Bees speak complex languages and, just like human communities, have dialects. Through body movements, vibrations, and dancing patterns, bees can communicate with other hive mates, and also exhibit sophisticated forms of democratic decision-making. In this fascinating piece, Karen Bakker explores how advancements in AI and robotics are enabling scientists to communicate with honeybees in their own language — which opens up a whole new world of research and science. Swarm robots! Smart hives! Militarized bees on search-and-rescue missions! “To witness biohybrid bees engaging in reciprocal (if rudimentary) interspecies communication gives me a numinous sense of awe. To witness bees being converted into disposable, militarized sensing devices gives me a sense of dread,” writes Bakker. “These two choices are emblematic of humanity’s relationship with nature. Will we choose dominion or kinship?” Bakker lays out some incredible possibilities.

Seeley’s findings bolstered the arguments of those who argued in favor of referring to honeybee communication as language. And by demonstrating that the “hive mind” was more than mere metaphor, Seeley also stimulated advances in swarm intelligence in robotics and engineering.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.