The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – March 2022

- March 1, 2022 - (excerpt)

Animal Intelligence vs. Consciousness

Dear Mr. Borst,

Thanks for the great article on animal intelligence. I noticed you kind of danced around the distinction between intelligence and consciousness. Certainly many philosophers draw a distinction between the two. That distinction seems to be practically a religious one, with a lot of teachers even implying that consciousness itself is the primary attribute of “God.” Certainly humans can be intelligent without being self-aware. It is such a hard thing to talk about, but it seems a crucial point when comparing intelligent machines with living things.

I wish somebody would do a lot more research into this. I’ve certainly noticed that many living creatures seem to have much more awareness of the particulars of a situation than they would be expected to have. Having worked with a lot of wild animals and insects besides honey bees, this has often amazed me, and I am sure a lot of readers have noticed the same thing. It suggests animals have ways of knowing things that go beyond the commonly accepted ways of sensory perception or logical deduction. Often they actually seem to respond to our feelings and thoughts! I realize that this sounds pretty far out to some, but experience is hard to deny. I have heard it explained as a response to our own pheromones, but I have my doubts. More research needed!

Lloyd Ziegler

P.S. ABJ on top as usual, keep up the great work!


Illinois Prisons Need Beekeeping Training

Dear Sir,

First let me start by saying I am fascinated by bees! Secondly, as you can tell from my letter I am a prisoner in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I am writing you for a multitude of reasons.

My interest in bees started years ago. The farm where I deer hunt had six hives and as I’d park to hunt I’d always get ready near these hives. Just listening and watching in the early fall, October 1, then as season progressed to late December I’d sit in awe wondering how these amazing creatures could endure in these freezing temps? Meanwhile I sat in my tree stand with the best cold-weather gear available and still froze!

My military service led me to having a great life, however when hunting and fishing was over I began to drink too much. As a young man this led to a serious problem. Anyway I’m sober and plan on staying that way. Unfortunately the DOC does NOTHING for inmates when it comes to rehab. Sure they give some classes, however with COVID most of that has stopped. I did complete my drug and alcohol program though. I’m a union pipefitter by trade, so I do have that. But most men here have nothing.

When I saw your magazine I subscribed. I love it and read it sometimes three times over! That’s another reason for this letter. If it’s possible is there any way you could get me books on anything bee related? When I get out in 12 months I plan on trying my own colony. I love to read about bees. I love the Classroom.

In closing I’d love to see beekeeping in the IDOC, teach instead of warehousing men. I did wrong and I did my time. I am now eligible for work-release; however, out of 18 men who I’m here with that are eligible, none have been sent. Our prison systems need to be reformed and prisoners need to be taught skills for when they are released. Beekeeping would be easy as prisons have lots of outdoor space and most of the time gardens and flowers.

Thank you,
Eric Johnson

Eugene responds:

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your compliments on the magazine. I’m glad you will be getting out in a year, and I wish you well in your beekeeping endeavors. I agree with you on the need for prisons to do better by their inmates to prepare them for the outside world.

We are sending you some additional reading materials. Please share them with your fellow inmates while you are there.

Best regards,




The bees are on their knees, they say

But their hives are full of honey;

They toil and buzz throughout the days –

That’s how they make their money.

They’re just like us in many ways,

They store up all they make, sir,

But when the winter’s said and done

They’re out again – see how they run

About the surface of their hives.

Their buzzing wings say ‘Strive!’ ‘Survive!’

But still the toxins do attack

And strive bees might, but they do lack

The armaments to fend the toxins off.

We must protect them at all costs

And strive ourselves, come with our aid

Or we, too, humans, dig our grave.


Dan Close

South Burlington, Vermont