One of the great unanticipated pleasures of becoming a beekeeper has been discovering the existence of my personal worldwide clipping service. I had no idea this existed. I honestly believed that for the rest of my life the only clippings I could look forward to would be from my mother, in the vein of articles in the local paper about a Plague Among the Horseshoe Crabs in Duxbury Bay, because that is where my ex-husband and his family sail.
I was wrong. Things have taken a decidedly felicitous turn. It seems this Apicultural Clipping Service only needed the bees, the crisis among the bees and the Internet to emerge fully-grown from the collective brain of my family and friends.
Now my mother sends me articles about the Beekeepers of Wadi Du’an from Aramco World.
A friend sent me a picture of a South Korean beekeeper wearing all his bees. Warmer than polar fleece.
A culinary friend sends me every mention of honey in Gourmet magazine.
Marilyn Johnson, author of The Dead Beat, a brilliant and also hilarious book about obituarists, sent me a link to an alarmist British article predicting that English honey will run out before Christmas. (This arrived just a few days before the recent Times’ piece about the British recall of edible sex toys, mostly chocolate. Is there a connection between these two critical events?)
I don’t have to read the Economist, because my sister, B, does, and she sends me every article about Bees Detecting Landmines and the Discovery of 3000 year-old beehives in Israel, and of course, the ever-worrisome CCD.
But the tone of these clipped articles was seriously ratcheted upward this past week, when my brother M was cleaning out his files and found a couple of articles for me in his scholarly clutter. The first was: The Social behavior of the honeybee: Classical Physics or Quantum Mechanics? Here is a typical sentence: “This section briefly describes experimental data demonstrating that physical fields and quantum effects, both endogenous and exogenous, are involved in the behavior of social insects and in coordinated interactions among elementary components of living matter.”
Also: “A well-known example of this is the “misdirection” in the orientation of the honeybee’s recruitment dance caused by the subtle fluctuations in the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field. [So &So] find that bursts of magnetic fields at a frequency of 250 Hz cause jumps of misdirection of up to ten degrees.”
In case you are disinclined to read to the end, I will clue you in. The answer to the question posed in the title is Quantum Mechanics.
The second article M sent is called “A Mathematical foundation for the dance language of the honeybee” by Barbara Shipman of the Math Department at the U. of Rochester. It is 30 pages long and only 3 of those pages are NOT studded with mathematical formulas and equations that are sublimely beautiful in their unintelligibility, like Arabic calligraphy or Norse runes. Were it not that I am sure he is simply trying offload all this paper, I would be flattered that my brother actually thought I might understand this.
The truth is that I love watching the bees perform their perfectly mathematical waggle dances, giving each other directions to the latest trove of nectar. If that is quantum mechanics, so be it.
And to all of you in my clipping service out there - and all of you who might consider entering those hallowed ranks - consider this my expression of heartfelt gratitude. And wonder.