Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bees and Sex sans Benefits

At the time of writing this Brentford FC are at third place in Coca-Cola League Two after drawing 1-1 with Gillingham, with a game in-hand (exciting!). Although only twenty games into the season (about halfway) things might be looking up for The Bees, especially as they are, currently, in the promotion zone (oh yes, they could be heading up to Coca-Cola League One at this rate). For this to take place, however, every goal counts, and to be sure for every shot scored, there will be an overflow of enjoyment attained by he who shoots.

Allow me to work my magic here; The Bees will gain an excessive reward of pleasure (or a benefit of some sort, perhaps money) for every time they shoot successfully! But where might this not be the case? Well, those of us, like myself, who hold a certain soft spot for football and botany, will already see the antagonism here, and it rests in the obvious; pseudocopulation in the bee population.

But of course, in usual pollination a mutual benefit is achieved by plant and animal, whereas in pseudocopulation, no such benefit is attained by the pollinator, in this case our poor bee.

Allow me to explain pseduocopulation; in basic terms it is the attempt at copulation by a male insect with a female flower. The bee, attracted to the scent or sight of the flower, may well try to have his end away with it, knowing little or nothing about its being a flower at all. The flower is involved in a matter of deception.

The bee himself is wooed, in the case of the orchid, by the release of osmophores which are identical to the pheromones let-off by the species. Common, too, is the occurrence of visual mimicry in plants where a flower might appear like a sexually receptive female, in the case of the orchid it might appear as female Hymenoptera so as to be inseminated by an unlucky male of this order, only for him to find that he has been duped, probably humiliated and will, no less, carry a stigma (those of us, like myself, versed in botany and paronomasia will be truly grateful for the play on the word ‘stigma’ here, noting the reference to the stigmatised bee, and, of course, stigma as in the reproductive part of a female flower).

The most taxing taxonomic unit of orchid, especially for a seduced wasp, surely must be the Drakaea. Their labellum, or flower lips, contains calluses that have evolved into the shape, colour and touch of a female wasp in waiting. The male, probably red with delight, after some complex knocking manoeuvres involving his thorax and the flower’s pollinea, picks up the pollen and delivers to the next flower, who also deceives him (this bee just goes round being screwed over by these pollen hungry lady flowers).

We might be tempted to call the female flower’s systematically complex, and perverted deception here a form of body language, and if so, I call for this language to be identified as copulatic language. My reason for this name is that it obviously looks to relate with the word copulate. But, also, it is very reminiscent of Coptic Language, which is a minor spoken language in Egypt, of the Hamito-Semitic language family. It uses the Greek alphabet in its written form, but also borrows additional characters from Demotic script, which in turn has roots in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, which in turn has variations such as Cursive Hieroglyphics, and Cursive Handwriting is a type of handwriting more commonly referred to as joined up (give it a chance!).

Allow me to work my magic here; Cursive Handwriting, a root in Coptic Language, is a written word constructed using a single stroke, from the latin cursivus for ‘flowing’. Another term for this is, crucially, joined-up writing - that is to say, the joined-up set of symbols used to formulate language! And is this not what the flowers do to the bees? Do they not precisely form their own body language to join-up with bees, who in turn carry that element of the flower’s communication, in the form of pollen, to another deceiving, sex perverted flower?

As the Bee Gees have rightly pointed out on this very same topic, in the form of song, "Its only words, and words are all I have, to take your [pollen] away." Like the victimised bee, I feel that my message has now been sufficiently communicated.

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