What Ever Became of the Drunken Bee?

Bees get drunk On second thought, I'd better not. I might get my legs torn off!

With Saint Patrick’s Day upon us, most of us look forward to wearing unhealthy amounts of green, attending parades and parties, and of course, St. Patrick’s day isn’t complete without a little drinking.  While out with friends, enjoying this wonderful excuse to party on a Tuesday night, feel free to mention this crazy article all about intoxicated bees. We aren’t the only beings who tend to “over” indulge on occasions like Saint Patrick’s Day. Honey bees, like humans, can also get drunk! By sucking on fermented limes, bees can experience a very similar "buzz" from alcohol as we humans do.  Their motor functioning is completely thrown off and it impairs their memory processing.   Although drinking is largely socially acceptable among us humans, in the bee world, drunkenness is strictly prohibited.

drunken honey bee Now, to find my way back to the hive.

After sucking on fermented limes, a drunken bee will return home to its hive (if it can make it back, that is).  Because of the honey bee’s complex and intricate way of communicating through their waggle dance, it is not very difficult for the other members of a colony to detect the drunken bee.  Once spotted, the guard bees of the hive will immediately begin their investigation and punishment.  The rules of the honey bee society are quite strict, and without much thought, the guard bees will begin to bite off the drunken bee’s legs as punishment.  One by one the bee’s legs are torn off, and the poor drunk honeybee doesn’t have much of a chance of living after her traumatic leg removal.  This sort of punishment serves as a warning to the rest of the hive to never stray away from their duties to their colony.

"On the molecular level, the brains of honey bees and humans work the same. Knowing how chronic alcohol use affects genes and proteins in the honey bee brain may help us eventually understand how alcoholism affects memory and behavior in humans, as well as the molecular basis of addiction,” stated Julie Mustard, a study co-author and a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at Ohio State University.  Mustard studied the effects that ethanol (the intoxicating agent in liquor) had on honeybee behavior.  This study could eventually prove the long term and social effects that alcohol has on human behavior.

I always find it fascinating how important work is to the honeybee.  That’s essentially all they do in their short lives, and enjoyment of anything such as laziness or alcohol, results in assured death.  This Saint Patrick’s Day, stock up on some of our Mead from our Broughton Street store location! Or try some beer with our honey brewed in it from Holy City Brewing or Service Brewing, and be thankful that your legs will be spared for the night!

Here’s the funny little clip that inspired this article:

Learn more about honey bee communication.

Why do bees sting?

Make your own honey mead.

Submitted By: Rayne Macphee