Passing Of Colin Butler, Bee Expert

Colin Butler

The entomologist Colin Butler has passed away at the grand old age of 102. He is credited with discovering the substance produce by queen bees that attracts drones (a type of pheromone). The dubbed this as “queen substance”.

The discovery of the queen bee pheromone was of great importance, for it altered our social understanding of bees and hives and led to advancements in bee keeping and conservation. This may seem like something downscale on the list of scientific discoveries, but bees contributed an enormous amount (valued at billions of dollars) to the economy through th pollination of agricultural crops.

Colin Butler was, for many years based at the Rothamsted Experimental Station in the U.K. In 1939, The Daily Telegraph’s obituary recounts, he began work on bees, with a focus on improving honey production as part of the war effort.

His research into queen bees was pivotal, especially for protecting hives and ensuing survival when the queen dies and the process begins to find a replacement. If this goes wrong, a colony of up to 50,000 bees can collapse.

To keep the social structure of bees operating, the queen must emit a chemical which keeps workers aware of her continued presence. In the absence of this pheromone, the process begins of rearing new queens, one of which becomes the new queen of the hive.

During his career he wrote several books on bees, some of which remain in publication, such as The World of the Honeybee (first issued in 1954). For his contribution to the understanding of bees, Butler was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and appointed an OBE.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.