There’s a debate around the pros and cons of urban beekeeping and its impact on country bees and the global bee threat of bee colony collapse. Whatever one’s position on the subject, it was a small ray of light in the sad story of the awesome fire that swept through Notre Dame on April 15, 2019 that the bees survived.
By Andrew Barron, Associate Professor, Macquarie University. . First published on The Convervsation
We’ve known for a while that honey bees are smart cookies. They have excellent navigation skills, they communicate symbolically through dance, and they’re the only insects that have been shown to learn abstract concepts.
Honey bees might also add the title of art connoisseur to their box of tricks. In part one of ABC Catalyst’s The Great Australian Bee Challenge, we see honey bees learning to tell the difference between European and Australian Indigenous art in just one afternoon.
Does this mean honey bees are more cultured than we are?
Perhaps not, but the experiment certainly shows just how quickly honey bees can learn to process very complex information.
How the experiment worked
Bees were shown four different paintings by the French impressionist artist Claude Monet, and four paintings by Australian Indigenous artist Noŋgirrŋa Marawili.
At the centre of each of the paintings was placed a small blue dot. To make the difference between the artists meaningful to the honey bees, every time they landed on the blue dot on a Marawili painting they found a minute drop of sugar water. Every time they visited the blue dot on a Monet painting, however, they found a drop of dilute quinine. The quinine isn’t harmful, but it does taste bitter.
Having experienced each of the Monet and Marawili paintings the bees were given a test. They were shown paintings by the two artists that they had never seen before. Could they tell the difference between a Marawili and a Monet?
All the trained bees clearly directed their attention to the Marawili paintings.
This experiment was a recreation of a study first conducted by Dr Judith Reinhard’s team at the University of Queensland. In the original study, Reinhard was able to train bees to tell the difference between paintings by Monet and Picasso.
Bees are quick to learn
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen gets up close and personal in the October 2018 issue of Vogue Brazil. In two of her four covers, the Brazilian goddess poses with her mother Vânia and — eureka! — in a beekeeper’s uniform. Pedro Sales styles the Brazilian earth goddess in images by Zee Nunes.
Gisele is a long-time eco-activist, serving as a goodwill ambassador to the UN’s Environment Programme. In her July 2018 Vogue US cover story, the model reveals that gardening and beekeeping are core ways that Gisele focuses on teaching her children — Ben, age eight, and Vivian, age five—to cultivate a close relationship with nature.
While living a very rich life, Gisele only keeps things she truly treasures, like a Balenciaga jacket she’s had since she was 17. Committed to living minimally, Gisele sends to her clothes to her sisters, in order to keep living as minimalist as possible. “People think they need more stuff, but no. Start with the simple principle of waking up in the morning and asking, ‘What makes my life possible?’ It’s such a simple question. The air I breathe, the soil I step on, the food I eat, the water I drink, the sun that makes me happy,” Gisele explains. “If we understand that our survival depends on the Earth and really appreciate all those gifts, maybe we can show a bit more care. Fashion is a trillion-dollar industry. We have the means. We just have to want to do it.”
GlamTribal Design LOVES Bees
AOC has long discussed the plight of honey bees worldwide. And the unique relationship between bees and elephants — elephants are totally terrified of bees — is a major driver in elephant conservation.
These new GlamTribal bee lovers designs celebrate the precious bees in our lives. Remember that 10% of your GlamTribal purchase supports elephant conservation worldwide. Lucy King’s Elephant and Bees project in Kenya shares news about community efforts on the ground — including the evolution from using empty beehives to turn away elephants in Lucy’s original research to the Africa’s farmers becoming beekeepers.