What does the quote mean in the beginning of Chapter 8 in The Secret Life of Bees?
Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.
As you have no doubt realized, the quotes opening each chapter of this novel are both insight into some of the themes of the book (through bee symbolism) but also foreshadowing of events in the book. You can make your own prediction as to what such a quote might be foreshadowing.
As for thematic revelations, this quote speaks to more than one. First, a predominant theme of the book is female relationships, and the necessity of women to connect with other women for personal growth and a sense of identity. This quote speaks directly to this idea. The message here is that female relationships and a connection to a community (according to this quote) is not merely a suggestion for women to be happy, it is required for them to live.
Secondly, this quote speaks to the feminist ideals presented in the novel. This chapter includes a conversation between Lily and August, where August reveals why she never married:
There were enough restrictions in my life without someone expecting me to wait on him hand and foot. (145)
In all of her talks of love and relationships, August Boatwright is against the institution of marriage. She believes it would mean losing her sense of self, her true independence. This stems from a very feminist idea that in a male-dominated society, men hinder women from becoming who they are meant to be. Certainly this is one issue raised in the book that remains left open for personal reflection.
The epigraph reads: Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.
This chapter is pivotal in the development and progression of each of the characters in The Secret Life of Bees. Here, the reader gains more detail about some of the feminist notions in the novel. While the book isn't overtly feminist, per se, it does explore the idea that women of this time period were not only able to live a life without men, but were also very capable of doing so.
In this chapter, August gives some crucial detail about her life. Rather than follow the social norms of the time, August chooses not to marry and become a mother. She explains to Lily that she was not against getting married, just against the expectations of what it meant to be a married woman during the time period.
From this moment, Lily begins to think about her own aspirations, she is a good writer, but the social norms would suggest that, if she were to work, she become a hairdresser. Now, Lily begins to consider that there are other alternatives.
Fittingly so, the bee metaphor is expanded in this chapter. After learning about all of the things that bees do within the hive, the bees come out and cover Lily. She reacts to the swarm by repeating, "I love you. I love you" to them as they land on her. This near-religious experience moves Lily. She feels a connection to the bees, a connection to the Boatwright sisters, a connection to her mother, and finally, a connection to her true self.