Who’s Manipulating Whom?

by Green Deane

in Blog

Pretty but not edible

I don’t care for Salvia coccinea. It’s not edible and it likes to crowd out my herbs. I’m forever removing it from flower pots. The other day I was about to rescue my tarragon from it when a bumble bee made a fueling stop. Bumble bees are native and solitary. They do the same pollenating job as honey bees, but think of them as independent contractors.

As the bee hovered from scarlet blossom to scarlet blossom I was struck by the thought that we need far more blossoms than bees, not only to keep the bumble bee flying but honey bees producing. Blossoms are important. So I let the Salvia be.  Here in Florida the third most common nectar plant is a despised weed, the Bidens Alba. But, without its blossoms bees would be worse off, and so would we.

Solitary Bumble Bee

The most common nectar plant in Florida is citrus, cultivated by man. Next is saw palmettos and third, the Bidens Alba.  The saw palmetto and the Bidens Alba got to their positions naturally, by offering something bees wants or needs and thus they succeed in reproducing more than other plants. Citrus is king only because humans intervened.

In our self-centered, brain-driven view we, of course, say citrus is serving us. But Mother Nature does not have to be conscious to succeed. It is also reasonable to say citrus is using us and we are serving it. Consider:

Key Limes

Citrus is a non-native that has managed in a very short time to take over a rather large land mass. That sure beats the old way of moving slowly over millennia. Clearly citrus won by giving man something he wanted, just as the Salvia coccinea gives the humble bumble what it wants. I’m sure if the bumble bee had an imagination it would think of itself as man does, in charge of the flower. But, the flower is clearly getting the bee to do what it wants. The tail is wagging the dog, so to speak. This view is not limited to plants.

There are, for example,  some 40 million dogs in the United States. However, there are only some 10,000 wolves. Dogs, as a species, are clearly doing something wolves are not. As a species dogs are wildly successful compared to their canine cousins.  So who is manipulating whom? Just as the bee thinks it is the prime agent with the blossom we think we are the prime agent involving dogs. But maybe its the dogs who’ve got it figured out, just as the citrus does, and yes, even the Salvia coccinea.

Because we are conscious we tend to put ourselves in the driver’s seat, the primacy position. But if you look around, non-humans seem to be winning…. citrus, lawn grass, dogs… We are taking care of them not them us.  And let’s not even get into the issue of cats…. Clearly they all are offering us something that makes us work just like the bee going flower to flower. So, who is manipulating whom?

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