Bees – Hive Body
We’ve heard of the expression “hive mind”, inspired by a beehive’s ability to multi-task, respond and seemingly think as one. Well, a bee colony also functions as a kind of collective “hive body”. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Fell: Well, when one works with bees for a long time, I think one of the thing that you realize is that the colony is sort of a different entity than the individual,
Rick Fell is a Professor Emeritus in Entomology at Virginia Tech.
Fell: We’ve had colonies where we’ve looked at disease levels in individuals in the hives. We have sick individuals, but the colony itself survives, does well, is productive. And so, it’s almost like a small microcosm or human society, in some respects, where you can have sick individuals, but, by working together, the output what that colony does and what it achieves – is far beyond simple group of individuals would ever do.
When we look at a colony of honeybees and if we analyze, for example, for viruses or we look for parasitic disease, we find individuals that have that virus or have that disease, but that doesn’t mean that the whole colony is sick and can’t recover, and it’s much in the case when we get sick. If it’s a bacterial infection, we respond to that infection. We fight it, and the colony itself does the same type of thing.
If you have an infection on your finger, that doesn’t mean that your whole body’s going to shut down and quit working. Your system fights against it. A honeybee colony functions in much the same way. And when you look at a bee colony, what we have is 20 or 30 or 40,000 individuals, but they’re working together and interrelating. And so, the total is really beyond the sum of the individuals.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.