Bees might actually be more afraid of us than we are of them, for real »
Despite my morbid fear of bees, I try to respect them. If I see one, I run screaming at least 20 feet before looking to see if he or she chased me. But it seems as though this behavior might hurt their little bee feelings: A recent study at Newcastle University says that bees can have “pessimistic biases,” meaning “the tendency to perceive threat or anticipate negative outcomes”—but only when they’re feeling pessimistic. Wait, what? Yes, when bees are feeling bad, they behave like something bad is about to happen.
The researchers trained a group of bees to associate two odors with two foods, one that bees like and one that they don’t. After this, the response of the bees’ mouth parts was measured in response to “ambiguous” odors, to see if they would open their mouths to eat, or not.
To further test the bees’ responses, half of the subjects were plopped into a badger-attack simulator (such a thing exists?!) and then measured their neurological responses. When the bees were scared, they responded negatively to the stimuli. A negative experience—a.k.a., being treated cruelly by researchers—made the bees assume the ambiguous odor would not be food. Neat, right? Neat and mean!
Had you already assumed that bees have feelings? Why risk it—most other creatures seem to. Still, this study’s results are pretty awesome. Apply them to your life, and go say nice things to a bee today. Buzz!
[Beautiful cartoon by Megan Rascal]