The flying Furies


Bees can be evil.

There are times I open up a hive when it seems that the Erinyes and all their kindred spirits of retribution and revenge are unleashed, including the Maniai, those spirits of madness, insanity and crazed frenzy.

The Curses soon follow!

So you will understand why I was particularly intrigued by a report that lithium salts showed activity against the bee parasite, varroa destructor. Could we have here something that not only mugs bugs, but also calms manic bees? After all, lithium is a well-established clinical treatment for mania.

As it happens the researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart made their discovery by accident and have no idea why lithium should kill varroa mites.

The reason seems obvious to me. Manic bees provide endless entertainment for varroa mites, especially when a hapless beekeeper opens up the hive. Lithium calms the Furies and the mites die of boredom!

Ever willing to help advance the frontiers of science I relayed my ‘theory’ and cartoon to the lead researcher, Bettina Zeilgelmann. Perhaps this was the breakthrough she was looking for.

Na und? Was ist passiert?

Nichts, nothing. Teutonic humour failure, perhaps?

It has been known, but  in this instance it seems our intrepid researchers have been busy filing use patents ; some thirty-two claims covering every permutation of using lithium for treating varroa … but nothing about treating bees with mania.

Tricky things to enforce – use patents. It can be so easy to step around them with, let’s say, a lithium treatment to calm the flying Furies.

Now I’ve tipped them off I expect they’re working on a supplementary patent to block such a stratagem, but they’ll need data … and a source of really furious bees.

I think I might be able to help them out with that too.