Thomas Ramey Watson

The emotions of bees

Whether bees really experience any of these emotions is an open scientific question. It is also an important one, with implications for how we should treat not just bees but the great majority of animals. Recently studies by Melissa Bateson and her colleagues at Newcastle University in England have rekindled the debate over these issues by showing that honeybees may experience something akin to moods.

Using simple behavioral tests, Bate­son’s team showed that honeybees under stress tend to be pessimistic. Other tests have demonstrated that monkeys, dogs and starlings all tend to react similarly under duress and likewise see the proverbial glass as half empty. Although this finding does not—and cannot—prove that bees experience humanlike emotions, it does give pause. We should take seriously the possibility that insects, too, have emotions.

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