The Dancing Bees
Karl von Frisch and the Discovery of the Honeybee Language
The Dancing Bees draws on previously unexplored archival sources in order to reveal von Frisch’s full story, including how the Nazi government in 1940 determined that he was one-quarter Jewish, revoked his teaching privileges, and sought to prevent him from working altogether until circumstances intervened. In the 1940s, bee populations throughout Europe were facing the devastating effects of a plague (just as they are today), and because the bees were essential to the pollination of crops, von Frisch’s research was deemed critical to maintaining the food supply of a nation at war. The bees, as von Frisch put it years later, saved his life. Munz not only explores von Frisch’s complicated career in the Third Reich, she looks closely at the legacy of his work and the later debates about the significance of the bee language and the science of animal communication.
This first in-depth biography of von Frisch paints a complex and nuanced portrait of a scientist at work under Nazi rule. The Dancing Bees will be welcomed by anyone seeking to better understand not only this chapter of the history of science but also the peculiar waggles of our garden visitors.
Bee Vignette I: Victorian Bees
Chapter 1: Coming of Age in Vienna
Chapter 2: The Bees That Could
Bee Vignette II: Sensing the Senses
Chapter 3: Calm before the Storm
Chapter 4: In the Service of the Reich
Bee Vignette III: Deep inside the Hive
Chapter 5: State of Grace
Chapter 6: Picking Up the Pieces in Postwar Germany
Chapter 7: Coming to America
Bee Vignette IV: Seeing Bees
Chapter 8: Attack on the Dance Language