The Self-Employed Recruiter: Chicken-Fox or Chicken?
—An analysis of why there are so few self-employed recruiters
“About 12,900 managers and specialists were self-employed, working as consultants to public and private employers.”—Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Handbook, 2010-2011 (a figure representing only 1.4% of the total number of human resource and recruitment specialists)
“Average is best”—the gist of one modern biological concept of “regression to the mean”
“The proportion of individuals who are self-employed has fallen steadily since the late-1940s. The self-employment rate—the proportion of total employment made up of the self-employed—was 7.5 percent in 2003, down from 18.5 percent in 1948.”—from The Editor’s Desk, August 25, 2004, Bureau of Labor Statistics, citing the decline in agricultural self-employment as the key factor in the decrease.
Why are there so few self-employed recruiters? Looking at the math, you will see that only 1.4% of the more than 904,000 workers classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook as being among America’s “human resources and recruitment specialists” are self-employed. This is much smaller than the overall 9% rate of self-employment the 10,507,000 full-time self-employed American workers represent in an economy with approximately 140 million employed.
Jobs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
When there are relatively or absolutely few people in any category, it is quite often because they are very bad categories to find oneself in, such as people struck by lightning after unwisely sheltering under an oak tree, people equally unwisely giving lions struck by lightning mouth-to-mouth CPR, and people working as chimney sweeps. Many, but not all, “4D” jobs—the dangerous, dirty, dull and dumb—fall into this category; others, e.g., the dull, are, in terms of openings and employees, still all too numerous.
On the other hand, sometimes there are few people in a job category simply because the demand for services in those categories is weak or virtually non-existent. Of course, low demand for workers in a field can exacerbate that field’s lack of appeal. Chimney sweeps, for example, fall into both the “low appeal” and “low demand” categories in modern economies, with the low demand compounding the inherent low appeal of the job. Does this correctly characterize the self-employed recruiter?
In contrast, it is also commonly the case that there are remarkably few people in certain categories, including jobs, that are extraordinarily good things to do and to be, e.g., a mega-Power Ball lottery winner, a prize-winning author, a mathematics professor, a president of the United States, or a Fortune 500 CEO. Is this, then, the situation of the self-employed recruiter?
Notice the asymmetry here: It is commonly the case that there are few people in a given “bad” job category precisely because it is a “bad” one that nobody wants and that therefore is hard to fill. However, it is very unlikely, almost incomprehensible, that the reason there will be few people in a “good” job category, e.g., president or CEO, is that it’s a very good kind of job.
No. Scarcity of people in good jobs is never attributable to the appeal of the jobs. Such job scarcity is usually attributed to a combination of scarcity of the talent (a supply-side limitation) and scarcity of openings (a demand-side limitation)—the latter usually being explained in terms of “limited need” or “limited resources” for financing or otherwise supporting that kind of excellence. Again, does this explain why there are both absolutely and relatively so few self-employed recruiting specialists?
Self-Employed Recruiters: Blessed, Cursed, or Neither?
To advance this analysis, consider the wisdom and the logic of becoming a self-employed recruiter. If you are one of the relatively and statistically very few self-employed recruitment managers or specialists in the U.S., ponder this putative wisdom: “A man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” Familiar old saw, with implications for being one’s own recruiter? “A recruiter who recruits himself”—problematic? Or is there some kind of a subtle contradiction in quitting a recruiter job to go it alone?
Turning this point of view upside down and taking the opposite stance, what about this as a recruiter’s maxim?—“Don’t use a recruiter to get your own (next) job as a recruiter.” –i.e., don’t get hired (recruited) as a recruiter. That maxim appears to be a corollary to “Don’t practice what you are going to preach!”—namely, preaching the virtues of being recruited, while declining to be recruited yourself.
Specifically, it may seem to be equivalent to advising everyone but oneself (if you are a recruiter) to use a recruiter to find a job.
So, in addition to possibly appearing to be an unwise or unhappy choice, becoming a self-employed recruiter may also appear to be self-contradictory (in a Kantian way) or hypocritical.
In fact, that appearance is deceptive, since a recruiter’s philosophy is more clearly articulated as “Use a recruiter if you are looking for a job; otherwise, become or create one, respectively, yourself.”
Clearer, more consistent advice this is, but is it better than “Recruiter, seek self-employment, period.”?
The Self-Employed Recruiter Data Speak
If the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook data count as evidence, the answer is “yes”— meaning that the self-employed recruiter appears not to be the role model, norm, ideal or icon of the profession, save perhaps as a poster child for those forced or somehow sub-optimally pulled into it. That’s suggested by the fact, previously noted, that in 2008 a mere 1.4% of the 904,900 “human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists” were “self-employed, working as consultants to public and private employers” (B of LS 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook).
If being a self-employed recruiter is such a great way to work, why are there so few doing it?
However, once again, appearances can be very and dangerously deceptive. It may very well be that the self-employed recruiters are the envy of the other 98.6% who wish they could be so brave, so independent, resourceful or so lucky to be able or to be forced to go it alone. (Yes, sometimes being forced to do something with great reluctance is a very good thing, e.g., being forced by your mom to eat your spinach or to go look for a job and move out.)
Tsetse Flies, Billionaires, Mensans and Self-Employed Recruiters
Still, one may be tempted to wonder why, if it’s such a good thing, recruiter self-employment is exactly (1.4%) as rare as the prevalence of trypanosomiasis (“sleeping sickness”) in Zebu cattle at the Obudu ranch, located in what is basically a tsetse fly-free zone in Nigeria (a 1991 study), or why it is also exactly the same low 1.4% reported as the “migrant poverty headcount rate” in big cities surveyed in a 2010 China survey—both being both rare and bad.
On the other hand, the 1.4% self-employment rate is clearly a larger percentage of the population compared with the proportion of billionaires (meaning it’s better to not be a billionaire?). The world’s 2010-reported 1,011 billionaires comprise only 0.000001%–a virtually zero percentage—of the world population of 6,901,868,355 (as of yesterday evening).
So, assuming being a billionaire is a good thing—at least for the billionaires, being a rare self-employed steer in the recruiter herd is not necessarily a bad thing, especially given reports that 2/3 of America’s millionaires are self-employed.
The self-employed recruiters, so few in number, may be just like members of Mensa, whose IQs put them in the top 2% in terms of IQ scores—envied, gifted and few. On the flip side, there may be problems in being so smart and/or self-employed, just as Mensans eventually find their intelligence is a mixed blessing, since like-minded, like-brained friends and compatible baby-making mates will be as rare as their scores.
Besides and a question it is very important to ask, if a high IQ or self-employment is such a good thing, why has neither swamped the gene or recruiter pools, or at least made more of a statistical dent as a proportion of the total population? (Note the hint of an answer in the immediately preceding paragraph.)
Ditto for rare jobs such as that of President of the United States. If it’s such a great job, why only one? Here, maybe some of you want to shout, “Obviously, it’s a problem of demand for presidential candidates, not the supply of them, stupid!”
However, on closer inspection, it may be that supply and demand are at best only the tip of an underlying iceberg that ultimately determines the number of presidents, the number of Mensans, the number of self-employed recruiting specialists and managers–and possibly even the supply and demand levels themselves. Identifying that iceberg is the key task in much of what follows.
The point of this only slightly tongue-in-cheek statistical review is this: Despite the fact that we are inclined to believe that nothing can be inferred in general from the frequency of anything regarding whether it is a “good thing” or a “bad thing”, whether it is “adaptive” or “maladaptive”, or whether is a reflection of constraints on the “demand side” or the “supply side”, there remains the lingering temptation to somehow assume that the scarcity of self-employed recruiters must somehow reflect a lack of appeal (a supply-side issue) rather than a lack of opportunity (a demand-side issue), since a priori it seems one can always choose to be self-employed, but not choose to be hired.
That’s because most people will assume that given that one does not have to be selected, interviewed, subjected to competitive comparisons or saddled with negotiations to hire oneself, so to speak, prima facie, self-employment is always an option under supply-side control, unlike being hired, which is under demand-side control.
Yes, such thinking is naïve to the extent that it doesn’t factor in other recruiter supply-side considerations such as risk-aversion, start-up funding challenges, recurring overhead costs, precarious client/candidate pools, space constraints and the like, which may diminish the appeal to and the supply of potential self-employed recruiters.
This naivete factored in, the crucial question becomes this: Does the low 1.4% self-employment rate among human resources and recruiting specialists and managers reflect an extraordinarily limited demand for self-employed recruiters or an equally extraordinarily limited supply of them, as a result of a nearly universal lack of appeal and/or opportunity?
Or, more subtly, is it a dynamic and evolving mix of both—even perhaps determined by something, present and potent like a hidden iceberg, unrelated to supply and demand?
Supply and Demand vs. “Evolutionarily Stable Strategies”
To answer these questions, it should be very instructive to examine the structure and dynamics within the recruiting industry to determine precisely how this “dynamic equilibrium” has come to exist and how it is sustained. An exact parallel can be found in the dynamics of ecological and social balance, and illustrated using the example of prey-predator relations and beehive queen/worker/drone ratios in ecology.
In the now well-established fields of sociobiology and behavioral ecology, there is a mathematical analytical sub-specialty of population dynamics, evolution and equilibrium, which has as its cornerstone concept the notion of an “Evolutionarily Stable Strategy”, “ESS” for short. An ESS is defined as a strategy, which, if adopted by a population of players, cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that is initially rare.
As a crude, inaccurate, but helpfully simple illustration of the idea of an ESS, consider gambling: If a casino population of roulette players consists entirely of people who always bet on red (analogous to the those who “bet” on self-employment) and people who always bet on black (analogous to “betting” on other-employment), their respective proportions in that population will not be reduced by the arrival of “mutants” who bet randomly.
The strategies of “always bet on red” and “always bet on black” cannot be “invaded”, i.e., challenged and displaced by any other strategy, including random betting, since all fair and honest roulette strategies should have the same average/expected gain (loss, in this case).
The basic idea underlying the ESS is to blend mathematical game theory and associated concepts, such as “expected gain”, to explain and predict “equilibrium” population ratios of one species, e.g., predator cheetahs to another, e.g., prey Thompson gazelles.
In other applications, the math can be used to explain, describe and/or predict ratios of queen bees to all other bees in a hive, and to behaviors, such as the incidence of lying/truth-telling, or risky/safe sex. The same approach can be applied to self-employment vs. other-employment, since both of these are social behaviors, strategies and population categories.
As for the question of whether the dynamics governing their interaction and proportions are rooted in biology, or in supply-and-demand economics, knowing which is the case is not necessary, so long as there is an underlying dynamic—randomized or otherwise–governing their interactions and numbers.
Self-Employed Recruiter: a Chicken-Fox or a Chicken?
Imagine a population of imaginary “chicken-foxes” and chickens, the sole prey of these foxes. The total environmental niche population cannot become 100% chicken-foxes and 0% chickens, for then the chicken-foxes would soon follow the chickens into extinction, assuming chickens are the chicken-foxes’ only food source.
So, “eat every chicken” is not a chicken-fox ESS, since it is highly unstable—unless you consider extinction stable. Moreover, it is highly vulnerable to invasion by a mutant chicken-fox that will adopt a different strategy, e.g., “eat every fourth chicken you encounter”. (Compare: What would happen if no recruiting specialists and manager were self-employed or if all were.)
Even perhaps 50% chicken-foxes, i.e., a 50-50 split in numbers, with equal proportions of “chicken-foxes” and chickens, might be unsustainable and lead to the somewhat slower but equally certain extinction of chickens and then the chicken-foxes.
If each chicken-fox eats more than one chicken or faster than the chickens can reproduce to replenish their numbers. (Compare: Is the current ratio of the self-employed to other-employed in recruiting stable?)
Eventually—and without getting into the Lotka-Volterra equations of prey-predator dynamics or game-theoretic pay-off matrices, a stable equilibrium (including occasional extinction) is normally reached, much like the normal human male-female population ratios or queen bee to worker and drone proportions. (Ask: Has the equilibrium ratio been reached in the relative proportions of self-employed to other-employed recruiters? Are the recruitment field dynamics themselves stable enough to allow a prediction?)
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that somehow the 70.4 to 1 ratio of other-employed to self-employed recruiters may very well represent an (evolving) equilibrium among the competing self-employment and other-employment strategies.
This kind of equilibrium may not be fully analyzable in terms of supply and demand, nor exclusively caused by them. Indeed, changes in supply and demand, although perhaps a measure of changes in the equilibrium, may be consequences, rather than causes of change.
Such non-supply/demand factors include psychological, social, economic, technological, political and demographic factors–war being an obvious factor that usually changes supply and demand, rather than vice versa..
In any system of interacting “players”, as the “pay-offs” to each—in terms of losses as well as gains—change, the proportion represented by each category of player in the total population will correspondingly change. This “pay-off” perspective is one of the salient ways in which an ESS approach to understanding why there are so few self-employed recruiters differs from a supply-and-demand approach.
Self-Employed Recruiter as Blacksmith
Perhaps the clearest, most relevant and simplest business example of an ESS is that of a 2-person game with blacksmith (on analogy with the self-employed recruiter, “SER” for short) pitted against automobile assembly-line worker (on analogy with the other-employed recruiter), with payoffs defined in job openings and dollar income.
Clearly and historically, as the economic environment’s backdrop changed, the rewards and costs to each blacksmith and Ford assembly-line worker “mutated”, initially leading to a decrease in the number of blacksmiths and ultimately to their virtual extinction as a species of labor.
The point here is that “betting” on the blacksmith strategy was not an ESS. The worker population was “invaded” by the auto-assembly-line worker strategy that drove the blacksmith and his strategy to virtual extinction.
Is this the ultimate fate of SERs—to be doomed to workforce displacement and extinction because betting on the SER strategy is unstable and less successful than the alternative invading Non-SER strategies?
Other occupations have been more fortunate, with traditional piano tuners maintaining a stable, albeit shrinking niche shared with digital piano repairmen (multiplying their numbers by their average income yields one form of the “expected gain” of being a piano tuner vs. piano repairman).
The same kinds of supply and demand forces (paralleling biological natural selection) and logic apply to self-employed and other-employed recruiting specialists, in instances in which government regulatory or other interventions do not distort the free-market mechanism. Could it be that SERs are more like piano tuners than blacksmiths?
Alternatively, and in comparison to a beehive, the proportion of SERs may be the result of something other than supply and demand, just as the ratio of one queen to countless workers and drones is.
It may very well be that the 1.4% self-employed recruiter “solution” reflects an “optimal” percentage, rather than merely an equilibrium percentage, just as, given the genetics of bee reproduction, exactly one queen is optimal for the hive.
In more human terms, having only one chief to many braves, one general to many soldiers, one CEO to many workers, and one president to many citizens is clearly not the consequence of blacksmith-Ford worker-type worker supply and demand equilibrium.
Rather, given the underlying structure, processes, goals and essence of the “system”, the observed ratios may be ideal ratios that also have worked out as an ESS. (As will be suggested below, those optimal ratios may be driven by something called “regression to the mean”, a phenomenon that explains why Mensans and other geniuses are so rare and/or by “group selection”, in the evolutionary sense.)
With this understanding, what are we to make of the SER specialist and manager industry or society percentage? Are their small numbers exclusively caused by the play of the laws of supply and demand? In that case they will change purely as a function of these laws.
Or are they somehow an ESS-based or otherwise optimal apportionment of the talent in the recruitment sector or, more interestingly, among the entire population of the United States, as an occupational environment—and optimal in a sense other than in which the free market allocations of talent and resources are by definition the best?
Although it is tempting to think that the decision to or to not become self-employed is a primarily personal, individual one, the fact is that such decisions are shaped by the surrounding forces, opportunities and constraints that surround and impact such decisions.
To see this clearly, understand that somehow the individual programming or “decisions” of individual honey bees chewing and packing wax result in the virtually perfect, universal and familiar honeycombs they unwittingly build. If Adam Smith had also been an entomologist, he might have called this the “invisible mandible”.
One of those forces driving all that packing, the preservation of the queen to other bee ratios and perhaps influencing SER proportions is a second mathematical, dynamical one: “regression to the mean”.
Self-employed Recruiter and Geniuses: Too Far from the Average?
If an SER is compared to as well as with a Mensan or other genius-type, the nagging question becomes why are both groups so small? You would think the more the better. Certainly, from an evolutionary standpoint such greater “fitness” should translate into greater reproductive or market success and presence.
But, that’s not how it works. In fact, Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s half-cousin and founder of the eugenics movement died childless—as, the story goes, did all other founding members of the Eugenics Education Society of England, which Galton established in 1907—despite his estimated IQ of 200, 30 or so points higher than Einstein’s.
Intuitively, it seems reasonable to suppose that one reason there are always so few geniuses in the general population is that despite the apparent great utility of such high IQ’s, the probability of meeting and mating with another genius who can prevent the “dilution” of such brilliant genes is as small as their proportion in the population—actually the proportion squared, viz., .02 x .02, if the meeting and mating is purely random (which it isn’t, being semi-random instead, thanks to Mensa meetings).
In other words, from the eugenic or evolutionary standpoint, the “expected gain” of being a genius has to factor in not only the utility of being super-smart, but also the probability of meeting and mating with another one.
When that much lower than excellent chance of meeting-mating enjoyed by the average person is factored in, being smart may not be such a smart bet after all. Something like that may in some way apply to the dynamics of SER “evolution” and demographics.
Regression to the Mediocre
Ironically—or aptly (I can’t decide which), Galton also was the first to formulate the concept of “regression to the mean”, which he colorfully rendered as “regression towards mediocrity”.
He correctly observed that over large samples and generations there is a tendency for the offspring of tall parents to not be quite as tall as their parents, but instead to “regress” toward the population average—albeit still taller than the average.
The mathematics of this is too complex to discuss here, but it needs to be said that the more random the processes governing the distribution of a trait, the more pronounced the regression in the population to the more or less unvarying mean (unvarying unless there are other non-random forces at work, such as forced breeding, generally improved nutrition or genocide).
That’s why, for any biological trait, such as tiny or huge deer antlers, the percentage represented by those at such extremes will remain small, even if they do not vanish. Big-antlered bucks will tend to have offspring with smaller antlers, although still larger than the average size toward which they have “regressed”. For undersized-antlers, the same applies, with the next generation of bucks being very likely to have somewhat larger, though still small–relative to the average–antlers.
The modern understanding of regression to the mean encompasses all sorts of traits that are to a significant degree determined by luck and chance (“random variables”), including intelligence.
What this means for the SERs is that their puny percentage representation in the recruiter population may be a manifestation of regression to the mean, irrespective of what any individual recruiter thinks his or her reason is for becoming or not becoming self-employed—a kind of mathematical overlord and necessity ruling the numbers of SERs.
Like that of a faster or slower than average wax-packing honey bee, an individual SER’s self-employment strategy, in being different from that of the average other-employed recruiter, will never take root in numbers large enough to displace the other-employed recruiters (OERs) nor completely vanish as a workstyle—if regression to the mean is the correct, or at least mostly correct explanation of the 1.4% SER proportion.
A crucial and testable implication of this regression to the mean analysis is that if it is indeed correct, in the absence of some powerful non-random selective force, SER’s will neither be eliminated nor predominant. The key question is whether supply and demand alone and operating independently of “the iceberg” can constitute such a force.
SERs as “Group Selected”: “It’s the Herd, Not the Steer, That Counts”
Richard Dawkins, Oxford University biology professor and internationally acclaimed author of the seminal The Selfish Gene, helped demolish the earlier “for the good of the species” interpretation of natural selection, replacing it with “for the good of our selfish genes”.
The old idea was that, for example, a Thompson Stotting gazelle, which kicks up its heels when a lion is spotted, is altruistically putting itself at risk “for the good of the species”. Similarly, childlessness or low intelligence was “bad for the species”.
Through the work of Dawkins and others, that notion was scrapped and replaced with pure selfishness: Childlessness is bad for our selfish genes, which, at least figuratively, manipulate us to serve their reproductive ambitions.
Likewise, the gazelle is actually doing the bidding of its genes, the theory goes, to display how healthy it is to the lion, in order to induce it to go chase a less healthy straggler. If that strategy fails, then its nearest relatives that carry many of the same genes, will survive to carry on the “kin-selected” family line, not to carry on the species.
Incidentally, this is a model that may partially explain why in China’s business dealings corruption is reportedly so rampant: Among the corrupt, Confucian and biologically-based “family first” thinking has the potential to trump everything, including business partnerships and even crass materialism.
Translated into recruitment dynamics, what this suggests is that SERs do not exist “for the good of the recruitment industry”; they exist for the good of SERs. Accordingly, given the “struggle for existence” and the competition from Non-SERs, i.e., the OERs, the 1.4% foothold they have is the best they can do.
Ah, not so fast! It may be that there is one way that the whole group and not the individual’s “inner circle”, so to speak, may be selected. Suppose that individual IQs or individual IQ ranges are not what is selected by competition and evolution. Imagine that instead of one individual or sub-group being pitted against another, whole groups are pitted against others—specifically, whole distributions of IQs are being selected from alternatives that are not as “fit”.
What this means is that a human population with only 2% geniuses or 1.4% self-employed recruiters or honey bees with only one queen bee may be more “successful” than a population with only 1% or one with 20% geniuses, 0.5% or 50% SERs or 5 queen bees—much as an army with 10 generals and 1 million soldiers will be much better than the reverse. Call this concept “the invisible biological hand” determining the Adam Smithian division of labor in brain work, recruiting, bee hives and armies.
Instead of the 1.4% SER figure representing a clawed-out competitive sub-group market share in an “optimal” market tautologically defined by and as the will of the market, it may represent a small, but essential, harmonizing and integrated component in an optimal evolutionary distribution of occupational percentages, based on and selected by the natural dynamics of natural selection.
In other words, the SERs may be the queen bees of recruitment: few in number, but essential to the optimal survival and optimal continuation of the recruitment hive and possibly even of the nation.
The Psychology of the Self-Employed Recruiter?
“No, no, no!”, you say. “My decision to become a self-employed recruiter has nothing to do with
- Supply and demand
- Evolutionarily stable strategies
- Regression to the mean
- Optimal distributions.”
“I am not a bee,” you insist, equally emphatically adding, “I am a self-employed recruiter because I like it!”
Now, that’s very revealing—seriously, no sarcasm. Think about not only why you like it, but also why the other 98.6% of recruiters are not self-employed. One likely reason is this: Like you, they sincerely believe they are providing an essential service. The difference is that some, probably many, of them are also very likely to feel the services of recruiters are essential because they include themselves as having required or prospectively once again requiring that service.
The belief that being hired through a recruiter is optimal may be predicated on the feeling that people looking for work will be more successful if they are hired than if they “go it alone”, either through their solitary efforts or through solitary and self-employment.
Either way, the “loners” will not use a recruiter. In the estimation of this hypothetical average non-self-employed recruiter, average loners (as opposed to those who are placed, e.g., recruitment agency temp “loaners”) will, on average, be less successful, despite whatever dazzling exceptions there are.
Among recruiters there will be those who, projecting onto their future clients their own doubts about going it alone, hope(d) to share and replicate their own success in having been hired by a recruiter. Such Non-SERs will not want to attempt self-employment (for any of many reasons).
Accordingly, because they believe people need help in finding jobs, they will have used recruiters themselves in becoming one and are likely to do so again, should they switch jobs. Hence, they can be forgiven if any of them see self-employed recruiter managers and specialists as numerically few “mutants”.
Put as simply as possible, one possible reason the overwhelming majority of recruiters are not self-employed is that they feel–perhaps to be consistent or by projection onto/identification with clients–compelled to practice what they preach, namely, “Use a recruiter!”, or merely think it is really smart to do so.
This might be sufficient to explain why the vast majority of recruiters are not self-employed. (However, it still leaves open the possibility that their reluctance to become self-employed stems from systemic features best described in terms of supply and demand, ESSs, optimal distributions or regression to the mean.)
SERs, on the other hand, may be more inclined to use a “mixed-strategy”–one for their clients, viz., “Use a recruiter!” and one for themselves, viz.,”Do it yourself!”
To Be or Not to Be a Bee
That said, it must be noted that there can be considerable overlap among these five explanations of why there are so few SERs. Supply-and-demand can be a tool that is used to test or shape ESSs; regression to the mean can be regression to the optimal ESS; the optimal distribution may be some kind of overall group ESS, despite divergences in sub-group ESSs.
Finally, your just “liking” or not liking being a self-employed recruiter may contribute to and be a consequence of all of these, as you get caught up in the whirl and flux of forces that you, perhaps until reading this, have neither been aware of nor able to control.
If you were a honey bee, you’d have something to chew on, even if not something to wax poetic about.