Stuff You Should Know; How Bees Work
I have mixed feelings about bees. Kind of like how I feel about birds I guess. I think their beautiful and interesting but I don't really want them anywhere near me. Maybe comparing them to how I feel about birds is unfair actually, because birds cause genuine terror when they get too close to me and bees cause more of a mild concern. I can only remember being stung once, though I think its happened a few more times than that. I was playing outside, in the mud if i remember correctly, when a bee decided I was getting too close and stung me in the arm. I think I was more surprised than hurt really but thats when I learned my first facts about bees. That it only stung me because it thought I was a threat, and that it probably died afterwards. Which of course gave me this extremely romanticized image of some brave little bee throwing itself tragically into the way of danger to save its family, only it was even more sad because that danger was only me and I had no interest in finding his hive or stealing his honey. This view never really changed much I guess. I grew up hating creepy crawlies that showed up uninvited in the house or just grossed me out in general because of how they looked or behaved. With bees though I always had this mental image of them being a little more mysterious and special. I knew they made honey (though if you had told me it was basically their vomit at that point I would have been less than thrilled), wax, these beautiful little homes where they lived together under some sort of monarchy, and unlike other bugs that creep around and hide in dark places they seemed to love sunshine and flowers and family so much they would die for it without a second thought. I knew enough to stay away from them because I didn't want to get stung or cause one to die, but I didn't exactly develop any sort major fear about them. That is until I discovered wasps and they seemed like the villains of the bee world, taking on their general form but turning into some sort of monster. I know that seems silly because even wasps have a beauty about them, but I think once I learned they could sting as much as they wanted without dying they became like any other bug I would run away from rather than kill or swat away. Even now if a wasp is around I go back inside, but if its just a normal bee I might just try to stay out of its way unless it seems particularly interested in me.
This podcast seemed like a good review of things I already knew about bees, there is so much to say about them I can see why they just quickly mentioned some things but I kept wishing they would just focus on a few interesting things maybe not so well known. I also found it a little distracting that they kept presenting information in a way that made it seem like they weren't quite sure of it or that it was sort of just their impression but they didn't actually research it. Maybe it was just my own perception of how they talked, or maybe they did it on purpose to make it seem like more of a discussion than a lecture. I did enjoy listening to it though so i'll probably give some of the other ones a chance before I decide I need to hear facts from people who seem a little more sure about them.
My favorite thing about bees is their dance. They come back from foraging and tell others how to find food by dancing in a figure eight pattern that varies with distance and quality. I love that they have their own little language and that its a dancing language. Hearing about it on the podcast reminded me of a short article I read in a book about how its possible that bees see the sixth dimension where things like quarks live. A mathematician (Barbara Shipman) who just happened to grow up around bees noticed that their dance followed the lines of a sixth dimensional object called a flag manifold. I won't try to explain it because thats about as much as I understood. I don't think its been proven and since this was a book about monsters, myths, and legends I doubt it's all that accepted by other scientists, but I loved the idea of it and as mysterious and unique as bees are it wouldn't surprise me.