Not really within the scope of this blog but seeing there is little to do and little to talk about at this time there is time and space for an off topic intermezzo.
I don’t know how popular Maya the Honey Bee is outside of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands but here the animated cartoons have been a popular children’s cartoon for 40 years. Starting in 1974 with a now somewhat dated animation and revamped in 2012 into a 3D animated series.
My 3 year old loves the series, both old and new and so I have had more than enough opportunity to witness many episodes most more than once (or twice) to be generally annoyed by the series, both the old one and the new one. It bothers me how far the series is deviates truth.
I made a short list of a number of things that are plainly wrong, I made the list from the top of my head so I’m sure there are more things that could be added to the list, here goes:
- Bees do not hatch out of the comb as young underdeveloped bees, they are fully developed adults when they hatch. They perform duties in the hive for the first 3 weeks like cleaning cells cleaning and other bees, seeing to the queen and accepting nectar from foraging bees and help converting the nectar into honey. After this time they will have a number of weeks in which they gather nectar, pollen, water and protect the hive. Which depends on the time of year. Winter bees can live for months summer bees for a few weeks. Summer bees spend a large part of their life in the hive (so do winter bees but that’s just because it is cold).
- Male bees, the drones, do not function as the guards of the hive, it is part of the duty of the foraging bees. Drones are the slackers of the hive, all they do is assemble with other drones every so often and wait to have sex with a queen. When the are not doing that they are just kind of chillin in and around the hive and get fed by the female worker bees. At the end of the summer, when they have outlived their usefulness the worker bees stop feeding them and all but, literally, chase them out of the hive.
- Bees don’t help other insects.
- Honey isn’t stored in a kind of lake in the hive, but gets put into the comb to finish “drying” to the correct water concentration.
- Bees do not carry pitchers to collect and in which to transport the nectar. They have specialized stomachs to carry the nectar. When they come home the transfer the nectar to other bees for further refinement.
- Flowers don’t make honey, that is obviously done by the bees. They add certain enzymes to the nectar and let most of the water evaporate out of the nectar (honey less than 20% H2O). They do that by regurgitating the nectar onto their tong and exposing it to the warm air in the hive so a lot of the water evaporates (honey is bee puke).
- Bees wax doesn’t come out of a can but is produced by the bees themselves, they have special glands to do this named mirror glands that produce wax scales that the bee then processes further to make it usable to make comb or the covers over cells filled with either honey or pupae, pollen doesn’t get capped.
- When bees see a bear during their foraging, which they wont, they don’t give it a second glance or a first. They don’t hurry back to the hive to get all the bees to pack up and leave. Bees will defend their hive to the death, be it against beers or beekeepers, which all beekeepers can attest to.
- If it becomes to hot in the hive, bees don’t go and flap their wings in the hive to try and cool it down, this would actually have the reverse effect and warm up the hive. This is what bees do in the winter to keep warm, they flex their flight muscles without flapping their wings, this created heat.
- In one episode Maya threatens to sting a fly as a payback for some prank it pulled. This would actually kill the fly in real life. Which seems kind of a steep punishment for a prank, the death sentence…
That is about what I could remember of the episodes I saw. It wasn’t as short as I would have thought but there are still points I could come up with if I tried. So okay, I know this is a children’s cartoon but I am a beekeeper and a biologist and I cant turn that off when looking at…well anything (call it “job” conditioning if you will). In this way you give children some wrong romanticized idea about bees and insects in general.
Okay, you could also argue that by romanticizing insects in such a way you get kids more interested in the natural world and I should only be applauding that. But somehow I can’t. Anthropomorphizing animals is something that biology teaches against because it tends to skew the results of research…Now we are obviously not talking about research here, but I can’t easily get that out of my system. So perhaps I have to make more of an effort keep the suspension of disbelief going but the people who write the scripts for these kinds of cartoons could also make some of an effort to stay as close to reality as the story line will allow. Perhaps the following example takes it a bridge to far but, maybe somewhere in the middle…