Anyone who’s ever had a pet knows about the emotional bond that forms between many kinds of pets and their humans. Dogs and cats? Of course. Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice? Sure, why not? Birds and reptiles? Many pet owners will swear to it. But can an emotional bond form between a human and an insect? Most people would say no, but Fiona Presly of Scotland would disagree. And even bee psychologist Lars Chittka has to admit; he’s not quite sure what’s going on in this case.
How the Story Started
Last spring, Fiona Presly, a library assistant from Scotland, found a buff-tailed bumblebee in her garden. Only it wasn’t just any bee. It was a queen, and she had no wings.
Presly told The Scotsman,
“I found her when we were getting work done in the garden, and it was lucky I didn’t stand on her. She must have just come out of hibernation. 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.'”
Had she been born that way? Was it a birth defect? Or was it that bee disease, the deformed wing virus, that had been going around? More importantly, how was the bee going to manage without wings?
Presly took the bee inside, and gave her “a wee drink of sugary water.” Then she placed her in a heather plant, thinking the bee would find some nectar there. However, as so often happens in Scotland, the weather quickly became unpleasant. And Presly brought “Bee” inside.
Realizing that “Bee” wouldn’t last long without her wings, Presly made her a little garden in a crate inside. Over the next few months, a bond developed. Bee would happily crawl on Presly’s hand, and even take drinks from drops of water on Presly’s skin. She told The Scotsman,
“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. We were both very comfortable with each other, and many people admired this bond. 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.”
A Bond With an Insect? Really?
It might not seem possible, but Presly believes that this is exactly what happened over those months. And bee psychologist Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University in London has to admit; he can’t deny the possibility. Insects have demonstrated intelligence and problem-solving skills, but there hasn’t been enough research into their emotional capabilities to say one way or another.
All the same, Chittka says that it’s the natural state of a queen bee to be surrounded by other bees. So perhaps she did take comfort in socializing with Presly. Perhaps, Chittka theorizes, a queen bee is happy to socialize with any living being — it doesn’t necessarily have to be another bee.
As for Presly, she says she sees insects in a new light, now.
You can watch their heartwarming story in the video below: