Spider Attack Simulator: An Excuse For Scientists to Torture Bees

I don't know what's going on over the pond, but it appears that September is robot spider month in the UK. First we saw the 50 foot robot spider that terrorised Liverpool, and now researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have developed a spider attack simulator that helps determine how bees avoid camouflaged predators. Although, I think its real purpose is to satisfy a juvenile urge to screw with their tiny little minds.

The idea is to simulate a near-death experience for the bee at the hands (or 8 legs) of a crab spider. Bees fly into a room containing 16 floral yellow rectangles complete with a spider relief, sponge-covered pincers and a hole filled with sugar water. Bees that ignore the dangers are punished when the pincers are remotely triggered—immobilising and infuriating them. What results is a form of bee post-traumatic stress. After training, many of the bees became a little paranoid—getting spooked even when they landed on "safe" rectangles with no spider. A video of the device in action is available in the following link, and you can almost hear the researchers laughing their arse off in the background. [Science News via Boing Boing]

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