Robotic Bees Don't Say Ope

Two bees fight on my veil. As they tussle, running into each other, distracted from their common goal of stinging me in the face, I consider how much scarier they would be were they robots. 

I try not to hurt my bees, accidentally or otherwise, but I am tempted to pinch them so I can inspect the hive without focusing on their little bee butts trying to stab me through the mesh. 

Robotic bees do not have stingers or honey stomachs. They do not perform waggle dances. Engineered to pollinate crops if humans make the earth uninhabitable for living, breathing pollinators, robotic bees are controlled by the wind or remotes, not their own instincts.

Honeybees can solve problems. Emerging science suggests that they recognize individual humans and perhaps even dream. Studies indicate that they experience stress or playfulness. I know they can feel annoyed. Each hive has quirks, and a usually calm colony might get defensive, as if the bees are collectively in a bad mood.

An angry guard bee may chase me from the hive, but she also tires of the task, flying home to her sisters. Robot bees have no such loyalty, no colony to protect. No one wonders if robotic bees dream. Then again, ChatBots sometimes hallucinate.

The bees on my veil give up, departing with an angry buzz. I check the hive for signs of health and incoming resources. A worker bee shakes vigorously, telling other foragers where she found the pollen loaded onto her legs. Attentive bees give her space, creating a little dancefloor as they study her directions. Elsewhere, a circle of bees surrounds the queen, grooming her. In front of the hive, an undertaker bee hauls a dead worker to the ground, where her corpse joins the small pile of bees who died over winter. They will decompose or make a snack for a backyard chicken. Robotic bees are not biodegradable.

My inspection finished, I sit and watch the bees fly. I think about an article I read about how Artificial Intelligence could disrupt the workforce. My bees don’t know to be worried that humans are planning to replace them with robots. They make graceful figure-8s before plopping onto the landing board, weighed down with pollen and nectar. Two bees collide at the entrance, making sharp, high sounds, as if to say "ope." I hope we never need robots to pollinate our crops, because we will never improve on the bees we already have. Robotic bees do not have manners.

Kasey Butcher Santana is co-owner/operator of Sol Homestead, a backyard alpaca farm in Colorado where she and her husband also raise chickens, bees, pumpkins, and their daughter. Kasey earned a Ph.D. in American literature from Miami University and has worked as an English teacher and a jail librarian. Recently, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ocotillo Review, Geez Magazine, The Hopper, Canary, and Farmer-ish.

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