bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Busy bees or lazy bees?

That research by Professor Menzel about bees not being quite as busy as is commonly believed has provoked a debate in the UK's Daily Telegraph.
Glyn Davies, the President of the British Beekeepers Association, said that bees were not lazy but efficient.

“At any particular stage in its life, a bee has a specific job to do,” he said. “If they are unable to do that job, they conserve their energy by doing nothing. Each bee has a unit of life energy and the faster it works, the faster it dies.”

“It is a mistake to assume that a bee doing nothing is being uneconomic. In fact, it is being very efficient and they don't deserve a bad press. They are being very wise and perhaps humans should try to follow their example instead of running about like headless chickens.”
And the Telegraph's food correspondent, Bee Wilson (yes, Bee, honest), joined in:

“... entomologists will so often dress up their research in ways that anthropomorphise the bees, which I think comes from the deep and irrational affection we feel for them.”
And then it got a bit dodgy when travel writer and beekeeper Paul Theroux entered the fray saying that Prof Menzel's research could have been affected by his national origins:

“Perhaps in comparison to the German rate of work, the bee does look lazy,” he said.


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