Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was blamed on swivel-eyed, dim-witted northern workers mindlessly wrecking the comfortable existence of the aghast remainers. Worse still, there’s no post-Brexit plan. It sounded vaguely familiar …
When bees swarm (or B-exit) the majority of the workers elect to leave the hive, taking the queen with them. The reason why the bees decide to swarm is unclear; over-crowding is thought to be a factor, but one thing is certain – weak colonies don’t swarm.
Even so, leaving a secure and well-stocked hive seems like an act of collective suicide, especially as there’s no B-exit plan!
Instead, bees formulate a plan after they have left the hive, when they are hanging out on a limb in a big cluster.
It’s a risky business which can take several days. One to two hundred scout bees check out the locale for a suitable place to live, while the other 15,000 bees in the cluster wait … and watch the dancing.
If a scout bee finds a potential new home she returns and dances on the cluster. The more enthusiastic the dancing, the better the potential lodgings. The intention is to persuade other scout bees to check out the site. If it’s a good site more and more scouts will dance in support of the new location until a quorum is reached and a decision made.
Reaching a quorum among the scouts, rather than seeking the consensus of the entire swarm allows the bees to make a quick and good decision.
But implementing the decision requires swarm consensus. To do this the scouts run through the cluster piping. This encourages the swarm to warm up ready to get airborne, when the scouts will guide it to its new home.
If consensus isn’t achieved the bees stay out on a limb for days and days, getting weaker with every hour.
Potential lessons for Brexit, I wonder?