Saturday, January 25, 2014

The flight of the bumblebee

Later flowers for the bees. (From Wikimedia.)
I normally try to do something a bit more original here on this "trivia blog" than simply repost cool stuff from Wikipedia. That said, this was too cool not to share. In fact, it may be the coolest thing I've ever learned from reading Wikipedia:
Bees beat their wings approximately 200 times a second. Their thorax muscles do not expand and contract on each nerve firing but rather vibrate like a plucked rubber band. This is efficient, since it lets the system consisting of muscle and wing operate at its resonant frequency, leading to low energy consumption. Further, it is necessary, since nerves cannot fire 200 times per second.
And for your value added, here's a translation of the famously beautiful passage on "a place for the bees" from Virgil's Georgics, by David Ferry (first published in the Atlantic in 2005):
First of all, find a protected place for the bees
To make their home, a place that's safe from the wind

That might prevent them from getting back with their food

And safe from the sheep or the wanton kids that trample

The flowers down, or the wandering heifer shaking

The dew from the grass and bruising the rising blades.

Protect the rich stalls of their honeycombs from the scaly 

Shiny-backed lizard, and from the bee-eater and other 

Birds of the sort, and Procne, whose bloody hands

Have left their signs upon her crimson breast. 

Any of these can devastate the bees,

Catching them in their mouths to carry them home

As delicacies to feed to their cruel children. 
And there should be a limpid spring nearby,

Or a moss-edged pool, or else a little brook,

Almost unseen, making its way through the grass,

And a big palm tree or oleaster shading

The vestibule of the place where the bees have settled, 

So when the kings of the hive lead the swarm forth

In the welcoming season, and glad to be free at last,

The youthful bees are capering and playing,

There'll be a stream bank or a pond bank there,

Where they can escape the unaccustomed heat

And where the leaves of a tree can shelter them.

And whether it's pools or running streams, there must

Be willow shoots and stones disposed across,

As resting places for them to spread their wings

And dry them in the sun, if any had happened

To linger and were caught in a sudden shower,

Or the wind had suddenly blown them into the water.

And there should be sweet blooming marjoram near, 

And the odor of serpylla spreading far,

And fragrant savory, and violets

Drinking from the trickling spring or stream.

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