Mark Grossmann: A Different Flavor – Just How Smart Are Octopuses?

28 November 2013

To view full post, please click on the title: A Different Flavor – Just How Smart Are Octopuses?

 

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mark Grossmann: The “Land Shark,” The “Land Catfish” & The “Land Octopus”

31 October 2013

Decades ago, the film, Jaws, was credited with terrifying movie goers to the point that they avoided beaches for fear of being attacked by a real version of the film’s animatronic great white shark. [image] [1] Then, there was a sequel with promotional trailers warning:  “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” [image] But at least you were safe on dry land.  Right?

Saturday Night Live’s writers decided to take away that last refuge of safety by presenting a predator that could strike on land or sea.  In 1975, the first in a series of SNL sketches featured a hapless urban dweller who hears a knock on their front door.  When the caller is asked to identify themselves, a voice on the other side of door says “repair man” or “door-to-door salesman.”  Then, when the door is opened, in plunges the “Land Shark” (or a giant foam rubber version of the “Land Shark”), which completely consumes the victim. [2] [image] [video]

Well, the Land Shark was just a joke.  Wasn’t it?

It was.  But, like more than a few fictional, on-screen characters, the Land Shark seems to have an imitator.

Just when you thought it was safe to go near the water?

Catfish in France have learned to hunt pigeons. [3] [4] Fishermen on the France’s River Tarn were more than shocked to witness catfish “loitering in shallow water near sandbars populated by pigeons.”  When one of the birds wandered too near the water line, it was a “Land Shark” experience for the bird and a meal for the catfish. [video]

When Julien Cucherousset of Paul Sabatier University heard the story from the bewildered fisherman, he captured footage of the “event.”   The on-line video went viral. The first time I saw the video, my reaction was almost that of an academic naturalist.  “How fascinating,” I thought.

At least, I thought it was fascinating until I learned that these catfish were three to four feet long.  So, I am only about 2 feet longer that the largest of these “Land Catfish.”  My next thought?  Would I . . . ?  Yes, I assured myself.   I’d win — if caught in a shoreline struggle with an overly aggressive four-foot catfish.  Then, I reflected.  Suppose I was sick and weak that day?  I didn’t try to answer that question.  I just . . .  thought of something else.  [5]

At first, I was comforted by the fact that this particular species of catfish wasn’t native to France, but had been introduced to the Tarn River about 30 years ago.  I imagined some weird, predacious species of catfish from the depths of the Amazonian jungle had been imported and accidentally released into the river.  But, when the full story unfolded, it turned out that these were just plain old catfish.  And they had been intentionally released into the river. [6]

Over the last three decades, the waters of the Tarn became less populated with crayfish and other smaller fish.  So, the catfish began feeding on land prey — a behavior no member of its species is known to have engaged in before.  These fish hover under the water near the shore watching their prospective, terrestrial prey.  Then, when an opportune moment presents itself, they leap out of the water onto the dry land, grab their prey, and leap back into the water taking there land-dwelling victim with them.  Then, the “Land Catfish” enjoys a leisurely meal in its underwater home. [7]

Autopsies of the catfish in the area revealed that not all of the fish were eating pigeons.  However, those that were tended to abandon their old diet of crayfish and other small fish focusing more exclusively on land prey.  [8]

Somehow, I found the casual way in which these animals extended their hunting range disconcerting.   But more disturbing was the autopsy’s suggestion that some fish had developed a taste for land animals — ignoring their old fare of crayfish and other small fish to focus almost entirely on pigeons.  As a land-based mammal who enjoys strolling along the shores of natural bodies of water, I’m still not entirely comfortable with these developments.

One writer, attempting to minimize the strangeness of it all, noted that African crocodiles jump out of the water and grab zebras.   And whales beach themselves on the ice to nab penguins for dinner.  But these are hardly apt comparisons.  Crocks and alligators are air-breathing lizards.  They just hang-out in the water.  Whales are also air-breathing mammals who have adopted a fish-like lifestyle. [9]

Neither of these examples could compare to a plain old fish intentionally jumping out of the water to grab some terrestrial creature, drag it into the water, and eat it.  I’ve watched scenes like this in old horror movies.  I’ve always loved to stroll along the shore of almost any waterway, but is it safe?  Where I live, my favorite body of water is the Mississippi River.  After seeing this video, I checked.  The Mississippi is teaming with catfish – those same enterprising, opportunistic, and hungry sea-beasts that are scarfing down pigeons in France!

On calmer reflection, I realized that the Land Catfish is actually engaged in the mirror image of human sea diving.  Somehow, I’d always thought that land creatures dived into the water to feed on unsuspecting sea creatures.  Not the other way around.  And human beings had the distinction of being the only creature that could learn to dive into the water for food (and maybe a few pearls).  Now, the Land Catfish has turned the tables on us.

But the Land Catfish isn’t the only sea creature that feels free to promenade out onto the dry land to pick up a meal.

A few decades ago, I remember strolling along a Sarasota beach at midnight — my feet kicking through the white sand.  In those distant days, you could still find yourself quite alone on the beach at night.  Absolutely taken with the beauty of the Gulf, I remember thinking how nice it would be to just stretch out on the sand and sleep in the cool breeze off the water until sunrise.

All those years ago, I would still have been quite safe from human interference, but I would never have thought of the possibility of something coming up out of the sea.  I can imagine the psychological trauma I would have experienced if, in the middle of that peaceful night’s sleep, I had stirred awake and opened my eyes to see an eye looking back at me:  the “dominant eye” of a local octopus.  The creature wouldn’t have been interested in me. It would have just been “passing by.”  But, after an experience like that, I would have moved to the top of a mountain — as far away from the water’s edge as I could get.

Not long after I saw the “Land Catfish” video, a story broke about a “Land Octopus.”  The terrestrial excursions of the octopuses have stayed pretty much out of the public eye until recently when one of these strange creatures was caught in the act – on video. [video]  An octopus was seen grabbing lunch, not while roaming where it belongs – underwater — but, instead, crawling around on the beach casually grabbing a few snacks.  The witnesses got a video camera and the rest is internet history.  [10]

How long has this sort of thing been going on, I wondered?  Well, octopuses have been doing this since . . . forever.

The Land Octopus starring in the San Mateo County, California video was not engaged in any particularly unusual behavior.  Marine biologist James Wood explained that several species of octopuses make brief forays onto land for a meal. [11]  Most discomforting was his explanation of why the public is so ignorant of this particular octopus behavior.  Octopuses leave the water all the time.  They just do it when they won’t be seen.  Wood explained that most octopuses are nocturnal, sneaking out of the water at night to enjoy their meals unobserved. [12]  Well, with this factoid, my nocturnal seashore walks are over.

The octopus caught on video was probably engaged in the octopus version of grocery shopping.  Julian Finn, a senior curator of marine invertebrates at the Museum Victoria in Australia explained that octopuses frequently emerge and hunt in tidal pools when the tidal waters recede.  The octopus examines these “grocery shelves” either with its eyes, (octopuses have rather good vision), or feel for food with its outstretched arms (tentacles?). [13]

However, not so typically, the cephalopod shopper in this video is seen discarding an empty crab shell during its shopping spree — after eating the occupant.  Either this octopus was particularly hungry and couldn’t wait to get home, with the crab serving as a kind of fast food snack or, even with eight arms, carrying all those groceries got to be too taxing.  If the “groceries” get too heavy, octopuses often stop and eat their way to a lighter load. [14]

However, shopping isn’t the only thing that brings octopuses out of the water and onto dry land.  Finn explained that octopuses also “lurch” out of the water onto land to escape danger.  Wood recalled an incident in which he was chasing and photographing a common octopus “when it crawled out of the water, across eight feet of rocks and went back into the water” apparently hoping this maneuver would confuse the pursuing photographer. [15]

Mercifully, octopuses aren’t interested in eating people.  Hostile interactions between octopuses and people happen when the octopus perceives a person as a threat rather than as a potential meal.

Still, even if I’m not on the menu, I wouldn’t like to encounter an octopus as I was strolling or resting on dry land.  Imagine if I’d paused to catch my breath on that eight foot expanse of rocks when the Land Octopus jumped out of the water in its attempt to shake the pursuing James Wood.  After literally running into an octopus on dry land, you can bet that it would be a long time before I thought it was safe to go anywhere near the water.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

Of interest:

Land Shark (Saturday Night Live)

SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

Mark Grossmann: The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

24 October 2013

There’s a plan to colonize Mars.  Applications are now being accepted from would-be volunteers.  From these, four colonists will be chosen for a one way trip to the red planet.  No, this isn’t a NASA Project.  This project belongs to a Dutch company, “Mars One.”  So, when are the colonists scheduled to leave?  About 20 years from now.  When you consider that the estimated cost will be 6 billion dollars, you wonder how “Mars One” is planning to finance the project?   With a reality TV show.  But there’s yet another twist to the financing.  The 6 billion dollars will be raised by selling sponsorship/advertising for a reality TV show televised from Mars and staring the four “lucky” colonists who “won” their one-way ticket to the red planet.

Who would want to go on a one-way trip to Mars — 20 years from now?  Surprisingly, a lot of people — about 100,000 applicants, to date, have paid the $38 dollar application fee – each hoping (1) to pass the fitness screening to be eligible to make the trip and (2) to win the final selection lottery and be one of the four “lucky” colonists.  I’d like to call this “a plan,” but I’m not holding my breath.  It would take something more before I’d take a Martian colonial adventure seriously. [1]

But, then, “something more” happened.   Bumblebees and Wheeko, a robotic snake, volunteered for a mission to Mars.  This was a game-changer.  I knew these were real contenders for a successful colonial mission.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Bumbles and Robo-snake were being seriously considered by NASA and the ESA, respectively, rather than “Mars One.”  It also didn’t hurt that both Bumbles and Robo-snake are uniquely fitted to be Martian colonists.

In fact, a study published in Gravitational and Space Biology has demonstrated that bumblebees have “the right stuff.” [image] These, rather rotund, wild bees forage for food in the same wild grass and brush in which they build their nests.  I’m sure that, at first, no one saw them as particularly obvious candidates for a trip to Mars.  But, then, NASA identified an atmospheric pressure of 52 kilopascals (kPa) as “the ideal” for extraterrestrial facilities.  That’s a rather low pressure compared to earth’s normal sea level pressure of 101 kPa.  The search was on for fit space travelers and Martian colonists.  And “Bumbles” made the cut, and then some. [2]

While the bumblebee’s cousin, the familiar hive-dwelling honeybee, not only stopped working, but completely lost the ability to fly at an atmospheric pressure of 66.5 kPa, the bumblebee not only thrived at the lower 52 kPa atmospheric pressure, but continued its work, pollinating plants and collecting honey, at its usual pace. When the pressure was dropped below 50 kPa, “Bumbles” continued to work, but at a slower pace.   Then, when the pressure was dropped to 30 kPa, the bumblebees lost their ability to fly but, with an amazing display of mettle, these bees kept on working — foraging, pollinating, and gathering honey, more or less, on foot – crawling from bloom to bloom.  I think this the kind of bee we need to conquer the Final Frontier. [3]

Robo-snake, on the other hand, has the obvious advantage of being a robot.  [image] So, those conditions necessary to biological organisms are of little importance to this automaton.  However, Robo-snake is an odd contender, because he is being considered . . . before he exists.

Although the ESA (European Space Agency) is, more or less, including Robo-snake as a crew member on an upcoming mission to Mars, this particular robotic crew member has not been developed yet.  It’s a little strange.  But, on second thought, is recruiting a nonexistent crew member to go on a real mission to Mars any stranger than Mars One recruiting real crew members to go on a nonexistent mission to Mars? [4]

No matter, robo-snake’s older brother is standing-in for his sibling in futuro during the evaluation process.  Big brother (named Wheeko) is a robotic snake that looks and moves surprisingly like a real snake.  It’s modus operandi is beyond a brief and simple description, but one video is worth a 1,000 words. [video]   Wheeko, is composed of ten round metal balls, on the balls are rows of what appear to be smaller balls that roll with motive power and make Wheeko move.  With a camera on its “head,” (which is the lead ball), it makes the familiar serpentine movement of its namesake as it travels on the ground.

Wheeko is the subject of a current feasibility study by researchers at the SINTEF Research Institute in Norway and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.  Until now, the primary purpose of the development of a robotic snake was as a tool to be used on search and rescue missions.  As one of the project members, Aksel Transeth, explained, real snakes “can climb rocks and slide through small holes.”  It is hoped that a robot with these skills could be used “to find people in a fallen buildings.”

If Wheeko passes all the tests, what will its little brother, the future Martian colonist, be like?  Actually, little brother will be different if for no other reason than he has a sidekick.  Or, more accurately, he will be a sidekick.  But, instead of playing sidekick to his fellow bumblebee colonists, Robo-snake will play sidekick to the more familiar Mars Rover.  These vehicles are designed for off-roading in the rough Martian terrain.  Yet, however carefully they are directed, they do have a tendency to get stuck.  Enter Robo-snake. [image]

Instead of a lone player on the Martian surface, Robo-snake would be a deployable snake robot or an actual arm attached to the Mars Rover.  The Rover vehicle could detach Robo-snake to investigate the nooks and crannies of the terrain while allowing the Rover to maintain a safe distance from areas in which the Rover might get stuck.  And if the Rover gets stuck, one proposed design would turn Robo-snake into something like the Rover’s tentacle arm.  Such an amazingly versatile arm would be able to both push and pull to extricate the Rover if caught in too tight a spot.

So, together, the bumblebees and the Robo-snake may be the first Martian colonists.  Of course, they won’t be traveling together.  NASA is interested in “Bumbles” and the ESA is interested in Robo-snake.   But even if they don’t share the same flight to the red planet, they’ll probably meet when they get there.  Right now, Mars isn’t that crowded. 

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

Mark Grossmann: Zombie Bees Again?! – Spreading to Vermont

13 February 2014

The New York Times broke the story in late 2012.  There are zombie bees.  Discovered in California in 2008 by John Hafernik, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University, zombie bees keep spreading.

Of course, if zombie bees were going to “appear” somewhere, I wasn’t surprised that it turned out to be California.  Then, they were reported in Washington state.  Why not Oregon?  Actually, they had spread stealthily into Oregon with reports only surfacing well after the “zom-bees” (I couldn’t resist) were an established fact to the north, in Washington state.

But the next appearance puzzled me.  North Dakota seemed like the last place I’d expect to meet a zombie, but that was the next state in which the “zom-bees” appeared. The zombie horror genre had conditioned me to imagine brain-eating zombies in California.  And the “real” zombie lore might suggest Louisiana.  But North Dakota just doesn’t have the “feel” of a hotspot for zombie anything.  But the “zom-bees” can fly where they will.  If, as “zom-bees,” they still have a “will.”

And their latest flight has taken them from South Dakota to Burlington, Vermont.  There, amateur beekeeper Anthony Cantrell began finding dead bees near his home.  One can only imagine his “horror” when he discovered a close match between the behavior of his dying bees and a description on ZomBeeWatch.org, the website belonging Hafernik and his colleagues.  Dr. Van Helsing, er, ah, I mean, Professor Hafernik soon arrived to investigate and confirm that, indeed, Cantrell’s bees had been zombified!

The bee version of a zombie needs its own description.  They aren’t really much like the brain-eating zombies created by Hollywood.  And, then, there are the “real” zombies.  At least, the real belief in zombies that goes with a belief in Voodoo. But neither the “zombies” of Hollywood or Voodoo exactly match our zombie bees.  Still, when you hear how zombie bees behave, you’ll understand why “zombie” was picked as the best way to describe the fate of these poor insects.

The zombie bee falls victim to a parasitic fly, apocephalus borealis. The fly lays its eggs physically inside the bee’s body.  Then, the eggs actually affect the bee’s behavior.  However, the eggs and larvae of the apocephalus borealis fly control the bee’s “mind,” only briefly, before causing its death.

Under the influence of the developing fly larvae, the honeybee abandons its exclusively daytime routine and does something a bee doesn’t do  — flies at night.  Just before, and during, this “last flight” into the night, (what Hafernik calls “”the flight of the living dead,’”) the bee begins to move erratically.  It ends its last flight in death.  Only then, do the fly larvae eat their way out of the dead bee to continue their growth to maturity.

Cantrell reported that, at a recent meeting of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Steve Parise, an agriculture production specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, discussed the threat posed by zombie bees.  Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture is considering trapping bees to investigate the zombie bee threat.

The culprit fly was originally discovered in the 1920s, in Maine. Since that time, it has spread across the United States.  It was a known parasite of bumblebees and yellow jacket hornets — but it left honeybees alone.  At least, it did until 2008, when the fly changed.  Now, it’s a honeybee parasite.  Not only do the fly’s eggs and larvae feed off the honeybee, they turn the victim into a zombie.

The End?

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

Mark Grossmann: The Bee’s Brain — the Zombie Apocalypse, but with Bees?

19 December 2013

The New York Times broke the story in late 2012.  There are zombie bees.  So, Night of the Living Dead might be a true story!?  Yeah, but with bees instead of people and . . . substantial script revisions.

If zombie bees were going to “appear” somewhere, California does seem like the most appropriate place.  Then, the zom-bees spread to Washington state.   But why did they avoid Oregon?   When they suddenly arrived in a third state, North Dakota – that seemed odd.   The zombie horror genre just hasn’t conditioned me to think of North Dakota as a sort of hotspot for zombie anything.  Still, the bees can go where they will.  If, as zombies, they still have their own will.

Anyway, the short answer: zombie bees are with us.

When you say you’re going to talk about zombies, the next question is, “What kind of zombies?”  It’s not so much that there are different varieties of zombies as different versions.  There are horror movie zombies, the zombies in folklore, and the real zombies – or at least “real” in the sense that a lot of people alive today absolutely believe in the reality of zombies.

On the top of the heap, in terms of popularity, is the Hollywood horror version of the brain-eating zombie.  However, many of the characteristics of these, oh, so familiar, zombies were made up by Hollywood writers.

Digging deeper, we reach the cultural folklore of zombies together with anthropological explanations of that folklore.  Many believe that what are taken to be zombies are persons who are drugged with a special concoction that, either by its very nature or through precision dosing, so depresses vital functions that the victim is mistaken for dead and buried.  The perpetrator, then, digs up the depressed, but still living body of the victim and either fools or drugs them into a life of servitude.

However, the true believers in zombies will tell you that specially trained and/or gifted “voodou” (voodoo) practitioners have the ability to reanimate a dead body and control it like a robot.  They believe that the victim’s soul, consciousness, or spirit has permanently departed, but their body remains as a biological robot under the complete control of its “bokor.”

What about our bee zombies?  Well, actually their zombification resembles none of the above.  However, the result is so reminiscent of the zombies of folklore that, perhaps, there no better and readily understandable term to describe what’s happening to the poor bee victims.

Unlike the zombie of actual tradition, the zombie bee falls victim to a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis.   The fly lays its eggs physically inside the bees body, the eggs affect the bees behavior not too unlike what was presented in the 1982 film, StarTrek: The Wrath of Khan, in which “indigenous eels” of Ceti Alpha V are introduced into the brains of the crew members, characters Chekov and Terrell, by the character Khan — maddened by his years in exile.  The film’s eels enter the ears of their victims and, reaching their brains, render them susceptible to mind control.

However, unlike Star Trek’s eels, the eggs and larvae of the Apocephalus borealis fly actually control the bee’s “mind” only briefly before causing its death.  Then, they consume the bee’s physical remains.  From another angle, the action of larvae in “eating their way out” of the dead bee’s body reminds one of another Hollywood creation, the mythical earwig.

The earwig is a real and mean-looking insect, but it doesn’t enter the human ear, burrow into the human brain and lay its eggs.  All of that was an old and almost forgotten “urban legend,” until it was featured in a 1972 episode or Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (Season 2, Episode 60, “The Caterpillar”).  However, even the apocryphal earwig had no ability to control the mind of the host.  So, zombification was not part of the earwig repertoire.

But the New York Times story that revealed zombie bees to the world, asked, “Whose in charge in [the bee’s] head”? Because the fly larvae, inside the bee’s body, directly affect the honeybee’s behavior in disturbingly zombie-like ways.  Under the influence of the developing fly larvae, the honeybee abandons its exclusively daytime routine and does something bees don’t do  — flies at night.  Just before, and during, this “last flight” into the night, the bee begins to move erratically.  And it ends its flight in death.  Only then, do the fly larvae eat their way out of the dead bee to continue their growth to maturity.

Hollywood has never quite dealt with this specific kind of zombification.  Of course, the zombie bee might be a good subject for a (not so) new and (not so) different kind of zombie movie.  Maybe the zombie creating flies enter the hive of apiarist, Ms. Red Queen, owner of Raccoon Apiary.  Realizing the problem, she uses an insecticide to kill all the possibility infected bees in a particular hive.  However, these particular flies are “mutants” and have laid mutant eggs in the bees’ bodies.  The larvae don’t grow to eat the infected bees, but reanimate them into murderous zombie bees worthy of any respectable (or not so respectable) Hollywood production.

One bee, Alice, is accidentally outside the hive (or something) during the spraying of insecticide.  She survives and re-enters the hive to discover zombified bees trying to escape and infect the apiary’s other hives.  She engages in a heroic struggle to contain the zombie bees and the infection they carry only to awaken from a coma outside the hive days later.  She sees only a single obviously dysfunctional bee flying repeatedly into a tree while repeating a message: “The dead buzz.”

Many sequels could follow.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

Mark Grossmann: Finally! A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

Please title to read: Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

Best of the Thursday’s

Bees Seek New Careers – Tired of Sweat-Shop Apiaries and CCD?

Meet the “Air Shark” – Tigerfish Catch Birds in Flight

What is a “Blood Moon”?

Dance Talkin’ — How the Bees Say It

The Moon — Magnet for Controversy and Strife

What’s in a Robot Name? IRNG — Imaginative Robot Name Gap

What Do the Birds Think?

A Different Flavor? How Smart is an Octopus?

The Giant Alligator Snapping Turtle – the Perfect Pet!?

Robo-Cheetah & Her Little Sister the Wildcat

The Bumblebee and Robo-Snake on Mars – The Facts

Toy Robot Spiders — As If the Real Thing Weren’t Enough

Australia’s Megafauna — The Forgotten Giants of Prehistory

Finally, A Robot Spider You Can Ride!?

 

Mark Grossmann: What Einstein didn’t Say about Bees

10 April 2014

THE SHORT ANSWER

In 1994, a quote attributed to Albert Einstein appeared in popular circulation:

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

Einstein didn’t say that. If the great scientist ever said anything about bees, publicly, he was probably quoting someone else. The statement above was made by whoever circulated the quote in 1994 and “creatively” attributed it to Einstein.

But, then, who said it?

The prize for the closest match goes to Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck who said in his 1901 book, “The Life of the Bee”:

“[You’ve seen the bee] to whom we probably owe most of our flowers and fruits (for it is actually estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear if the bees did not visit them), and possibly even our civilization, for in these mysteries all things intertwine.”

While not packing quite the punch of the modern (apocryphal) Einstein quote, Maeterlinck is perhaps the oldest commentator to link the disappearance of bees with a dire result for humanity.

While there’s no record of Einstein ever saying anything about bees, there is a short history of bee quotations attributed to him.

The Canadian Bee Journal” included a bee quotation attributed to Einstein, in 1941, but no one has ever been able to actually link the quote to Einstein. Even the writer says that he or she is quoting from memory:

“Remove the bee from the earth and at the same stroke you remove at least one hundred thousand plants that will not survive.”

Not until 1966, did “The Irish Beekeeper” attribute a bee quotation to Einstein that mentioned the end of mankind:

“Professor Einstein, the learned scientist, once calculated that if all bees disappeared off the earth, four years later all humans would also have disappeared.”

But no one can find any source of, or reference to, the quotation above. “The Irish Beekeeper” attributed the quote to a 1965 issue of a French periodical, Abeilles et fleurs.   Unfortunately, despite a thorough search of that periodical’s contents, no such quote, attributed to Einstein or anyone else, could be found.

In his 1992 book, The Diversity of Life, Biologist Edward O. Wilson wrote:

“[I]f all [the bees] were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months.”

But this is, certainly, Wilson’s statement and not anyone else’s.

Finally, during a 1994 demonstration by beekeepers in Brussels, members of the National Union of French Apiculture handed out pamphlets attributing the following quotation to Albert Einstein:

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

Again, Al never said that.  And we may never know who did.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri

& Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

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