October 6, 2002
10:32 AM   Subscribe

How would it be to be a bee? Einstein has been quoted as saying that if the bee were to suddenly disappear, mankind would survive only another four years. So, make a bow to your insect overlords, and visit this site by a neuroscientist researching bee vision to experience first-hand how a bee sees. The B-EYE software allows you to set various parameters to see how a bee would view selected images, including Einstein himself. Or test your bee communication skills at Nova's "Dances with Bees" page, where you watch the dance of a hive mate and then try to locate the nectar source that he's mapping out. If you're still not impressed, consider that bees possess higher cognitive functions, including the ability for abstract thought. Finally, find out why nice bees don't always finish last in a look at the guerrilla tactics wielded against the dreaded "killer bee" by mild-mannered Cape honeybees.
posted by taz (17 comments total)
This earlier post on the subject of bees may also be of interest.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:07 AM on October 6, 2002

Another great post. Between this one and MrBaliHai's, I'm not going to get anything done today. The two of you have single-handedly (or would that be double-handedly?) restored my love for MetaFilter. I'm starting to sound like Paula Abdul on American Idol. The guerilla tactics story is fascinating, albeit a bit frightening. Also see mcwetboy's post from earlier this year.
posted by iconomy at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2002

posted by iconomy at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2002

"The bees! They're...defending themselves...somehow...!"

Sorry. Couldn't resist.
posted by davidmsc at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2002

Excellent post, Taz!
posted by SpecialK at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2002

davidmc: Ok, I give up. Is that quote from the classic "B" movie "The Bees" with John Saxon and David Carradine, or some obscure Shatner vehicle I'm unfamiliar with?
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:25 PM on October 6, 2002

The abstract thought experiment seems fairly error prone. If the bees were able to detect through scent where the sugar was located, or through scent where the previous bees had gone, then the results are bogus. Now if the bees were communicating through phermones like some giant neural net, that'd be just as impressive and would seem more likely. Either way, an informative post. ;-)
posted by woil at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2002

Pseudoqueens don’t work like workers and they aren’t normally as reproductive as regular queens. The colony becomes dysfunctional and you wind up with a bunch of weird misfits.

The same thing happened at the last company I worked for. A bunch of do-nothing upper-management types were hired and productivity went south. Beware the infiltration of PHBs (Pointy-Haired Bees)!
posted by SPrintF at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2002


Homer: Bad bees! Get away from my sugar! Ow! OW!! Oh, they're defending themselves somehow!
posted by UKnowForKids at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2002

I'm with woil on the abstract thought test. Bees would be more inclined to follow their collective noses to the sugar. Especially if the Bee-vision link is correct. No wonder I see bees flying into walls and stuff all the time: they can't see for shit.

Great Sunday afternoon reading. Thanks!
posted by birdherder at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2002

[this is good]
posted by PugAchev at 2:10 PM on October 6, 2002

UKnow: D'OH! Thanks.
posted by MrBaliHai at 2:12 PM on October 6, 2002

What good is a BEE THREAD without a Simpsons reference? Another fave: when Homer was assigned to guard the bee in the jar in the basement of the nuclear plant. Co-worker: "Aw...we done bad..."
posted by davidmsc at 2:55 PM on October 6, 2002

And then there's the landmine sniffing honeybees.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2002

About the abstract thought experiment, I looked for a link to the methodology on this and found only this (html version of a pdf), which may or may not be the abstract that includes the experiment linked above, but is at least certainly a related study by the same group.

It wasn't terribly enlightening on the smell question, but did include this comment "In all cases, training and test stimuli were regularly replaced by fresh ones to avoid influences of olfactory cues", whatever that means. At any rate, it seems to me that if indeed the bees were identifying the correct path via scent, then almost every bee would take the proper route every time, making it quite obvious that there was no learning behavior involved. If I were conducting the experiment (as if!), at least one version of the test would include placing the sucrose at both destinations, but making it accessible only at the "reward" site.
posted by taz at 12:05 AM on October 7, 2002

What good is a BEE THREAD without a Simpsons reference?

"A bee bit my bottom! Now my bottom's big!"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:01 AM on October 7, 2002

Even though the Cape Bee may displace the African Bee, as well as other bees in the Americas, wouldn't they be preferable to have around rather than the Africanized bees?

I mean, it's like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, but it would seem a better alternative than the Africanized bees.

They should really do some studies on what hives the Cape Bee may prefer to invade - African or American-locals. Yes, the African bee industry is a shambles because of the Cape Bee.. but if they shifted to using the Cape bee instead fo the African one (even though the Cape Bee has less output), couldn't they compensate for the change?
posted by rich at 10:56 AM on October 7, 2002

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