The waggle dance of the western honeybee (Apis mellifera), in which bees waggle their abdomen from side to side while repeatedly walking in an intricate figure-of-eight pattern, has been observed since antiquity, but the person who finally unlocked the secret of its meaning was an iconoclastic Austrian researcher named Karl von Frisch. The breakthrough initially earned Frisch a great deal of scorn from other mid-20th-century scientists, but also eventually won him the Nobel Prize.
Young Karl was known to skip school to spend time with a menagerie of over 100 animals, only nine of which were mammals. His most beloved companion was a small Brazilian parakeet named Tschocki, who was constantly by Frisch’s side, sitting on his lap or on his shoulder and even sleeping next to his bed. Together with Tschocki, Frisch spent hours out in nature, simply watching. As he later reflected: “I discovered that miraculous worlds may reveal themselves to a patient observer where the casual passerby sees nothing at all.”
Frisch began studying bees in 1912. He had a hunch that ran counter to prevailing wisdom: The bees’ waggle dance was a form of language. In pursuing this hypothesis, he was contesting two core assumptions of Western science and philosophy: that only humans have complex forms of language, and that insects were incapable of complex communication given their tiny brains .........
Extract taken from an Essay by Karen Bakker "How to Speak Honeybee" ... See MoreSee Less
Bees mean a lot to us: producers of honey; pollinators of crops and an exemplar for roboticists hoping to emulate their swarm intelligence. Archaeologists have found evidence of beekeeping in the Middle East dating back at least 3000 years.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about honeybees in particular is their cooperative way of life, which biologists call eusociality. Most individuals in a colony do not reproduce, instead working as devoted servants to one breeding female.
The queen can hardly relax and enjoy the trappings of power, however. Instead she spends her whole life making eggs, up to 1500 in a day – more than her body weight. Fertilised eggs develop into females, who generally become non-breeding workers. The queen can also lay unfertilised eggs, which develop into male bees, called drones. Their job is to find a queen from another colony and mate with her.
Queens live for up to seven years, but they become less productive as they get older. When the queen stops producing eggs, the workers select a new queen. Instead of pollen and honey, they feed her royal jelly, which workers secrete from glands in their heads. She develops inside a special queen cell, becomes sexually mature, then chews her way out. In some colonies, there may be multiple new queens, who fight each other to the death. The survivor will fly to a drone congregation area and mate with around a dozen drones, storing up to 6 million sperm in her body. Extract taken from The New Scientist. ... See MoreSee Less
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.