Thriller Bees
March 12, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Bees have different “personalities”, with some showing a stronger willingness or desire to seek adventure than others, according to a study by entomologists at the University of Illinois.
posted by Trurl (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
They should cite the work of Kerwicki pace McMeel.
posted by phrontist at 6:31 PM on March 12, 2012

F4F - hard worker with strong wings seeks same to go on adventures with. I am completely bored with the clover close to home and you are too. Let's see new flowers and gather their pollen in swollen, redolent bundles around our knees. There's a whole world out there!
posted by kavasa at 6:31 PM on March 12, 2012 [18 favorites]

Wasn't this a Seinfeld movie?
posted by klangklangston at 7:13 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. I kept bees for a 4-H project for 6 or 8 years, and could see the hive quite closely from my parent's bedroom window. Fascinating to watch, and I could spend hours doing so. All the stuff we learned about how they recognize their own hive, to the protector bees that check everyone out that comes in. The 4-H leader worked for the University in the Bee Biology dept. as a staff member, and was fantastic. He kept us up to date with current research and methods. The hive really is an interesting social structure, and the closer you watched, the more you'd see.

An added benefit was the 150 or so pounds of honey I'd get from the hive, plus the money I made selling bees every year when the population exploded. Easy money for a kid, that's for sure, and I made it while learning!
posted by Eekacat at 7:27 PM on March 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

"The Bee Whisperer," from Episode 1.3 of the BBC radio comedy show, "Bigipedia", would doubtless agree. Unrelatedly, Episode 2.2 of Bigipedia makes reference to the idea of single-bee honey. This show is a practically an ocean of apiculture; a bee bee sea indeed.
posted by Kriegsman at 7:34 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

the protector bees that check everyone out that comes in

Also known as the "TSA bees".
posted by XMLicious at 8:31 PM on March 12, 2012

"You could say I'm more of a ... Type Bee"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:43 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

That headline - Honeybees may have personality - is damning with faint praise. I mean really, if you can't tell whether or not they have a personality, it's not much of a personality. In related news, Mitt Romney may have personality.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:06 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

All external I/O as well as the internal process of Mitt Romney rigidly adhere to a formally verifiable transaction-based model. While this is useful in that he is the only organic being capable of achieving an Evaluation Assurance Level 7, it has the unfortunate side effect of enabling formulation of a (rather long) mathematical proof that he has neither personality nor - and this will doubtless come as a relief to his donors - agency in the traditional sense of the word.
posted by Ryvar at 10:34 PM on March 12, 2012

I'd be shocked if this wasn't true. Natural selection confines them to a range of risk-averseness, but it shouldn't make them all identical. It's really unlikely that there's a single ideal temperament, and you need diversity if you're going to be able to adapt to changing environments as a species.
posted by knave at 10:35 PM on March 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Honeybees can dance. Obama can dance. Can Romney dance? I can't find anywhere an actual video of Romney dancing.

And yes... as the 2012 election heats up, there is no topic that doesn't demand commentary on that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:11 AM on March 13, 2012

The next question is "Why are queens attracted to 'bad bees'?"
posted by Trurl at 5:34 AM on March 13, 2012

Watching my bees is my cold-hearted secularist experience of the divine. If you set up a chair about six or seven feet in front of the hive, they chart out amazing flight patterns all around you, assuming you're smart enough to be dressed as something other than a bear (light colors). The guards do their little Winkie walks around the trio of round entrances, the harvesters come in heavy and leave light, and the housekeepers and undertakers show up at the entrances, unloading the daily detritus, and inside, the tiny consort of males wander around being generally useless, complaining about the food and playing Zbox all afternoon in their underpants.

My hives are Kenya top bar hives, so you can actually scoot under the hive like a mechanic under a Plymouth and just lie there, looking up into the comb through the screened bottom, and the perfect mechanism of it all is just astonishing. So much work, so much precision, and it all just unfolds the way it has for fifty million years.

I've got a beekeeping protege who amuses me with his compulsive personification of the bees, and because he's a masculine traditionalist, I delight in correcting him when he says "he" in regard to any particular bee unless it's actually a fat, haploid big-eyed drone.

"What's he doing there?"

"What's she doing?"

"Yes. Sheesh."

"She's unhappy with that little splinter sticking out of the wall of the hive and is smoothing it over with propolis."

It's hard not to think of bees as fuzzy little people, but they really aren't. The hive is the animal, not the bees. Every cog in all those interlocking wheels are interchangeable, even the queen, who's not a matriarch in any sense but a genetic one. The whole hive operates as a gestalt, atomized intelligence, so the reward of the occasional adventurous bee is a part of that diasporan mechanism.

"Oh no, I crushed one!" my friend says, and it's a common thing when you're not being careful enough laying the bars back in. You feel a little bad, but you hope it was quick and not painful and the hive carries on.

"Brush it off the edge before it gets the others riled."

"Oh, the poor thing."

And I feel bad, too, but it's personality pareidolia more than the demise of a frontal thinker. Maybe I'm too much like a farmer, too inclined to distance myself from my stock, lest I mourn when they die, which they do in the thousands every single season because their lives are busy and short by evolutionary design.

A guard bee takes notice as I poke around, and she is doing what guard bees do when they notice some big dumb animal nosing around the hive. There's no sting, just a curious hovering pattern of observation, and then, when you're still up to no good, she zooms in and head-butts me. If you're not bug-panicked, one of those hapless stupid people who responds to every reminder that we're not the only species in the world with flailing, shrieking panic, you'll notice what isn't a stinging attack. She zooms over and head-butts me like a tiny flying goat, and I laugh, even as I yield to her warning.

"Alrighty, my little apis mellifera," I say, returning to my chair. "I'm not a threat."

The sun sparkles in the trees, the guard returns to her post, and thousands of tiny droplets of nectar, carried on the wind by all my wonderful workers, pass by in ripples and swells of purposeful motes like river currents swirling around stones. The day goes by. If I sit long enough, and surrender enough of those fidgety thoughts that yank us back and forth between history and our plans, my personality fades, too, and for a moment, we're all just movements in the endless machinery, gears and wheels meshing in the old mathematics.

A dog barks and I snap back into myself, but sometimes I wonder who's better off.
posted by sonascope at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2012 [18 favorites]

I wish I lived in a county that permitted bee-keeping in a residential area. sonascope's wonderful comment doesn't help.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:28 AM on March 13, 2012

ADVENTUROUS BEE is going to be my (nonexistent-as-of-yet) band name.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:02 PM on March 13, 2012

I find it hard to believe that any animals with sufficiently complex brains (even a fruit fly has a million neurons or so) wouldn't exhibit differences individual to individual in terms of willingness to take risk, "socialness", etc.
posted by maize at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2012

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