Saturday, August 4, 2007

Would hives collapse if the males worked more?

Setting out to research colony collapse disorder among domestic bees, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolburt became so interested in her subject that she began keeping bees in the woods near her Western Massachusetts home. Her hive is a wooden box that dangles from a wire strung to two tall trees, high enough to elude a bear's reach.

One of the things Kolburt found interesting about bees is their incredibly cooperative social order. She estimates that some 50,000 bees inhabit her hive (about the size of a three-drawer file cabinet) and get along in a highly productive social order. Well, almost.

The occupants, she explains in a New Yorker audio report, are predominantly female. The females, she says, do all the work, while the "completely incompetent" minority, male occupants refuse to forage. They live off the women, won't clean up after themselves, and, at the season's end, are thrown out of the hive by the females and left to die.

That sounds to me like a happy, feminist ending to a Marxist fairy tale. But my "ex" might view it differently.

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