"What It’s Like To Be A Bee
You’re all hard shell, soft core. You also have an inbuilt chemical weapon, designed as an injection needle that can kill any animal your size and be extremely painful to animals a thousand times your size - but using it may be the last thing you do, since it can kill you too..….You have 300o vision, and your eyes process information faster than any human’s……You have sensory superpowers, such as a magnetic compass. You have protrusions on your head, as long as an arm, which can taste, smell, hear and sense electric fields. And you can fly. Given all this, what’s in your mind?" – Lars Chittka
Over the years, with the elevated profile of bees in the media, we have all been drip-fed various findings from ongoing scientific discoveries relating to bee intelligence, but if we humans failed to ‘get it’ – i.e. to piece together the more profound implications behind such research, Lars Chittka is here to help us begin to put the jigsaw puzzle together, so that we can more fully appreciate the bee.
In doing so, “The Mind Of A Bee” is an extraordinary book, and Lars Chittka is a true champion of the cause of bees and their welfare, quite simply because he uses science to demonstrate that bees are sentient creatures.
“The historical view – that in the absence of external stimulation or internal triggers such as hunger, the insect’s mind is dark and its brain is switched off – is no longer tenable.” – Lars Chittka
Professor Lars Chittka is a hugely respected scientist (based at Queen Mary University, London) in the world of bees (indeed, I reference his work in various relevant pages of my site). That he has pulled together so many scientific studies (including his own) in order to answer questions about the individual intelligence, personalities, emotions, pain sensing, problem solving, and self-awareness of bees must surely make waves not only in the scientific community, but should begin to influence the general perception of the sentience level of invertebrates generally. Think about that the next time you consider squishing a fly, a tiny ant, or indeed a bee!
It is sobering to consider that (as Lars himself would concur) we are really at the early stages of discovery. Why? We glean from Lars that all too often, scientists were asking the wrong questions, or starting from flawed and narrow assumptions about bees.
I have long held a view that all living creatures have a consciousness. From the experiments Lars outlines, it may appear to us that the consciousness of bees is only basic, but such a conclusion would surely only reflect that it is our understanding and questions that are (still) quite basic. Lars points out that if von Frisch (who died in the 1980s) were able to visit us for a day, he would be astounded at the discoveries made in recent years. I see Lars and his like-minded colleagues as pioneers in this field, and predict their discoveries will become deeper and more profound in the future, and I am truly grateful for their work.
What Lars has achieved is close to my own heart, because the big question he poses to the reader is in essence this:
What does this mean for the treatment of invertebrates in the laboratory? (This question has long troubled me, and years ago I wrote: “Is it okay to kill bees in order to study them?”) And what does this all mean for our conservation efforts?
We should certainly care if we appreciate the interdependence and inter-relatedness of the eco-system and the living things it contains. Yes, government and farming need to act, but (as Lars reminds us in his 'Afterword') what we do to help bees in our own back gardens or in our own small courtyard is very much up to us.
“The Mind Of A Bee” is a fascinating book that I hope will be read and understood by as broad an audience as possible, so that the important conclusions within may be shared more widely.
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