Friday, August 26, 2011

Social Behavior

Social creatures, such as honey bees and humans, employ elaborate methods of communication. The honey bee evolved senses and behaviors to help protect the colony from hazards in the environment and to allow the bees to effectively forage for food over great distances. Most of the colony’s communication senses are based upon pheromones, odors that the bees recognize. Other methods of communications involve vibrations, usually detected as movements in the honeycomb of the colony’s hive. These behaviors are used to defend the colony from intruders, protect it from disease, and notify the members of available food sources. We observe the actions of guard bees instantly alerting other worker bees while defending against an intruder attempting to enter the hive. Scout bees convey newly located nectar sources to forager bees by demonstrating with dances and sharing a taste of the nectar.

Humans communicate largely by visual signs, electronic devices, and speech, a form of controlled vibrations. While the craft of beekeeping developed over the years with most of its great innovations developing in the mid-1800s, the science of honey bee biology is being advanced today. The 2006 completion of the honey bee genome project greatly broadened the study of bee disease mechanisms. Human communications, especially via the internet, now allow researchers anywhere in the world to work together and share knowledge. Our ability to communicate will help us solve honey bee problems that we may have created ourselves through the importation of pests, parasites, and pathogens as well as our use of chemicals in bee hives and the environment. I watched an example of mankind’s cooperative efforts in communications and problem solving as the International Space Station made a six-minute pass over Peace Farm at 17 thousand miles per hour. The manned space station appears as a bright, moving star. That’s my camera’s wobble, not the space craft. You may follow orbital tracking at, and you may find when the space craft is passing over your location at

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