Do Bees Feel Compassion?

by Katy - Bee Missionary December 01, 2021

Do Bees Feel Compassion?

The short video below shows how one battered looking bee, that seems to have seen better days, is met at the entrance of the hive by her sisters. They all start to groom and assist her, helping her to clean up.

According to the comments below the video on YouTube, there was a message from the video owner stating that the bee fell into an extractor and she got hurt and covered in honey. We can't find that comment now, so maybe it was removed.

The question is, what are the bees doing? Are they trying to save this dazed bee and eat the honey off her? Or are they just trying to help her to survive?

This 1:13-minute video by ViralHog shows a rare scene with a cluster of bees, but what, exactly is going on?

 

 

The commentary below the video has been shortened, but people are not in agreement about what can be seen in this video. In the end, everyone sees what they decide they see because we just don't know.

It looks like the bees are caring for this bee, who stands still to allow them all to tend to her. But are they concerned for her wellbeing or just for the honey that seems to have hardened on her body?

A beekeeper pointed out that bees will always save the honey, but that they don’t show compassion, which is a human emotion. If a bee is ill or dying, the other bees will push it out of the hive to save the integrity of the colony. 

A Scientific American article written ten years ago in 2011 concluded that, at least based on research at that time, bees do not have emotions the way we interpret them. Some people believe they do. In 2016, Scientific American reported that bees have "cognitive, behavioral and physiological mechanisms that underlie emotions."  So maybe they also have emotions we just don't know about yet? Perhaps more research will provide clarity on this question.

Ultimately, this blog post and the video are more about human perception than they are about bee behavior and emotions. Do we see what is there, or do we interpret it the way we want to see it? Can we even tell the difference by looking at this video?

Very recently we blogged about the discovery that Asian bees ‘scream’ when Asian giant hornets arrive to attack their nests. The scream is not vocal but is generated by their wings. Does it indicate panic, fear, or some other emotion? Or is it purely a warning to the rest of their hive?

There is lots to ponder about bees. Either way, this is a sweet video (pun intended!) of bee behavior and interactions.

 

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Katy - Bee Missionary
Katy - Bee Missionary

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