“Flower communication in social bees: a case study in biophenomenology”
by Michael Trestman
Date: 12 April 2021, Monday
Place: Zoom Meeting
In this talk, I argue that behavioral, developmental, ecological, and evolutionary evidence support attributions of consciousness to bees, and further, that understanding the ways bees experience their worlds is essential to fully understanding their behavior and evolution. For a conscious animal, the world as experienced is a critically important component of its phenotype, influencing many aspects of behavior, development, ecology and evolution. In order to make this discussion concrete, I will focus on the case study of the social bees in family Apidae, which includes the honeybees, bumblebees and the highly social stingless bees. In particular, I will focus on the diversity of communication forms that have evolved in the social bees, allowing returning foragers to communicate information about the abundance, location, profitability and safety of specific flower patches, to bees preparing to leave the nest on their own foraging expeditions. This evolving behavioral system provides a fascinating window into the way these animals experience their world, and serves as an example of how consciousness can have a detectable signature on the evolution of behavior: I argue that the observed distribution of communication forms points to the existence, in the common ancestor of Apidae of both conscious memory consolidation through episodic recollection and decision-making through conscious episodic prospection.
About the Speaker: Dr Trestman is an independent researcher in consciousness studies and biological theory. He received his PhD in philosophy in 2010 from University of California, Davis, and has held Postdoctoral Fellowships from the USA National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Tanner Humanities Center at University of Utah.