bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Spinsters at the heart of the British navy

The story about bumblebees in Australia reminded me of the story of how spinsters have been essential to the development of the British navy:
... in The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote that the bumblebee was the only bee capable of pollinating the red clover because the others were unable to reach the nectar. Dajoz [R Dajoz of the Musée national d'histoire naturelle de France] goes on to say that the number of bumblebees is largely affected by the presence of field mice which destroy their nests.

The population of field mice, in turn, is dependent on the cats for which they are a delight. We can then say that cats are a key element in the survival of the red clover. Dajoz cites Haeckel who says that “the red clover is used to feed beef cattle and the sailors mainly eat beef. Therefore cats contribute to ensure that England has a powerful navy.”

Dajoz ends his delightful presentation by citing another author, Thomas Huxley, according to whom “the English spinsters, because of their overwhelming love of cats, would be at the origin of the powerful English navy”.
Thanks to for that retelling.


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