Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

How Bees Find a New Home

Bees balance the needs of timeliness and accuracy when finding a new home. Of a swarm of 10,000 bees, about 200-500 of the elder worker bees (2-5%) scout possible sites over about 30 square kilometers. About 25 bees might find a potentially suitable new site.

Each worker makes her own independent judgment of the benefits of the new site. She returns and communicates her findings: the direction, distance, and level of optimism about the site. Other scouts then go to the site and make their own judgment. While they continue to recruit and visit, the enthusiasm for less hospitable sites gradually wanes, while more scouts commuincate the location of the better site.

Ultimately, all the scouts communicate through their movements about the chosen site. When about 15 or so scouts are outside the new home and about another 30 to 50 are inside, the decision is made, and the scouts start instigating the move.


  • The process takes enough time to ensure a hasty decision is not made; on the other hand it does not go on for more than a few days.
  • The bees stay together and come to a decision even if the new home is not perfect.
  • The enthusiasm of the bees in the minority decays over time if others find the site inhospitable. No one is overruled, yet no one stubbornly remains attached to the less hospitable home. Each bee changes her “opinion” on her own.
  • A late option or an option only visited by one bee can ultimately affect the whole colony if others are supportive after they visit.
  • The move relies on many independent judgments, not following a leader. The queen bee is not involved in this decision at all.

From Science News, May 9, 2009

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Three simple steps to fix government with frameworks

Most legislation should be done as frameworks rather than specifics. Examples of framework legislation include the ADA, the NEPA, and the various -TEA transportation bills. In those cases, Congress sets forth goals and procedures, not specific allocations. In many cases, compliance is local, and can be court-reviewed.

Nearly everything complex – financial, environmental, health, and so on – can be developed into a framework. The framework has goals (health, climate stabilization, peace, etc) and allows for numerous alternatives to be proposed, a procedure for evaluating alternatives against the goals, and finally (in some cases) further legislative action to choose the alternatives to fund after the executive has done all the detail work.

The requirement to approach lawmaking as frameworks can be codified as law and should itself be open to court review. Several other aspects would need to be worked out to make it solid, such as elimination of riders.


1. Executive power is too strong, and leads to abuses.

2. Government by nature is not creative. The legislative branch by nature lacks visionary coherence. This proposal works around that natural limitation, by preventing the consideration of an idea in isolation. It forces the question of “why” we want to do X, and what other ways are available to do it, and why would be choose one way vs. another way. That is the essence of creativity as it works in the private sector.

3. Making the last step (selection of an alternative) legislative ensures that the power remains distributed democratically.

4. Major public decisions should be determined by the legislative branch, not by “public participation” in the executive. The idea of “public involvement / participation” is anti-democratic in the sense that government should be by the people 100% through representation, not a thing that people can be partly involved with. When we beg only for participation, we’ve given up ownership and democracy is lost.

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