Some pointyheads at Queen Mary University in London have been doing some truly eccentric research. It involved attaching small radio transmitters to animals of the superfamily Apoidea. They sound as if the should be slavering raptors wreaking havoc in Jurassic Park, but they’re a bit more humble. They are in fact bees.
I happen to like bees, and I’m concerned about declining numbers and the effects of pesticides. I’d draw the line at attaching radio transmitters to them, though.
Anyway, the pointies didn’t draw a line, and used four wire-carrying bumble bees to study their foraging habits. Then they got really lyrical about things. They concluded bees have personalities.
One of the bees was ‘exceptionally diligent, quickly switching after only three flights from exploration of the surrounding environment to focusing exclusively on a single forage location.’ A busy little bee then. Possibly on speed and hence intensely focused.
Another bee appeared to be an apian stoner. He was a ‘lifelong vagabond’ says researcher James Makinson. The bee was seen ‘never settling down on a single patch of flowers.’ You can see how that might happen if the bee was off its head on cannabis, hence my conclusion that he’s a stoner, like my earlier, infamous hummingbird. ‘Hey, wow, like look at all the pretty flowers, maaaan.’
The other two were a bit more tedious and organised, and presumably teetotallers, interspersing ‘foraging for a single location with exploratory flights throughout their lives.’
Lars Chittka, another researcher, got very poetic about a bee going from naïve to the world around her, to a seasoned forager in an environment full of sweet rewards and dangerous threats. He speculates on ‘her likely death at the hands of predators or getting lost because she has ventured too far from her nest.’ Nasty, brutish, and short, as they say.
I must say I found the whole idea of the study to be very charming. It does however raise a couple of critical questions. Who makes bee sized tracking devices? Why? And how the hell did they get the funding for the project? Sounds like a job for Marc Zimmerframe.