“Geruchssinn der Bienen” by Karl von Frisch (1927)
The film “Geruchssinn der Bienen” by Karl von Frisch (1927).
Source: IWF/C56. By kind permission of IWF.
Sourced from: Tania Munz, ‘Numbering Bees—A History of the Bee Language: Karl von Frisch, the Honeybee Dances, and Twentieth-Century Sciences of Communication.’
Karl von Frisch sensationalised science by interpreting the honey bee ‘waggle dance’ through a system of observation, marking and numbering. He discovered that through this elaborate ritual bees communicated the distance and direction of food sources in relation to the sun, and established that bees were able to distinguish scents, perceive colour, and possessed an innate sense of time. Such discoveries challenged longheld notions of the human-animal boundary by revealing that humans were not the only species capable of developing a sophisticated language.
The German physiologist eventually won a nobel prize for his work on the honey bees. According to science historian Tania Munz, von Frisch was:
an early and enthusiastic producer of scientific films and used them as tools for observation and demonstration. He often relied on the medium to demonstrate aspects of behavior that lay beyond its direct explanatory reach—black-and-white silent film was called upon to support arguments about the bees’ abilities to discern colors, scents, tastes, and sounds. In a 1927 film, von Frisch sought to demonstrate that the bees can perceive different scents. Here stains left behind by scented oils were called upon to indicate the presence of odors. Thus, another aspect of the project shows how von Frisch bridged the epistemic gaps of the medium by training audiences to read the invisible in the visual language of film.