What Honeybees Can Teach Us About Democracy

What Honeybees Can Teach Us About Democracy


[Theme Music] So once again it is election season here in the United States of America, and watching all this TV and reading all the news, it is hard not to think that there must be a better way of doing this! Well, there is. The honeybee way. A beehive is actually one of the most awesome examples of true democracy in nature. At the beginning of each summer, a hive has typically gotten so big it literally cannot accommodate another bee. So the biggest decision the colony has to make every year is where to relocate. And that decision is made not by the queen, but by the workers. All non-reproductive females, and everybody gets a vote. We think of bee colonies as being monarchies since they have something we call a queen. However, the queen doesn’t actually make many decisions; she mostly just sits around laying eggs and producing pheromones that tell the workers where she is and how she’s doing. So when the hive gets too crowded, about half the worker bees, along with the queen leave their home in search of new digs. This is called swarming. Thousands of bees just leave all at once and hang out on a tree limb or something, forming a clump about the size of a soccer ball. Now if you ever come across one of these clumps, it’s okay, they’re not in the stinging mood. They have more important stuff on their minds. They need to find a new home. Something high off the ground, with a narrow opening and a lot of volume inside, and they need to find it quick. Of the thousands of workers in the swarm, about three hundred (300) to five hundred (500) of the oldest, most experienced ones then leave to scout for nest sites. Each bee in the search committee spends a day checking out tree cavities, abandoned chimneys, that sort of thing. And they take all kinds of measurements of each potential site: its total volume, how much sunlight it gets, how protected it is from the elements, etc. But the really cool stuff happens when the scouts come back. To convey all of the specs of the sites they just visited, each scout does a little… special… waggle dance, it’s ACTUALLY called a “waggle dance”, which tells the other bees everything about it. Depending on how awesome the sight is, a bee might do the dance a bunch of times in a row, so that more bees can see it, or maybe just a few times, in which case fewer bees will see it. For a REALLY awesome site, she might spend ten (10) minutes doing her dance over and over and over, sorta like a bee filibuster. When other scouts see her dance, they go and have a look themselves, and they come back and if they like it they’ll dance for that same site. Say this site’s a really great one, they’ll dance just as long as the first bee did, which will catch other scout’s attention and they’ll go look at the site and come back and give THEIR opinion. All the votes start to snowball, and after a couple a’ days one (1) site will come out above the rest. Not only is this… (( ̄Д ̄)/) extremely cool, but studies of bee colonies over multiple years have found that ninety-nine percent (99%) of the time, the bees end up choosing the highest-quality nesting site available. The key to their success seems to be that each be comes to the conclusion about the site on her own. She goes out, takes a look at it, takes her own measurements, and comes back and votes. So no matter your political persuasion, take a tip from the bees. From now on in politics I wanna see more participation, more thinking for yourself, and more interpretive dancing. *Hank’s opinion of the election in the form of an interpretive dance* Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, if you wanna keep getting smarter with us you can go to www.youtube.com/scishow and subscribe. We are always on Facebook and on Twitter and of course, down in the comments below. We’ll see you there.

100 Comments on "What Honeybees Can Teach Us About Democracy"


  1. I think the point got missed. His examples are at least much closer in relation to ethnicity. A better example would be wolves, who are both social and whose genetic differences give them many variant aesthetics while still under the same species.

    Reply

  2. So true democracy equals dancing?
    Obviously we need to have all our representatives do dance off competitions.

    Reply

  3. I don't think Bees are a good thing to model your society after, given that they operate as unpaid labor and their primary military tactic involves suicide bombings.

    Reply

  4. Well, of course bees make better democratic decisions than us, since their societies don't have things like religion, prejudice etc. They always make the most logical decisions because that's what keeps them alive.

    Reply

  5. Well, of course bees make better democratic decisions than us, since their societies don't have things like religion, prejudice etc. They always make the most logical decisions because that's what keeps them alive.

    Reply

  6. No the only people that need to learn from the bees about Democracy is the Government and Congress.You know something is wrong when the people with Jurisdiction don't understand their own constitutions.

    Reply

  7. Well, when I turn 18, I think I will bring my friends with me and start randomly dancing, and when we're done, we brush it off and act like it never happened.

    Reply

  8. Thinking for yourself…WHAT!?!  That is not something that is condoned by either the Republicans OR the Democrats!  They much prefer zombie sheep to spoon feed their pandering propaganda too!

    Reply

  9. What if the bees reach an impasse?
    No majority vote, namely the biggest achilles heel of democracy?
    What do they do then?

    Reply

  10. You are saying that the workers make the choices in bee system? That already exist Hank its called communism

    Reply

  11. It's really funny when children try to grow beards! Next election, I'm going to walk into the polls and WAGGLE my ass off!

    Reply

  12. But, won't the excitement of the first wave of scauts about a particular place produce a hallo effect and the other bees? Yes, all the bees go to see the candidate places individualy, but isn't that the same as when you watch a movie that someone whom you believe recomended as extremely good? No matter how much objective you try to be(e) :D, there's almost always going to be some sort of a positive prejudice when you get a recomendation?
    Perhapce I am wrong, but this looks to me more likejust very good marketing 

    Reply

  13. so, humans, do you still think you're that advance just because you have hands to manipulate matter? we have a lot to learn, even from those who we consider "inferior"

    Reply

  14. Bees have negative campaigning too lol… as in some bees nudge the dancing bee that is dancing for a site, telling it to "stop dancing for that site".

    Reply

  15. This episode reminded me of that Futurama episode with all the bees. Bender doing his little asswaggle dance. omg 😛

    Reply

  16. This is cool and all Hank but how in the f*** do people even know this kind of stuff? I mean really? I have a hard time believing that someone can do that amount of studying on bees to come up with that conclusion.  Still pretty cool though.

    Reply

  17. Remember, if you're Atheist, understand what that means. That means that these behaviors, these complicated dances that even we would have to study just to understand what each shake meant, they all developed autonomously, over time from more simplistic movements that meant other things, not intelligence from the bees designing them, not intelligence from a creator crafting them into the bee's minds and physical capabilities, but from an autonomous totally random, no specific direction who's only influence on it's development was strictly environmental in a specific way, the way the improved reproductive success.

    Now that means every piece to that dance, every movement happened somewhere along the way just by chance, and when it happened, it somehow improved the longer reproductive success of the organisms so that the oddity that compelled the animal to move a certain way caused them greater reproductive success. Every move, every little change of direction and every little difference in number, every little change had to develop this way, and it had to happen by chance, and manage to significantly improve reproductive success enough to solidify itself as a permanent and regular practice.

    You can't say that evolution saw the need, no that's the same as saying God saw the need, you're just using the word evolution in place of the word God.

    No, no God, no designer means that all of that happened and was built upon by itself, by mere chance appeared, and by influences of reproductive success, managed to autonomously develop without any intellect influencing the behavior whatsoever.

    If you're Atheist, that means everything that happens, no matter how complex, there was no design or intelligence driving it, it all happened completely and totally autonomously.

    Now, understand what that means. It means that these animals have in their minds the ability to not only move a certain way, but to also understand what moving that way actually means. That adds another component to this. It means that not only did each individual movement have to separately help in reproductive success somehow along the way, but the psychological part had to develop as well. The other bees understanding what that movement meant had to also develop autonomously.

    Here's a much more simple example that works well on you Atheists. It's like the argument with the snail and the light-sensitive patch. Just because you can see a car coming doesn't mean that you know to move out of the way. If you don't know to move, that sight means nothing, just another in a number of odd mutations that will rarely ever be seen again.

    So, just because one snail happens to be able to sense light doesn't mean he's going to know how to use that light to benefit his reproductive success. Both had to develop. That means, by total accident, whatever compulsion was felt by the snail with sensitivity to light, it helped the snail to reproduce more, by surviving, and then it's psychological understanding of that light sensitivity developed from there.

    Well, with bees, it's far more complex than that. Each and every move had to eventually have, by total accident, a compulsion that allowed bees to reproduce more effectively, perhaps due to survival, or perhaps due to attracting more mates, or whatever else.

    Whatever it is, it had to happen completely and totally autonomously.

    You call me stupid for believing in God, but I call you naive for believing all of this could develop autonomously, without any sort of design or intention. That, to me, sounds far more silly and of a far deeper blind faith than a designer designing it that way.

    In fact your blind refusal to understand this simple common sense about the astounding nature of . . . well nature, and by nature, I mean the entirety of science, also lends credence to how the Bible describes Satan as a deceiver and father of lies. For unless it was a supernatural blindness imposed upon your psyke, why would anyone of rational mind, i.e. human, so easily dismiss what is obviously a very good reason for believing in God.

    Do you know why Dawkins likes to call Agnostics Atheists? It's because he recognizes this, however, blinded to the reality of what he's actually believing, he simply cannot bring himself to admit the truth, that there is very likely a God, and it's due to these very things that are so complex that it seems there must have been some intelligence that either guided it for directly designed it.

    This blind refusal that you Atheists are always seemingly succumbed too even in spite of your insistence that you are objective, indicates in no small way a supernatural deception that clouds your ability to actually be as rational as you all take such pride in claiming to be.

    Reply

  18. we need to make waggle dancing our new way of running the government. all in favor, say BEES!

    Reply

  19. Those images and video clips of the bees formed in a clump on tree branches literally made me shudder. I hate bees, and those type of images are serious nightmare fuel.

    Wasp nests, too. Those are grotesquely creepy to look at. Though, I can't exactly tell you why.

    Reply

  20. The difference is the bees wiggle depending on how good they think their place is. Every candidate today would say that their campaign is the best. And there's often too many perspectives to consider to really say who's right.

    Reply

  21. I think this works because bees have only one decision to make, and they all know the parameters that create a good result. So that's not really democracy or government, that's crowdsourcing data (in a really cool bee-dancing way). Humans have billions of decisions to make, so we choose representatives to make them, who theoretically will gather the best opinions and make the best choices. But then people start competing for that power and then everything after that stops being about solutions and starts being about dominance and power and winning a fight to come out as the alpha. And voters are just as bad–they don't really want solutions, they want the leader of their tribe to beat the leader of the other tribe. The representative process brings out our worst genetic potential for tribalism and power struggles. I don't know what the solution is, but it would have to somehow calm down the parts of our brain that focus on power and engage the parts of our brain that are capable of cooperation and reason.

    Reply

  22. But if the us did true democracy. Then we would have stupid people (not all, just the majority) vote on stupid things and it would take a lot of years to get smart enough with common sense to do that sorta thing

    Reply

  23. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote. Democracy imposes the will of the majority onto the individual, while a republic enshrines and protects the rights of all individuals. Bees can keep their democracy, thanks. I'll take the wonderful Republic of the united States of America any day.

    Reply

  24. Have you considered becoming a queen bee yourself, Hank? I think you should – more offsprings means more chances that your awesomeness will spread to the world <3 :3

    Reply

  25. "True democracy" is tyranny by the majority. Our founding fathers vehemently disagreed with the idea. Cool bee vid though.

    Reply

  26. Hank are you engaged? I thought about this many times before.. but with this dance I'm definitely in love with you…😁 💟

    Reply

  27. Beehives are a Sex discriminating Monarchy… I say a 155 mm Spookie Spectre adjusted NO!!!

    Reply

  28. The queen shouldn't be making the decisions anyway. She's a figurehead who never leaves her home. She doesn't know anything about day to day workings in the hive.

    Reply

  29. Did you actually say, "thinking for yourself," Hank? While that is a great idea, have you noticed how little actual thinking most people actually do? Forget completely about researching for themselves. Hell people can't even be othered to read the info box of nutrition info on their food packages. They're perfectly content to go with "idiot tags" like "lower sodium," "low fat," "all natural," "organic," etc. ad nauseum.

    If people can't be bothered with stuff they shovr down their throats, they certainly won't go to the trouble for politics, and if they are going to remain ignorant I would much prefer they also not vote. Unfortunately there's no law, or even mandate, that uninformed people can't vote. How do you think recent elections have gone as they have?

    Reply

  30. Group intelligence is always greater than individual intelligence PROVIDED THAT the individuals make decisions regarding information individually. As soon as one takes the opinion of another for reasons having nothing to do with the value of the information, the follower is removing their intelligence from the group. The more followers, the dumber the group gets. Some groups get /really/ dumb.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *