Everyone has heard the passionate shouting of “save the bees!” from every environmentalist fighting for the livelihood and existence of these insects. Over the past couple of decades much research has gone into showing the importance of bees and their procedures. Pollination is the essential process that keeps almost every plant, vegetable, flower, and other soil grown flora alive and reproducing. Now, new research shows bees to be sentient beings – having the ability to feel human-like emotions. 

According to new research by scientist Stephen Buchmann, bees demonstrate remarkable behavioral and psychological patterns similar to those of mammals. Buchmann is part of a growing group of scientists trying to understand the full capacity of a bee's emotions. He believes bees can express complex emotions such as optimism, frustration, playfulness, and fear. Through thorough experiments, it was found that bees can also experience PTSD-like symptoms, recognize human faces, process long-term memories while asleep, and maybe even dream! All of Buchmann’s discoveries and research can be unpacked in his newly published book, What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories and Personalities of Bees

“Bees are self-aware, they’re sentient, and they possibly have a primitive form of consciousness. They solve problems and can think. Bees may even have a primitive form of subjective experiences,” wrote Buchmann.

About one-third of America’s diet consists of fruit, vegetables and nuts, all resources that rely on pollination for growth. Past research has mainly focused on the bees' role in agriculture and crop pollination, but now Buchmann’s discoveries can force a new ethical view on how these bees are treated. Currently, commercially managed bees are used in a similar manner to livestock for food production and supply chains. This day-to-day mechanical routine does not consider the emotional state or wellbeing of the bee. This new field of study can not only have significant implications and outcomes in agriculture, but also provide a more ethical reasoning behind the treatment of bees. 

Colony Collapse Disorder is a growing phenomenon commonly seen in the world of agriculture – this disorder is the full collapse and death of a honey hive within a single season. Previous studies provided research that pesticide usage is the cause of the collapse, but now scientists argue that it may be caused from psychological stress.

Buchmann’s and other scientists' new found research raises many complex, ethical questions that must be answered in the field of agriculture for the thrivation of bee colonies. Can commercial food production continue while keeping the emotional state of the bees' intake? Will society accept this non-conventional information enough to transition over to more ethical styles of agricultural and day-to-day practices. And, can scientists continue the necessary research and experiments on bees without causing harm? Buchmann hopes through his published research that there will be societal acceptance and an ethical shift in the treatment of these invertebrates. 

“We are blasting bees with huge amounts of agrichemicals and destroying their natural foraging habitats. Once people accept that bees are sentient and can suffer, I think attitudes will change,” stated Buchmann.