Bees may just be the coolest animals since sharks. Although Discovery has a week dedicated to mockumentaries and horror stories relating to sharks, the anthrophila are where it’s at, and they were recently honored by BBC News. Yesterday the BBC ran a story on the growth of the urban beekeeping industry in cities like New York, London, and Sydney. Companies across the globe are renting out beehives in order to produce and sell honey at a profit. The bees are working for the company! They are like little, unpaid, insect employees!
BBC got it wrong, though: Bees don’t work for humans. Bees are so awesome that they work with and for themselves only. And they should. This is how awesome bees are: They communicate with each other by dancing. DANCING. For food sources within 20 feet of the hive, forager bees returning to their homes will dance in a round pattern to let the other bees know they need to go only 20 feet max to get some good pollen. It gets better. For food sources 20-60 feet away, these little guys dance in the pattern of a figure eight, and for distances 60-plus feet away, they have a “tail-wagging dance”.¹ W.T.F. bees should be ruling the earth, not humans!
So that covers distance, but how do the bees know which direction to fly in and how do they communicate this direction with each other? Well, if the above didn’t rock your world, my friend, this should do the trick. According to Bergmann et al., for the sickle dance, “the angle formed by the open end of the sickle intersecting with an imaginary vertical line down the wall of the hive is the same angle as the angle of the food source from the sun.”² That’s right. They use that huge star in the sky that kills and gives life to communicate food sources. They use it like it’s their bitch.
How do they know all of this stuff? How do they have this collective unconscious that requires no instruction at all, and why is this unconscious and the language it contains innate to them?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just want everyone to know that bees are so totally rad, that the world around us is totally rad, and that I just want to get out in it and see what it has to offer. And also, I think there should be a Bee Week on the Discovery Channel.
(Note: Although this post was meant to be informative and exuberant and in praise of bees, there are real problems in the bee community. Sadly, bees are dying out everywhere and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Some have claimed that a particular type of pesticide is responsible for this mass death. Some credit malnutrition or habitat displacement. The University of Maryland recently identified new evidence pointing to reasons for the collapse of the bee population in America; it involves harmful pesticides and bees’ susceptibility to the nosema cerenae parasite. Some groups are petitioning to ban these pesticides, and others suggest ways individuals can make small strides to help bees. Whatever you can do, though, do, because any creature this awesome deserves to live. Also, they are integral to our survival as well, for those of you who are more pragmatic.)
¹ Bergmann, A., Hall, K. C., and Ross, S. M. (2007). Language Files: Materials for Introduction to Language and Linguistics (10th ed.). Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
² Ibid., 571.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ I Wanted That Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, but It’s Better This Way
♦ Thigh Gap, or Wasting Time on a Pipedream
♦ Blessed are the Rich: “Preachers of L.A.”
♦ The Problem With Aaron Hernandez’s Disappearing Act
♦ President George H.W. Bush Shaves Head, Makes Us All Tear Up