Disregarding the Call of the Light

“If you place in a bottle half a dozen bees and the same number of flies, and lay the bottle down horizontally, with its base to the window, you will find that the bees will persist, till they die of exhaustion or hunger, in their endeavor to discover an issue through the glass; while the flies, in less than two minutes, will all have sallied forth through the neck on the opposite side. From this Sir John Lubbock concludes that the intelligence of the bee is exceedingly limited, and that the fly shows far greater skill in extricating itself from a difficulty, and finding its way. This conclusion, however, would not seem altogether flawless. Turn the transparent sphere twenty times, if you will, holding now the base, now the neck, to the window, and you will find that the bees will turn twenty times with it, so as always to face the light. It is their love of the light, it is their very intelligence, that is their undoing in this experiment of the English savant. They evidently imagine that the issue from every prison must be there where the light shines clearest; and they act in accordance, and persist in too logical action. To them glass is a supernatural mystery they never have met with in nature; they have had no experience of this suddenly impenetrable atmosphere; and, the greater their intelligence, the more inadmissible, more incomprehensible, will the strange obstacle appear. Whereas the feather-brained flies, careless of logic as of the enigma of crystal, disregarding the call of the light, flutter wildly hither and thither, and, meeting here the good fortune that often waits on the simple, who find salvation there where the wiser will perish, necessarily end by discovering the friendly opening that restores their liberty to them.” (Maurice Maeterlinck, 1901, The Life of the Bee)