The world is abuzz with news of a Scottish woman who may have been the first person to ever own a bumblebee as a pet.
55-year-old Fiona Presly first found her tiny friend when she was working in her garden last spring.
When the library assistant found that the insect had been born without wings, she took the bee inside and kept it cozy in a crate filled with flowers and grasses.
Presly told the Scotsman: “I put my hand down in front of her and she crawled on to it right away. I looked at her and thought, ‘Something’s not right here, she’s got no wings.’”
“She made sort of clicks, buzzy sounds when she was in close contact with me and was happy to sit and groom, eat, drink and sleep on my hand,” she added.
As the weather outside of Presly’s home in Inverness started to worsen, she realized that the buff-tailed bumblebee queen would not survive in the wilderness on her own – so she adopted it as a pet.
The insect, which Presly named “Bee”, became the woman’s house-trained companion.
“We were both very comfortable with each other, and many people admired this bond,” says Presly. “She was totally relaxed with me. People have a bond with their dog or cat and even their hamster. I think I have proved here that you can have a relationship with an insect.”
While not much is known about how bees may or may not experience emotions, bee psychologist Lars Chittka from the Queen Mary University of London says that Bee’s bond with Presly may be based on a physical connection.
“The desired state for a bumblebee queen is to be surrounded by other bees, therefore it seems plausible that such an individual should feel something rewarding from being surrounded by living beings,” says Chittka. “Also the queen might feel the opposite of that when alone, because this would signify it hadn’t succeeded in founding a colony.
That being said, the friendship is still a mystery to researchers.
“No scientist to my knowledge has tested whether bees, even with each other, form some sort of emotional relations. So I think it’s quite remarkable that a layman would make such detailed observations that actually get scientists to scratch their heads and ask what’s going on there.”
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Reprint (Photo by Fiona Presly)