... When a mound of Macrotermes billicosus...has reached a height of nine to twelve feet, it contains more than two million termites. They live, they work, and they breathe. Their oxygen consumption, which has been measured, is considerable. Without ventilation they would all be suffocated within twelve hours...


These insects have established a strange and ingenious ventilation system...the nest proper, which is almost round, with its royal cell in the center, and its many chambers, and passages. Between it and the thick, hard outer wall there are narrow air spaces. Below it is there is a larger air space, the "cellar". The central structure rests on conical supports and is further anchored by lateral struts."


"Another air space above it reaches a long way into the nest proper, like a chimney. On the outside of the mound, ridges or buttresses run from top to bottom.....Channels as thick as an arm radiate from the upper air space into the ridges where they divide into many small ducts. These come together again to form channels as wide as the first leading into the cellar." My note: Don't the last two paragraphs sound right out of an engineering handbook?


The author adds another bit of surprising information. "Though termites are found in all these structures, they do not act as ventilators as, for instance, bees do when they ventilate the hive by fanning their wings." The ventilation system of the termitary is completely automatic automatic." Imagine that.


A technical explanation of termite air conditioning

"The air in the fungus chambers is heated by the fermentation process taking place there. Like any tightly packed group of animals, the termites themselves cause a rise in temperature. This hot air rises and is forced by the pressure of the continuous stream of hot air into the duct system of the ridges. The exterior and interior walls of these ridges are so porous that they enable a gas exchange to take place. Carbon dioxide escapes and oxygen penetrates from outside. The ridges with their system of ducts might be called the lungs of the colony. As has been experimentally confirmed, the air is cooled during its passage through the ridges; this cooler, regenerated air now flows into the cellar by way of its lower system of wide ducts. From there it returns to the nest via the surrounding air space, replacing the warmer rising air."


More on air conditioning and engineering

Source (3) gives us the author's observations of termites that accomplish feats of engineering. "Termite nests...designed to provide air-conditioning. Their huge air-conditioning towers are major features in many tropical savannah landscapes."


The book includes diagrams with these written descriptions, "Showing the complex fungus garden and the network of chimney spaces through which hot air arises as part of the termites sophisticated air-conditioning system...A computer generated simulation of the special vanes in the termites' nest, a vital part of the air-conditioning process. Worker termites keep the vanes damp, so the warm air passing over them is cooled down as the water droplets evaporate."


There's even more. The author sums up, "It is remarkable that the worker termites have constructed the equivalent of, in human terms, a skyscraper 6 miles high."


"And they are blind."


"The air-conditioning systems of termites are so effective that human engineers are now constructing buildings with cooling systems based on termite design." You may want to read that again.


Can we think of some questions?

Doesn't all of this seem like very complicated systems to you?


If so, how could they develop by a process of trial and error, by a series of accidents?


How could thousands, maybe millions, of generations of the termite specie survive while all of the trials and errors took place that would be necessary to finally perfect the finished and faultless working air conditioning system?


Didn't our well known scientist tell us that without the system the colony would die within twelve hours?


Thinking outside the box in an emergency

"Alien Empire" continues, "This makes it even more remarkable that meaningful reactions to extraordinary situations, or what one might call emergencies, have been observed. When a termite mound was enveloped in a plastic tent so that ventilation was seriously impeded, the termites managed within 48 hours to build new structures at the top of the mound, which looked somewhat like small pointed hats and had exceptionally pointed out walls so that they functioned as a new ventilation system!"


As incredible as it sounds, not only have complicated and efficient engineering systems been described to us, but now we learn of an ability to even engineer brand new items to react to an emergency. Surely all the more to be marveled at because the termites are blind and have no one in charge!


Any other feats besides air conditioning and ventilation?

"Ventilation is not the only problem of termite communities. Water is another. A great deal of water is needed because the inhabitants with their tender skins require a humid atmosphere. In the nests of Macrotermes, relative humidity is 89% to 99%. Much water is also needed for consumption, for making mortar, and for other purposes. In arid regions, termites may dig to enormous depths to tap the ground-water table......Some desert termites were found that drive bore holes down to water at a depth of some 120 feet."


"The construction of such deep shafts through loose soil is a truly prodigious feat of civil engineering for these small animals." Think of that.


Another engineer

Source (9) tells about another tiny engineer, the Grebe bird. "Although disorderly in appearance, the nest is a marvel of engineering. Composed of buoyant aquatic vegetation, it forms a floating island and thus can adjust itself to the rises and falls in water levels."


A turkey of an engineer

One section of von Frisch's book is sub-titled, "Birds that build and regulate incubators".


What bird is that? The brush turkey (Alectura lathami). The male over a period of weeks picks up nest material (rain-soaked foliage mixed with soil) with his foot and hurls it backward into the growing heap. From time to time, he climbs on the pile and stamps on it to make it compact.


What the brush turkey does is no small matter. His structure reaches a diameter of 9 to 12 feet and a height of about 4.5 feet. The structure is ready not until the inside temperature has settled down to 95 or so degrees, the warmth necessary for the development of the eggs. Our author says the amazing thing is the turkey checks the temperature of the mound almost daily.


The author describes the turkey's painstaking procedure. "Digging a hole deep enough for him to disappear into except for his tail, he repeatedly tests the temperature inside with his open beak. He takes some of it into his mouth and spits it out again when he withdraws his head. His behavior suggests that either his tongue or the inside of his beak contain highly sensitive temperature organs." I'll say.


Constant monitoring and fixing is needed. "If the pile is too hot, he leaves ventilation holes. If it is not hot enough, he adds further material suitable for fermentation and then closes the hole."


When at last the composted incubator is ready, the hen lays her first egg, which is covered up by the malew long does the hen lay her eggs? Every two or three days over a period of several weeks.


The maletinues to test and regulate his incubator until all the eggs have hatched. That takes about nine to ten weeks for each egg.


Let's summarize the work of this ten-pound engineer - who never went to school and who has no degree.

In a shady spot, he builds a structure, throwing the material backwards, of brush and soil.

Through heat, cold, and rain, he maintains in this primitive structure a constant temperature of about 95 degrees.

He spends weeks building the structure, eggs are laid over a period of several weeks, then it takes nine to ten weeks for the birdlings to hatch.

Thus the brush turkey checks and maintains the pile constant for a period of some eighteen or so weeks.


Any more engineers without degrees?

Scientist von Frisch calls our attention to the mallee bird, or (towan Leipoa ocellata). These birds are also called "thermometer fowl" because they spend ten to eleven months of each year regulating the temperature of their nests.


The problem for mallees is that fluctuations of temperature are very great in the arid open bush of central Australia Foliage needed to build the nest is scarce, which adds to the problems. Moreover the climatic conditions subject the mounded up nest to be easily dried out by the sun and scattered by the wind. Consequently, constant and strenuous efforts are needed to build and maintain the compost heap at the high and constant temperature required.


"The mallee birds start by digging a large pit about 3 feet deep for which they collect any twigs or leaves they find in the vicinity...They fill the pit and heap up further vegetable material and a great deal of sand to form a mound on top of it, which is carefully smoothed..... Soon the compost below starts fermenting, but it takes four months until the desired constant temperature of 93.2 degrees is achieved."


When ready, the hens lay every four days or so. First, the male digs a brood chamber in the compost and tests the temperature. Then the hen enters and tests the temperature for herself. If she is not satisfied, the male has to find a better place in the compost.


.... After the preparatory of four months, an incubation period of six to seven months follows until the hatching of the last chick. The adult birds, then, are occupied almost year around with the business of building the incubator and tending it so the temperature of the interior, where the eggs of the clutch are lying close together, stays at an even 93.2 degrees. Temperature is checked almost daily and usually it is controlled to an accuracy of about one degree"!


A variety of engineering solutions

How do these tiny creatures control the temperature to within one degree?


The author explains, "The method for doing this changes with the season. In spring, it is sufficient to get rid of excess heat by making ventilation shafts and closing them at the right time. In summer, fermentation slows down but solar heat increases. To prevent overheating, the birds add to the sand layer of the mound. But when the heat of the sun gradually penetrates deeper, despite these precautions, they adopt more surprising and efficient countermeasures; they dismantle the dome in the cool hours of the morning, scratch a deep crater reaching close to the place where the eggs are, and spread out the sand. When it has cooled down, they throw it back into the hole and heap a thick layer of the old material on top for insulation. Each time this work takes two to three hours."


"In autumn, when fermentation has ceased and solar heat declines, the dome is dismantled in the late hours of the morning and only a thin layer of sand is left on the eggs which are warmed by the midday sun. The sand that has been removed is spread in the sun, constantly turned over, and finally put back in the hole. This involves almost five hours of work, but it is effective."


Our author sums up, "It is amazing how precisely the birds can adapt to their activities to the situation and thereby succeed in holding the temperature in the egg chamber at an almost exact 93.2 degrees most of the time"

As we ponder which is true, evolution or creation, let's summarize what these amazing creatures do to carry out their complicated engineering project:

Make ventilation shafts

Close them at the proper time

Add to the sand layer when needed

Dismantle the dome when needed

Scratch out a deep crater

Spread out sand

Throw material back and heap new material on

Dismantle the dome each morning when needed

Leave only a thin layer of sand on the eggs when heat is needed

Spread sand in the sun, constantly turning it over

Put the turned over sand back in the hole when more heat is needed


We are confronted with some problems of logic: Where did the first generation of these creatures get their engineering training and knowledge? It could not have come from evolution, even its supporters acknowledge evolution is mindless accident. How is it passed on to each succeeding generation? How do these small creatures measure the temperature so exactly, with no errors?


Doesn't all of this seem like marvelous feats of dedicated engineering to you? They to do this writer.


Another marvel of engineering

Source (4) tells us about webs made by spiders. "The most renowned web in the arsenal, the orb, is a marvel of engineering. It may contain sixty-five feet of silk and have from 1,000 to 1,500 connections, yet it is usually spun in less than 30 minutes by its master weaver. Extremely fine and light, the web may support a spider that weighs more than a 1,000 times as much as the silk used in its fabrication."


A victim ..."is held by a substance with far greater tensile strength than steel and twice as elastic as nylon. Some threads can stretch to more than 4 times their original length without snapping."


Why do insects have six legs?

Is probably a question that has perplexed you for years. Just kidding! Our source (1) gives us the answer, "Insects use their six legs, which may appear to be an uselessly complicated technique.....It stands on a tripod formed by the first and third leg on the one side and the middle leg on the other, while the three legs move forward, legs on the alternate side are then moved.


The advantages of an alternating tripod movement so impressed [human] engineers that they based designs for crawling machines on insect locomotion. These designs may one day be used to propel remote-control reconnaissance units for the exploration of other planets."


Who invented the wheel?

The book "Microcosmos" asks and then answers, "...yet what about the wheel?...Now here's an invention designed uniquely by man. Yet, if we observe a common dung beetle at work, another surprise lies in store for us.


Starting with an unshaped clump of cow or sheep dung, it uses its head as a shovel to flatten the chunk, then its legs to form a virtually perfect sphere. It then rolls its creation along..... The dung beetle did not invent the wheel, but certainly came close to it; we will grant it the invention of the ball."


More engineers

We do not have space to detail the work of beavers. Suffice to say noted naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews (5) calls them engineers.


It is also worth noting that in his book author Christopher O'Toole (8) has a chapter about insects he sub-titled "Miniature Miracles of Engineering."


Have plants "evolved" any engineering principles?

Let's leave small creatures temporarily and see more engineering in a different area.


Have you ever wondered about the stalk of a flower? At the end of a long, narrow, somewhat flimsy looking stem is this heavy - by comparison - flower. Yet the slender stem holds up the heavy flower very well, holds it up even strong winds and heavy rains. It is really quite remarkable if we stop and think about it.


Dr. Harold William Rickett taught Botany at the New York Botanical Garden as well as several universities. He explains (7) "The arrangement of wood in an herbaceous plant bears a curious and interesting resemblance to the structural materials in buildings planned and erected [in other words-engineered] by man."


Dr. Rickett adds that the elements that carry water and minerals through the plant are not scattered, but are grouped in bundles running lengthwise through the stem and roots. These bundles are the long tough strips familiar in a stalk of celery or in a plantain leaf. Rickett adds that every builder knows that to get the maximum stiffness in a column or pillar from a number of strips or rods he must place them as far as he can from the center; if this is done any force which tends to bend the pillar will have to stretch the rods on one side and compress or bend them on the other. This bending and compressing gives much more strength than if they were all together in the center. On the other hand, in the stem, whose problem is to stay erect and to resist forces which would bend it, the woody bundles are found in a ring near the (outside) surface.


Different engineering principles are required for roots

Now Dr. Rickett explains about a different building system, "When we come to the root, we are dealing with something not usually subjected to forces which would bend it, but to lengthwise pulls from the stem above. In it, we find the same sort of cells, but arranged in a strikingly different way; and again, arranged in a way that corresponds with structural principles used in human industry."


"If the wood of a root were arranged as in a stem, the pulls to which it is subjected might easily snap the bundles one by one and the root would no longer anchor the plant safely in the earth. But the wood of the root is concentrated in the center, forming a solid tough core, like a rope; just as we use a thing strong cable to anchor a boat, not a group of wires separated from each other by a soft core."


Different engineering principles are required for leaves

Dr. Rickett writes about a third type of engineering system, "The same principles of construction are to be found in the venation of leaves, particularly in that of large leaves.....The secret of their strength is to be found in the veins, which form a system of girders projecting from the lower surface and radiating from the place where the blade joins its stalk. The girders stand vertically, just as they do in our buildings, and so offer all their substance in depth to resist bending; they are joined by smaller girders which prevent them from falling sideways, and these in turn are braced by smaller veins which rise from the surface of the blade."


Ever heard of "girders"? You probably have, very familiar items in constructing tall buildings. The author says systems of girders are found on common everyday leaves, adding this, "It is said that Joseph Paxton derived the idea for the framework of the famous Crystal Palace erected in Hyde Park in 1851 from the veins of the leaves of the giant water-lily of the Amazon."


Imagine that.


The vein-girder system of these huge water-lily leaves are so strong that "...if precautions are taken to distribute the weight evenly, a full grown man may be supported (on water) by one of these leaves."


So there we have it. Even in a common everyday flower plant, stalk of wheat or celery, blade of grass, or the like, we can see principles of construction/engineering painstakingly carried out. In the stalk or stem, where maximum stiffness is needed, the strength is on the outside; in the case of roots, where pulling strength is needed, the strength is on the inside, much like a rope; on leaves where lateral strength is needed to resist bending, the strength lies in a girder like system.


What is common to all three methods, inside, outside, or lateral girders, is that they all follow well recognized construction or engineering principles.


Source"(8) has this surprising conclusion. "The ingenuity of plants in devising forms of construction far exceeds that of human engineers."


The author explains why the conclusion was made. "Man-made structures cannot match the supply strength of the long hollow tubes that support fantastic weights against terrific storms. A plant's use of fibers wrapped in spirals is a great mechanism against tearing not yet developed by human ingenuity. Cells elongate into sausages or flat ribbons locked one to the other to form almost unbreakable cords. As a tree grows upward it scientifically thickens to support the greater weight."


"The Australian eucalyptus can raise its head on a slim trunk above the ground 480 feet, or as high as the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and certain walnut trees can hold a harvest of 100,000 nuts."


We have to wonder, did all of this precise engineering come about by accident, or was a master engineer involved?


Tiny creatures doing precise engineering

Mr. von Frisch devotes a large section of his book to honeybees. He first points out that bees do not use round, triangle or square shapes for the honeycomb cells, but he remarks on what they do use, "...the amount of building material required for cells of the same capacity is the least in the hexagonal construction, and hence that such a pattern is the most economical design for warehouses."


We have to wonder, did bees really happen to stumble on the very best shape after years and years of trial and error?


The author continues, "Anyone lifting a full honeycomb for the first time will find it amazingly heavy. A comb measuring 14.6 by 8.86 inches can hold more than four pounds of honey. Yet in the manufacture of such a comb, the bees use only about 1.4 ounces of wax! The author then, probably with tongue in cheek, makes this understatement. "The relationship between the construction of a comb and its strength would seem to be a worthwhile subject for study."


The secretion of the needed wax is no accident

"...When bees start building, they first attach themselves to each other in chains. Soon they form themselves into a dense ball, the building cluster within which they maintain a temperature of 95 degrees - the temperature needed for the secretion of wax.".


How is a honeycomb constructed?

Let's look at honeycomb cell construction. You might think each honeybee starts its own cell, completes it, then starts its next one. That seems logical and the easiest way. Of course "easiest" is an understatement because even that would be quite remarkable. But honeybees don't make their cells the "easy" way.


Instead honeybees build cells the hard way, working on the next cells before the first ones are finished! The author details this, "They do not build one complete cell after another. While the lateral walls of the first cells are gradually being added to, new adjoining cells are being started lower down. As these triangular sections are enlarged laterally, they gradually coalesce from the top down. The joins are so skillfully made that no trace of the separate beginnings remain visible."


The author adds more remarkable insight, This is even more remarkable when one considers that many bees are employed in the building of each individual cell and that they often relieve each other at intervals of no more than half a minute or so. Apparently each bee immediately comprehends what stage the construction has reached at the place where she starts to work and continues accordingly"


More complexity is added to the job of cell construction. Notice, "Right from the start the cells meet at the correct angle of 120 degrees.....


"It is not just the shape of the cells that depends upon the skill of their builders; skill is just as much needed:

to vary the size of the cells for worker bees and drones,

to manufacture such extraordinarily thin walls, and

to orient them accurately in space."


Wait, there's more precise engineering. "The cell walls are built with a gradient of about 13 degrees from base to opening. This is sufficient to prevent the thick honey from running out. The distance from the wall to that opposite is 0.205 inches in a worker cell, and .0.24 inches in a drone cell. The thickness of the cell walls is .0.0029 inches, with tolerance of no more than 0.001 inches."


As the author points out, "None of these things just "happen", they are the result of work directed to a purpose."


A short review

Doesn't all of that seem like extremely complicated engineering to you? It sure does to me!


We have to wonder, how do these remarkable creatures measure to such strict requirements - 120-degree angles, 13-degree gradients, 0.205 inches, 0.24 inches, 0.0029 inches, 0.001 inches? That some sort of precise measuring must continually take place is obvious. But where are their measuring instruments?


Von Frisch agrees by his statements, "What truly astounding precision! Economy in the use of building material is thus taken to the utmost limit. Human craftsmen could not do the work of this nature without the use of carpenters squares and sliding gauges





Are any special tools provided?

Von Frisch answers, "The bee's own head serves as a plummet to determine the line of gravity. It rests on two pivots forming part of the outer skeleton of the thorax and its center of gravity lies below this articulated connection. Hence, if a bee sits with her head pointing upward, its heavier, lower part will be pulled toward the thorax by the force of gravity."


"In a downward position, the head is automatically rotated in the opposite direction. These gravity pulls are accurately registered by a tactile organ consisting of a set of highly sensitive bristles on the tips of these pivots. Any position at an angle to the vertical is registered by a characteristic distribution of pressure on the set of sensory hairs.


This is the way bees control both their own position in space and the position for the comb, which is always built vertically downward."


So there you have it. Summaries of a bee's special tools are:

The head serves as a plummet tool.

Two pivots are used.

Highly sensitive bristles register gravity pulls.

Sensory hairs measure angles to the vertical.


More engineering by tiny insects

Source (6) tells us more about engineering done by honeybees as they build honey cells. "The worker cell will be built exactly 4.83 cells to the inch.....How can so many tiny minds gauge 4.83 cells to the inch so exactly? Even an engineer would need all sorts of instruments to measure. The bees have none.".


"...It is completely incredible that, with thousands of bees coming up and adding their bit of wax to the spot where the "drawing out" is going on, you don't get a thousand different variations of shape and thickness. You're led to the conclusion that every one of these thousands of insects in her own right must be a trained engineer engineer."


Each bee adds only a tiny part to a given area of comb. Yet each cell ends up the same size and shape as all the others."


The author goes on to tell us even more about the marvelous way cell walls are built. "The walls are so thin and light...And yet these tiny engineers know that wax this thin will hold their honey store perfectly...It can be carefully transported across the United States or Europe without damage."


There's more. The author adds that each bee as she adds her wax to the cell thins it down, leaving a thick part at the top, just as she found it. All subsequent cell builders do the same, thinning their contribution down, leaving the thick top intact. The thick top is necessary to support the heavy weight of each contributor, yet the vital thinness is perfectly maintained.


The author sums up cell making very well by writing, "So the combs progress downward and sideways, with bee space between of just the right width, as if a human engineer had planned it meticulously. Hundreds of thousand of bees will dab at every bit of it, mold it, and change it. Again, remember that there is no master planner in a bee tree. Yet the proper spacing, the proper size to the cells, comes out as if a foreman stood over the bees with a set of blueprints."


Some questions

The fact these insects and animals receive no schooling or training during their lifetime is obvious. Where, then, did their sophisticated and precise knowledge come from? How is it so perfectly passed to their offspring?


The intangible something in nature that previous generations of humans without computers called "instinct", we can better understand as "programming". Doesn't it seem logical that this engineering knowledge and ability had to have been "programmed" into these creatures? If so, can there be programming of information by mindless chance? Can there be programming without a Master Programmer?


Classic evolution instruction tells us we have to picture a scene that happened millions and millions of years ago; a seething ocean and a blob of algae. Suddenly an exceptionally massive bolt of lightening "happens" to strike the blob of algae! The blob comes to life, crawls out of the sea, and begins it's millions of years journey of evolving into living molecules, into a fruit fly, then to other forms, and eventually evolved into apes, and finally into humans.


What is missing from this - far-fetched if we think about it - scenario?

Well, lots of things. But certainly a prime missing ingredient is.....information.... knowledge.


Is any knowledge present in ocean water? Is any knowledge present in a blob of algae? Is any knowledge present in a bolt of lightning?


Where, then, did the highly specialized engineering knowledge come from that is obviously exhibited by the creatures we have just studied? Furthermore, how is this detailed knowledge and training passed on to the offspring of each creature? We will explore those questions in more depth in another article.


In summary

Do you think the title "Engineers without degrees" is just my exaggeration? Our sources, most of whom support evolution, have applied the terms "engineer" or "engineering" some sixteen times to these creatures.

As a quick review, we have looked at the following:

Bees that maintain a 93-degree constant temperature needed for larvae development, with only ¼ of one-degree variation.

Bees air-condition their hive by fanning their wings (400 times a second!) and by bringing in water.

Blind termites construct the equivalent of a six-mile high skyscraper. With no blueprints and no overseer.

termites construct the equivalent of a six-mile high skyscraper. With no blueprints and no overseer.

Termite structures are called evidence of a definite building plan.

Short sides of termite structures that face exactly north and south.

Automatic air-conditioning in termite structures.

air-conditioning in termite structures.

Termite air-conditioning methods are now studied by human engineers.

When their air-conditioning was restricted, the termites within 48 hours constructed new vents.

Tiny termites, as a major civil engineering feat, dig down as much as 120 feet for water.

Grebe birds build a floating nest called a work of engineering.

Brush turkeys maintain a constant 95-degree temperature in their primitive large brush and soil incubators.

Mallee birds maintain a constant 93.2 degrees in theirs. And do it for ten to eleven months a year.

The orb spider builds in 30 minutes a web with 1,000 to 1,500 connections, called "a marvel of engineering."

The superior six-leg arrangement of insects is now being copied by human engineers.

The first ball was made by dung beetles.

Even in plants we saw engineering principles strictly carried out, sometimes superior to human ingenuity.

A dense ball-like cluster of bees maintain a constant wax making temperature of 95 degrees.

Thousands of honeybees, working independently, nevertheless construct precisely engineered honeycomb cells.

of honeybees, working independently, nevertheless construct precisely engineered honeycomb cells.

Multiple numbers of bees work on each cell, for a maximum of thirty seconds, yet all completed cells are exactly the same.

Worker cells are exactly 4.83 cells to the inch.

The cell walls are precisely engineered, 0.0029 inches thick, to a tolerance of only 0.001 of an inch.

Cell construction and honey retention requires the maintenance of a gradient of 13 degrees.

The honeybee's head serves as it's vitally needed plumb tool.

Honeybees air-conditioning is so efficient hives have even survived barn fires.


A final question

We have to ask ourselves, are all the things we have studied, including the twenty-three items summarized above, more logically the result of:

evolution, that admittedly is:



accidental chance?

Or, more logically the result of:



a creator?


Which one makes more sense to you?



(1) "Microcosmos" by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennon, published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York, no year given.

(2) "Animal Architecture" by Karl von Frisch published 1974 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Ind., USA.

(3) "Alien Empire" by Christopher O'Toole, published 1996 by Crowood Press, Ramsbury, England.

(4) "Insects and Spiders", various authors, published 2000 by Discovery Channel, Retail, Random House.

(5) "Nature's Ways" published 1969 by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York.

(6) "The World of Bees" by Murray Hoyt, published 1965 by Bonanza Books, New York.

(7) "Botany for Gardeners" published 1957 by the MacMillan Company, New York.

(8) "The Secret Life of Plants" by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, 1973 by Harper and Row, New York.