Topping my list of things that stick in my craw about Australian TV right now is that we don’t get BBC’s new documentary series, Life. If we did, we’d know all about the unusual courtship behaviour of one of the largest species of bees in the world, the Australian Dawson’s bee (Amegilla dawsoni). Native to the deserts of Western Australia, the Dawson’s are a winter-active bee whose males typically emerge from their underground brooding cells ahead of the females, the larger, brawnier males staking out the emergence site for potential mates, while the minor males patrol the peripheral zone and nearby flower patches.
When a virgin female emerges from her clay burrow, generally around midday, her scent drives the larger males into a murderous frenzy, biting and stinging each other to death to get to her. Sometimes even the females can find themselves unwittingly caught up in the scuffle, the sheer intensity of the battle rendering them accidental casualties. Approximately 90% of all receptive female bees are mated with immediately upon emergence, the others likely picked up by the minor males on the periphery. This type of cospecific mass killing is an extremely rare occurrence in nature, and on the face of it seems to pose an evolutionary problem, the mating season resulting in an entire generation of males being wiped out, the larger individuals having killed each other off, while the minor ones naturally expire. But for the rest of the year a Dawson’s bee colony is an all-female brooding ground, where a brand new generation of males and virgin females are produced in time for the next mating season. Go here for some incredible footage filmed by the BBC Life crew.
Now listen, brawny Dawson’s Bee, this isn’t the dark ages. This isn’t that bit in Double Dragon where you have to kill the boss and then pummel your brother to death to get that girl with the unrealistic proportions to go home with you. Girls aren’t interested in how many dudes’ faces you can thrust your stinger into and they’re certainly not interested in how many other girls you can accidentally decapitate in the process. But they do kinda like it when you email them pictures of cats reflecting sentiments that are relevant to the minutiae of their daily lives, or sitting up like humans. Sure, they’ll still mate with you in the middle of a freshly laid-out killing field, but they’re not going to like it.Your best bet is to take a leaf out of the minor males’ book, borrow someone’s laptop, and set it up somewhere close to the mouth of some girl’s burrow* (but far enough away from the death match to protect the screen because it’s not yours). Then if the girl manages to get past the murderous throng she’ll be like, “Hey, what are you doing?”
And you’ll be like, “Erm, I don’t know. Just watching some obscure Youtube clips and stuff.”
And she’ll be all, “Oh. Cool.”
Which is more than most of your rivals will get because they’re dead. She’ll like you because you’re not homocidal, so when you promise to send her some stupid cat picture she’ll probably mate with you and won’t even try to run away while you’re doing it.
But if you insist on participating in the death match because you think you’re mad tough and everything, winning the battle and getting the girl will be the least of your problems. You’ll have set a standard you’re going to have to maintain for as long as you two are going out, whether you like it or not. Like, you’ll be out getting nectar for dinner or something some time and some arsehole will cut in front of you, and your lady Dawson’s Bee will give you this look like, “What the fuck? He can’t do that to us!” giving you a pointed nudge to the abdomen.
And you’ll be like, “Seriously? You want me to do that stuff now? Look, work’s been pretty tough lately, I have all these reports due and pretty much everyone in my division has been calling in sick and I really don’t want to have to start something with this guy. Just once I would just like to go out, get some nectar and go home without having to tear some dude’s wings off in the process, okay?”
But she’ll be like, “Ugh, whatever. Hey what’s your name?” And she’ll go home with the other toughest Dawson’s Bee sauntering around that particular plant, but not before they make you wait around for ten more minutes while she decides which flower she wants to pollinate because all of a sudden she’s developed a highly sophisticated palate that you wouldn’t understand because you have no class. So then you’ll have to fight and kill a whole bunch more Dawson’s Bees (if you make it to the next mating season. Which you won’t.) to find another girl who’ll probably make you break a beer glass on some dude’s head for giving her the eye at some bar every time you go out for drinks. Bet those stupid cat pictures don’t seem so stupid now, huh brawny Dawson’s Bee?
* That’s what she said.