It seems most of us humans lack empathy for bees. Our disdain for these humble insects is seen in how we carelessly use pesticides and other crude farming practices, disrupting our natural environment. However, the widespread use of these pesticides is the catalyst for the oncoming bee extinction. Without these pollinators providing honey and other important, everyday food products, plants can’t reproduce. And when that happens, humanity’s whole natural structure will collapse.
But, if that’s not enough to make you shiver, recent breakthroughs have also shown that bees may feel pain. Previous research has already confirmed that these hive-minded insects are smart and innovative, qualities that allow them to tell humans apart and even do simple maths. So, it seems plausible that bees aren’t as impervious to pain as we might think.
Scientists began their intelligence research using four bee feeders, two containing high sugar solutions and the other two containing less sugar, and a whole lot of bees. Of these bees tested, all forty-one naturally preferred the sugary feeders. The next step was to test how bees reacted to pain. Scientists warmed specific feeders and released the bees, most of whom returned to the sugary feeder, showing a degree of memory retention. They also observed how after landing on them once, the bees retroactively avoided the heat but preferred the sweetest alternative. This shows that, even in the face of pain, bees can reason that a small amount of hurt will result in a sweeter reward.
Yet, even with such evidence, scientists still aren’t sure they can confirm whether bees can feel pain. According to Jennifer Mather, a zoologist expert involved in the testing, it’s difficult to prove insects feel pain definitively from such observations.
But aside from the moral questions these types of studies provoke, it’s essential to realise how important bees are in the overall scheme of our natural order. Whether or not they feel pain does not diminish their value to the very humans who need them. Keep that in mind next time you want to swat at one or spray one with insect repellent. And for any farmers out there, make sure to use pesticides during times when bees are less active or switch to less harmful, natural pesticide alternatives.
Sources: Unep, Science
About the author - meet Earthan Rebecca Brown
Rebecca is a literary student with an avid interest in the environment. She adores all animals (especially dogs) and loves reading and playing tennis. She hopes to get into the copywriting business one day. You can reach Rebecca on her LinkedIn bio.