A Sentience Article from All-Creatures.org

Bee Careful Who You Stand On

From Sandra Isobel Kyle
Facebook posting, November 2022

There is a being in the bee, and we do ourselves no service by underestimating their intelligence and ‘emotions’.

Bumblebees playing

I usually write a post about my slaughterhouse vigil of a Sunday, but as I have been served with a Trespass Notice from the slaughterhouse I most commonly bear witness at, I won’t go back until I have clarified the situation. I don’t want three months in jail and a $1,000 fine, nor do I want to be banned from going to India in February. I did go to the sheep slaughterhouse but saw no trucks at all - so no post today.

I’d like to take up a bit of your time though by sharing a bit about bees.

I remember when I was doing Zoology at Uni learning about their ‘waggle dance’, first described by Karl Von Frisch.

What happens is a scout comes back to the hive and in an astonishing piece of invertebrate communication, indicates important news to her hive mates. She stands in the middle of the gawping, excited group, turning in circles and figure eights, pointing north, south, east, west, waggling her backside and twitching her antennae in a series of specific instructions as to where pollen, nectar, water – or threats – can be located.

I thought this the most marvellous thing at the time and still do. Then again I never thought that insects were just small robots.

I have just read another, more recent, bee study.

In this study bumblebees were found to repeatedly roll balls, despite no apparent incentive to do so. The kids enjoyed it more than the adults, and the males rolled for longer than the females. The research team concluded that bees rolled balls because they were enjoying themselves. As the Scientific American article put it 'bees just wanna have fun'.

I guess the moral of the story is that there is a being in the bee, and we do ourselves no service by underestimating their intelligence and ‘emotions’. Insect consciousness may well be the next field of endeavour in animal behaviour. Meanwhile, have a bit of respect for our poor old buzzy brothers and sisters, and bee careful where you put your big feet.

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