Do Bees Dream?
A Bee’s Diary tells the story of a Single Bee in a creative way. Dennis Wells is the director of the CBC documentary.
Honeybees are the most amazing and sophisticated creatures. They can count, understand what “zero” means, and solve math problems, communicate by dancing and giving precise instructions about where the good nectar-rich flowers are, and so much more. They understand that “no shapes” is less than “some shapes” and they appear to be geometric wizards, building hexagonal-celled hives with precision… They operate from a “for the good of all” perspective instead of a “what’s in it for me” attitude... so what other secrets about bees are yet to be revealed? Can bees dream?
The honeybee brain has close to 1 million neurons, which is only a small fraction of what mammals have but is more than sufficient to help them to calculate and make decisions we thought were beyond them.
Watch this amazing short trailer of how a talented team of German film makers mastered the art of filming in miniature by using special cameras, then made this documentary of the European honeybee at eye level, as if you are one-on-one with the bee. The team filmed over all four seasons, a total of 150 days, to capture a honeybee's life in every climate and vegetation. They collected a treasure-trove of hundreds of hours of footage and condensed it down to share with us the life of a single honeybee, based on many of her hive mates' experiences. Then, together with bee experts, they built a scientifically accurate documentary... a biography of just one bee. Every bee.
Humans revere bees for the many treasures that they make for the good of themselves and the survival of their hives, but then graciously share with us. Things like honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly and pollen. They also pollinate our crops while seeking their own foods, thereby playing a pivotal role in keeping us alive. And as if that's not enough, they beautify our world by pollinating the most beautiful flowers and trees.
Are bees able to dream? As you’ll read below, yes, it looks like they do!
It would be fascinating to know what they dream about... beautiful flowers? Honeycombs dripping with honey?
While Dennis Wells was working on a film about wild bees, he learned from Bee Scientist Tugrul Giray, from the University of Puerto Rico, that bees can dream when they sleep. Giray theorizes that bees have a dream state because the only other time besides when they are flying that they move their antennae in a distinct and unique way is when they sleep.
This awareness inspired Dennis to explore the world through the eyes of a honeybee, not just to see them as “a collective unit” but also as individual bees. He decided to make a film that would capture the life of a bee—one single bee—that shows the lessons she learns, the beauty she experiences and the fears she conquers. What a magnificent tribute to bees he has made, and it is truly a labor of love.
He soon realized how much there is about bees for us to relate to. Bees have emotions and nurture, help, teach and care for each other, in the hive and beyond it. If a bee is exhausted, her sisters will feed her. A bee must decide to stay or go when a new queen is hatched in her colony. If she decides to go, she must create a new colony or find one to join.
As Tugrul Giray said, we all know that bees can be aggressive, so why do we assume that aggression is the only emotional state a bee can experience?
He got together with bee researchers in Germany and North America to construct a scientifically sound “bee biography” with them and attempted to capture these key life events on camera. So, we see a bee hatch, forage, make honey, accept a new queen, swarm, find a new home, and of course, dance the “waggle dance” for her hive mates.
Parts of the film were easy to capture, like foraging for food, but some scenes were challenging. Like the attack of hornets, which he considers they were very lucky to witness. In the end, they dramatized the life of a single bee in 7 weeks of adventure and drama, although it took 2 years of filming and many “bee actors” to get the job done.
Dennis observed that over time, the team became more tuned in to the bees and could anticipate the mood of the hive as relaxed or tense. They had tapped into a new and deeper level of observing bee life. Individual bees displayed different characteristics. Some were curious and bold while others were timid and skittish.
When bees are at ease and in a relaxed state, they can be touched and maybe even stroked, without a negative experience. But if you see them fighting intruders or checking out a tree cavity as a new home, stand back and watch, and you’ll be reminded that as sweet as they can be, they are truly wild animals. Just don’t think of them only as a hive, like the "trees for the forest" syndrome. Remember that every bee is an individual as well as part of a collective.
Maybe the message of unity is another treasure the bees are sharing with humanity.
If you live in Canada, be sure to watch A Bee’s Diary on The Nature of Things, you won’t be disappointed. The documentary is restricted to viewing in Canada only, but we hope such an incredibly important film will be available everywhere soon.
Our thanks go to Dennis Wells and his fabulous team for creating this vitally important documentary for the world.
What do you think bees dream about? Please share your thoughts with us over on our Facebook page.
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