A little over a week ago, a group of researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the UK published a study that immediately turned some conventional wisdom in the bee science community on its head. Titled "Long-term trends in the honeybee 'whooping signal' revealed by automated detection," the paper, published in the journal PLoS One, concludes, to put it in layman's terms, that bees go "whoop whoop."
Now, this was big news in the bee world, since it recontextualized the understanding of a bee communication technique that had, since the 1950s, been called the "'stop' signal." Through nine months of monitoring beehives with accelerometers, the researchers made some unprecedented discoveries. Namely, the "'stop' signal" could be many things, including a simple response to being startled.
But did their research go far enough? Did it ask the question that arose when they first heard a whoop? It appears no, and so it falls on us to ask the logical next inquiry: Are bees Juggalos?
If there's one thing that can be said for a musical subculture that has asked such questions as "fuckin' magnets: how do they work?" it's that it believes in scientific inquiry (even if the follow-up to that line is that we don't need an explanation from scientists). So let's lay out the evidence we have to work with.
First, regarding the bees: The researchers were able to get recordings of their interactions, which are normally imperceptible to the human ear. New Scientist uploaded the sounds to their Soundcloud, and you can clearly hear the "whoop whoop" below:
Clearly, it's not just scientific mumbo-jumbo to claim that bees go "whoop whoop." But what might that mean? The researchers add, "We show that the signal is very common and highly repeatable, occurring mainly at night with a distinct decrease in instances towards midday, and that it can be elicited en masse from bees following the gentle shaking or knocking of their hive with distinct evidence of habituation."
In other words, bees go "whoop whoop" a lot. They sometimes do it together, in large numbers, especially at night (in unscientific terms, a noted party time). And they do it for any number of reasons, not just to communicate the aforementioned "stop" message. Here's an informative video New Scientist made about the phenomenon, which succinctly points out, "they all whoop together if you tap on the hive":
Now here's another video of a large group of living organisms going "whoop whoop":
Yup, those are Juggalos. Now, what does it mean, for a Juggalo, to say "whoop whoop"? Here is an explanation from the Detroit Metro Times, published under the title "Ask a Juggalo: Why do Juggalos say, 'Whoop whoop'?" from Psychopathic Records employee Will Sigler:
It means nothing—but at the same time it can mean everything.
It's like when I was in the Marines; we had "ooh rah." We would say "ooh rah" when something turned out good or we had a good mission. "Whoop whoop" is the same way. It's an easy thing to say, it's fun to say, and it can mean everything or nothing. And it sounds just the same, whether you're drunk or sober. And even sometimes when you're sad, you can say, like, "Whoop whoop, man."
Most people use it as a form of farewell. You're like, "Whoop whoop, ninja." Like, "Catch you later." Or like a greeting. At the Gathering of the Juggalos, even old-school Juggalos at the end of the day almost dread that, because you can't go 10 feet without saying "whoop whoop" 20 times because there's so many people at the Gathering that every few steps you're seeing a new person, so you gotta give them a "whoop whoop." And, oh, you can't leave this brother out, so you gotta say "whoop whoop" to him. And then, this sister, you gotta say "whoop whoop" to her too. And you're whooped out by the end of the day.
OK, so let's think about what this means: You say "whoop whoop" when you run into a fellow Juggalo (a member of your hive). You say it when you're drunk or sober, meaning it has many meanings. And most importantly, let's emphasize, "even sometimes when you're sad, you can say, like, 'Whoop whoop, man.'" Now, let's return to our scientists and their conclusions—namely that stressed out bee colonies are more likely to let out "whooping" signals. Starting to see some parallels?
Now, what impetus would bees have to be ICP fans? I'll give you two: First, ICP has rapped about bees on multiple occasions. On the 2000 song "Take Me Away," Violent J brags, "we rap about fucking a beehive." Sounds like something that could be mutually pleasurable, I guess? Secondly, when you google "ICP bees," the first result is literally the website"icpbees.org," for something called the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, or Project ICP. Moreover, it is based in Michigan, the Juggalos' home state. And right there on the front page, there's a link to a news report about a study that concludes, "Integrated Crop Pollination May be Key to Success with Many Michigan Crops." Key to success? ICP bees? Bees going "whoop whoop"? ICP fans going "whoop whoop"? The proven global success of the Juggalo phenomenon? You don't have to be a scientist to connect those dots.
We've known for years that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate. We also know that Juggalos may be one of our greatest hopes to save the world via political action. Is it any surprise that bees would throw their lot in with Project ICP—in all its incarnations? If there's anything to say "whoop whoop" about, it's that Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope might be the people who finally save the bees.
Bee photo by Omer Unlu, via Flickr
Screenshot of New Scientist's video "Bees whoop when they bump into each other" via YouTube
Kyle Kramer is thinking of getting into beekeeping. Follow him on Twitter.