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Lyle Zapato

Of Bees And Men: The Riddle Of The Flying Saucers

Lyle Zapato | 2015-01-27.0490 LMT | Paraterrestrials | Technology | Cascadia | Retro


(Click for full dustjacket.)

Did super-intelligent Martian bees visit Earth in flying saucers to observe us and examine the stockpile of gold at Fort Knox, concerned that we were on the verge of destroying the Sun? According to Gerald Heard in his book The Riddle of the Flying Saucers: is another World watching? (1950), that is the only conclusion that agrees with the facts surrounding the riddle of the saucers.

I have the original UK edition; there's also a US edition with the title and subtitle flipped. (The 1953 Bantam edition has two new chapters covering sightings outside the US and up to '53, among other changes -- full text here).

This was the second nonfiction book ever published on the flying saucer phenomenon, the same year as The Flying Saucers Are Real by Donald Keyhoe. Although Keyhoe's book was more influential among UFOlogists, Heard's cover art matches more closely what became the popular image of flying saucers, even if his theories about the saucers' pilots were more unconventional.

Flying Saucer Facts

Heard gives an overview of flying saucer incidents up to the time of his writing. Of course he starts in Cascadia with the famous 1947 Mt. Rainier sighting by Kenneth Arnold that introduced the idea of "flying saucers" to the popular consciousness, and includes the less famous Maury Island Incident that preceded it by three days:


Maury Island Incident: "From the patrol boat half a dozen large disks could be seen." (From newspaper serialization, see below.)

(The Maury Island Incident is now often dismissed as a hoax -- in fact the chapter about it was removed from the 1953 edition of the book -- but given the involvement of the Men in Black, Harold Dahl's hoax confession was undoubtedly coerced. Maury Island, by the way, is now joined via an artificial isthmus with larger Vashon Island, which, since The Incident, has itself seen strange goings on, such as transphasic bicycles and the replacement of its largest industry, bee-dependent agriculture, with the manufacturing of artifical human bones.)


"Map showing where early U.S.A. sightings occurred. Places marked with numerals indicate notable events in the 'saucer' story." The flying saucer epidemic, circa 1950 (from Riddle).

Other incidents provide observable clues to the interests, temperament, and nature of the saucer pilots. In particular, the Mantell Incident at Fort Knox showed the visitors to be curious, puzzled by the "riddle of the gold" -- why are we accumulating a huge mass of that "yellow junk" in this one place? Do we eat it? Are we using it as a power source? Heard proposes that, not having knowledge of our strange customs surrounding gold, the saucer pilots could only guess at our purpose, assuming us to be more sensible than we are.


Two-foot wide saucers chase an Earth missile (from serialization).

The Mantell Incident is named after Air National Guard pilot Capt. Thomas F. Mantel, who died during the saucer encounter. Heard argues that Mantell's death was an accident caused by his pursuing plane getting too close to the magnetic wash of the saucer's "inconceivable engines" as it was leaving peacefully. He stresses that it is "of the utmost importance" that we should never forget that the visitor "did everything, within its remarkable powers, to avoid a contact, to keep clear of complications" (italics sic).

In all incidents, according to Heard, the saucer pilots have been careful to avoid harm to humans. Based on their apparent nonviolent, observational nature, he considers the saucer pilots to be wise, clever, and gentle; that they are "very circumspect, very intelligent gentlemen"; that they behaved with "consideration and correctitude"; and, unlike humans, they were not paranoiac.

The saucers themselves varied in size and shape -- some being tube- and sphere-shaped vehicles, instead of actual saucers or discs (Heard uses "saucer" as a generic name, but acknowledges it may cease to be suitable as more types are discovered; of course, nowadays "UFO" is the preferred generic term). The saucer from Fort Knox was estimated at 500 feet across, and another was claimed to be nearly 1,000', while a "standard disc" was about 100'.

The most relevant to Heard's conclusions though were the two-foot wide saucers -- seen in both Oregon and during missile tests in White Sands, NM -- as these put a limit on the size of the pilots. Heard also figures that the larger saucers are motherships that could contain a "swarm" of the smaller ones and "act as the rest home and holiday-ground for crews that 'man' whole fleets of discs".

Heard's Martian Bee Theory

After countering arguments that the US military or the Russians or private human agencies were behind the saucers, Heard presents us with his reasons why the saucer pilots must be Martian bees:

First, obviously, is the size. At two feet for the smallest craft, the pilots must be tiny, like insects. In fact, even if we ignore the smaller saucers, only insect-sized (or more importantly, -massed) beings could survive the extreme G forces from the rapid acceleration and maneuvers of the saucers, which could suddenly reach speeds upwards of 18,000 mph by some reckonings. Small insectoids with exoskeletons would also be better able to withstand the higher Earth gravity and atmospheric pressure than found on Mars.

Heard admits that claiming the saucer bees are from Mars seems "a little vulgar", given the by-then banality of Martians in sci-fi, but, he insists, it's the only other planet in the solar system that could support advanced life.

(Of course, he overlooks other possibilities: they could be from an extrasolar planet such as Zanti, the Inner Earth, another dimension, or possibly they're time travelers from a future after the rule of humanity will have had passed and the arthropods take over; however, admittedly these possibilities are less parsimonious than plain, old, vulgar Martian origins.)

To support the idea of Martian insects he quotes Dr. Gerard Kuiper (of belt fame): "No form of life as we know it could exist on Mars but insect life." Heard proposes that Mars, being farther from the Sun and thus having had more time to cool, is at a more advanced geological age than Earth (with Venus and Mercury at earlier ages), and thus its insectoid inhabitants would be more advanced than us.


"Man's most startling find about insects—bees can think, speak, and draw maps." (From serialization.)

So why bees, specifically? More so than other social insects, which act mostly by instinct, we now know that bees act with adaptive intelligence. According to the then-new findings of Dr. Von Frisch, bees are able to communicate with each other through the language of dance to guide their compatriots to sources of nectar. Perhaps they can even communicate other, more sophisticated, more meaningful thoughts that we have no current way to translate (it may be easy to compare waggles to distance, but how does one correlate the more subtle gyrations of apian hopes and dreams?)

While right beside our actual homes—in every bee-hive—there are intelligences—insects that can think, plan, make maps, give bearings, exchange information. They are apparently conscious and they are not even mammals, warm-blooded, big-brained—they are insects. And the life on Mars has probably taken to insect form to raise itself to a pinnacle of understanding above our highest reach today.

Clearly, as the most intelligent insects known on Earth, it stands to reason that advanced Martian insectoids would converge on the bee bauplan. Heard describes how he imagines the Martian bees would appear:

There really does not seem much reason to fear we shall be panicked by a Martian appearing. For what will he be like—as far as we can tell? In all probability a super-bee of perhaps two inches in length. As they have existed for so long on Mars, as it is presumed they now have no enemies—if they ever had—(as we know, Natural Selection is a 'negative force' and clips things back and reduces them to the plainest shapes) then these creatures of a world where intelligence has won total freedom from brutal repressive force—where life is free to be as beautiful as it deserves to be—why then, creatures as sensitive to color, as gifted with sight as bees, would be as beautiful as the most beautiful of any flower, any beetle, moth or butterfly. A creature with eyes like brilliant cut-diamonds, with a head of sapphire, a thorax of emerald, an abdomen of ruby, wings like opal, legs like topaz—such a body would be worthy of this 'super-mind'. I am sure that toward it our reaction would be:— "what a diadem of living jewels!" It is we who would feel shabby and ashamed, and may be with our clammy, putty-coloured bodies, repulsive!

Given their considerate temperament, these are super-intelligent gentlebees we could befriend, if only we could speak with them. To that end, Heard believes we should learn to communicate with terrestrial bees, not only out of scientific and cultural curiosity about those bees themselves, but because they may be able to serve as translators for the Martian saucer pilots, who likely also speak via dance. And speak with them we must.

Reason For Marsbee Visitation

Heard argues the Martian bees were visiting us because we pose a peril to them; they fear that our atomic tests and potential nuclear wars might result in a catastrophe that would reach all the way to Mars:

We might, for instance, literally blow up the planet. As evidence that this is, at least, possible, Heard points to the "general decision" of the International Astronomic Conference that the asteroid belt beyond Mars is the remnant of a planet, and to meteorite compositions that suggest this hypothetical planet, called Asteroida, was the same composition as Earth.

According to his theory of direct relationship of a planet's advancement to its distance from the Sun, Asteroida's ancient inhabitants might have long ago done something to detonate their planet -- Heard hints at deep-sea nuclear test weakening the crust as one Earthly possibilty, perhaps Asteroidans tried this -- something that the Marsbees were able to observe, learn from, and avoid when they reached the Asteroidans' technological level -- the same level we are recklessly approaching. Such an explosion of Earth would harm Mars by creating an asteroid field that would lessen the sunlight reaching its already cold surface, making life on Mars untenable.

Our nuclear activity might irradiate Mars, although indirectly. Citing a supposed correlation between the Atom Bombings and sunspot activity, Heard offers a theory that nuclear detonations, as small as they are relative to the Sun's power, could act as a "trigger action" that can alter the Earth's magnetic field, which interacts with the Sun's surface to create sunspots, which in turn release short-wave radiation. Mars, having a thin atmosphere, would not be able to shield its bee population from this increased radiation.

More shockingly, what if the sunspot activity isn't the end of the trigger action chain; what if increased spots might cause the Sun to go nova, wiping out the solar system? (Fortunately, Heard bases this idea on a mistaken classification of the Sun as an explosion-prone Cepheid.)

Heard assures us that the Marsbees aren't here to stop us by force, as evidenced by their gentlebeely nature, but to observe, intervene lightly (he suggests they may have been to blame for the destruction of some unmanned, upper-atmosphere rocket tests at White Sands), and eventually, if we can start learning to speak beeish, serve as guides to us in our development as a species:

We have lost our paranoiac loneliness and our dream of utter superiority. But we have found companions, yet, and possible guide minds that have gone ahead of ours. Is not this good news of the highest quality and of the utmost aptness? Shall we reject the possibility out of hand? Are we doing so well on our own? Have we, with our new powers and trust "in man alone", have we done so well? Having conquered all other species (or at least made them shun us) have we, Homo self-styled Sapiens, settled down to peace, prosperity and progress? Look at the map, look at the news.

Unfortunately we may be running out of time as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is robbing us of not only our pollinators, but our future Martian interpreters. Consider:

The National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) reported that there were 2.44 million honey-producing colonies in the United States as of February 2008, down from 4.5 million in 1980, and 5.9 million in 1947. [Source.]

The same year of the first Flying Saucer sighting is when this started in North America. Coincidence? Could the disappearance of terrestrial bees be part of a sinister plot to destroy our ability to communicate with their Martian counterparts, possibly instigating interplanetary conflict, or at least keeping us, Earthman and Marsbee, from working together to some common good? Heard wrote his book long before CCD was generally recognized, so we can only guess he would answer Yes.

Speculations About Martian Technology

For further circumstantial evidence of Martian origins, Heard notes the anomalous moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, arguing they are in fact artificial satellites placed into orbit by the Martians to serve as "launching jetties" for their saucerings.

As to how the bees could feed themselves on cold, barren Mars, Heard proposes that they developed synthetic chlorophyll to produce sugars and starch, using underground waters and condensation farms.

Interestingly, while explaining how physically weak Marsbees could build 1,000-foot spaceships, Heard anticipates both nanotechnology and 3D printing (beating Richard Feynman by nine years):

would we not expect intelligent life, geological ages ahead of us, to have made inventions, where, in as great a quiet as sugar or alcohol distills or water condenses out of air, metals, far harder and more resilient and lighter too than any we now know, would build themselves up between the poles of some 'precipitating engine' in the very shape that was desired, as a crystal is formed in a super-saturated solution. ... We may soon be growing our engines instead of forging them.

He also suggests that the "slag" found on the Maury Island beach after The Incident was the product or byproduct of such a precipitating engine, with which the saucer was presumably fitted so the crew could build spare parts while on remote Earth missions. (The current belief that the "slag", whose calcium content made it a "wonderfully heat-resistant alloy", came from a local metal smelter is of course a lie planted by the Men in Black. If such a mundane thing were true, how would one explain the two Air Force officers who died in a mysterious plane crash while bringing back samples?)

Miscellanea Surrounding the Book

While Heard was a polymath who wrote books on his many esoteric interests, flying saucers may not have originally been among them, as, according to Waveney Girvan (who worked with Heard's publisher), he was actually commissioned to write Riddle based on newspaper cuttings Girvan had been collecting. I can't find any mention whether Girvan commissioned him because Heard was already interested in the subject or some other reason. In either case, the Martian Bee Theory appears to be all Heard, and he took to the subject enthusiastically and continued following saucer sightings afterward.

In Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood, a friend of Heard's, there's a footnote by the editor about when Heard was writing Riddle:

I wish I had at least some record of Christopher's talks with Gerald at this period. I remember only that his chief interest was in the many sightings and alleged sightings of Unidentified Aerial Objects—flying saucers. Gerald believed in them wholeheartedly and would soon publish Is Another World Watching?, in which it is stated that June 24, 1947 (the Kenneth Arnold sighting near Mount Rainier) "may prove to be one of the most important dates in history." Gerald told Christopher that, "Liberation is my vocation, the saucers are my avocation." He expressed the wish that one of the objects would land and require a human go-between to explain the ways of earth men to their people and to be instructed in their own culture, as far as that was possible. Gerald longed to be this go-between. I think he had elaborate fantasies about the role he would play—including the brilliant, epigrammatic lectures on Earth history he would deliver and maybe even the splendid space costumes he would wear. I remember Gerald as being very cheerful in those days.

Riddle was serialized in eleven parts in newspapers around the world under the title "Is Another World Watching?" The best example of the series online is from the Western Mail (Perth, AU) starting on 1951-01-25 (then every Thursday ending April 5th). The Western Mail included illustrations (e.g., the Maury Island Incident, two-foot saucers, and honeybee photo above), most apparently done especially for the serialization (the book has only a map, a newspaper clipping, and three blurry photos of saucers). Sadly, there's no drawing of a Marsbee (though they graciously included one of old-timey people having a nervous breakdown at the sight of a car) and the artist totally dropped the ball, depicting the saucer pilots contradictory to Heard's later text:


"Smaller disks come down from a giant disk..."

The articles were also translated into at least German:


Map of North American flying saucer (Fliegende Untertassen) sightings, from Die Welt's German translation of Heard's articles (1950-11-04, from clippings in a UFO Dokumentensammlung).

In February of 1951, the US Navy released a report claiming that flying saucers were really balloons used to study cosmic rays. Heard dismissed this claim in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald (1951-02-18):

A spokesman for Gerald Heard, whose home is in Santa Monica, California, first told "The Sunday Herald" he was "in meditation" and could not be disturbed.

Later, however, Heard was contacted through his friend, Aldous Huxley, and made the following statement: "I maintain that the flying saucers observed as recently as January, 1951, must be from another planet or planets.

"I have known for some time that balloons were being used to test conditions in the higher atmospheres. They were also used in smaller form in England in 1940. I must say the Navy's report doesn't cut any ice."

Heard said he had dismissed all reports from casual observers, but carefully collated those of competent observers, including transport pilots.

He added: "Not one of the reporters I have quoted in my book saw cosmic ray balloons. We first exhausted the possibility of the use of flying saucers from this planet. They must, therefore, come from another planet or planets. From what planets? That is the riddle of the flying saucers."

And on this, Heard returned to his meditations and to preparation of an hour-long talk he is giving this week-end at the Hollywood Vedanta Society.

Footnote.—Heard's American publishers say the Navy's report does not change their plans to issue an American edition of his book, under the title "Is Another World Watching?"

Later in 1951, Dick Bothwell of the St. Petersburg Times was inspired by Heard's bejeweled description of a Mars bee to draw the following cartoon as part of a smugly sarcastic review of the book:

In 2013, Philip Rice, as part of a series of creature designs based on descriptions from mostly fictional literature, drew a more realistic depiction of Heard's hyper-intelligent Martian bee.

"B + M - Planet 4"


1952 US Pocket edition. The UK edition featured Heard's contribution more prominently and included his essay, "Why Science Fiction?"

Heard published a fictional follow-up to his Marsbee ideas, the novelette "B + M - Planet 4", included in the anthology New Tales of Space and Time (1951). The awkward title stands for "Bees + Man - Mars" and is about the beginning of a symbiosis of bees and humans.

The plot involves a spaceship pilot who's the first to land on Mars. He finds miniature, sugary plant life and encounters an eight-inch metallic bee that guides him to a two-foot tall humanoid. The humanoid explains Martian society to the pilot, how his people were once "hypertrophies" like us but they shrunk down after entering into a three-way symbiotic relationship with the bees and the sugar plants. Now everything is balanced and utopian.

The pilot is convinced by the "man-insect-plant" formula and wants to return home as a "missionary" to spread the "good news". He's taken back to Earth's World Capitol aboard a preplanned superflotilla of superbee saucers. There, while the Marsbees conference with Earthbees, the humanoid ambassadorially addresses the people of Earth over televisor, explaining how he brings them a solution to their food shortages: an all sugar-and-starch diet! Also, he sells them on symbiosis with the bees, who will provide guidance to mankind, balancing reckless, self-destructive humanity with stable-yet-stagnant beeity; together they will become "hymenopt-humanoid" and take part in a new planetary alliance.

There's a subplot -- that I believe is related to another novel by Heard, Doppelgangers (I haven't read it) -- where the totalitarianish one world government, World Fed, led by Earth Federal President Olcot, is locked in intrigues with the revolutionist forces of the International Underground, with both engaging in propaganda using super- and sub-sonic broadcasts. The arrival of the bees prompts the Underground to announce their dissolution, since the coming New Age of bee-based cooperation and plenitude means all their demands will be met. Everyone wins, thanks to bees!

The Martian humanoids' nakedness and lack of houses is, I believe, a reference to Heard's 1924 treatise Narcissus: An Anatomy of Clothes, where he considers the evolution of clothing as a phenotypical trait continuous with our architecture and other technology (we wear our houses and our cars as much as we do clothes) -- one that we'll evolve out of, eventually losing even our bodies, thus "fulfilling Mr. Wells' stupendous prophecy and becoming like the Martians only tentacled brains". (See my concept of "pneumads" for an intermediate step towards our Man-undressed Destiny.) The humanoid's response to the pilot's insistence that they must have some sort of houses:

"But you see we have got rid of clothes so why the clumsier clothes of roofs and walls? ... We haven't any! No clothes, no houses. We have streamlined life. Our immense vitality allowed us to relieve ourselves of those silly suffocating sheets. Once we lived in burrows, then caves, then built artificial caves, and now at last we're out and we're not going back. We reduced ourselves to the right optimum size. When you're, or your descendants, back to that, you'll find that you won't have to coddle yourselves. You can keep warm wherever you are."

The Marsbees still have hives, but the humanoid explains "the bees are born republicans, conservatives, so they carry on the old way." Also the Marsbees and their humanoid partners "can E.S.P." (which was another interest of Heard's.)

More About Heard

Gerald Heard
Gerald Heard, from Riddle dustjacket.

I previously posted about another book by Heard, The Lost Cavern, which he wrote under the name H. F. Heard (he wrote fiction mostly as H. F. and nonfiction, such as Riddle and other scientific, philosophical, and theological works, as Gerald; his full name was Henry FitzGerald Heard).

Riddle wasn't Heard's first foray into melittological matters; his best-known novel is A Taste for Honey (1941), a Sherlockian mystery -- first in a trilogy that stars a detective named Mr. Mycroft who is hinted to be a retired Holmes -- about a mad apiarist using mind-controlled bees to kill, as mad apiarists do. It was adapted into a less Sherlocky, more schlocky 1966 movie, The Deadly Bees (which earned an MST3K treatment). Hopefully the Martians won't see this and think less of us.

Heard was a friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous -- as in an actually, non-rhetorical friend. They shared an interest in flying saucers as well as other phenomena both paranormal and pharmacological. In at least one letter to Heard, Wilson reported a saucer sighting. Heard also guided Wilson on his first LSD trip. (In an interview from a video discovered a few years ago in Heard's archives, showing a "normal" '50s housewife taking acid, Heard extols the virtues of the drug -- and death.) More about their relationship, and Heard's life in general, can be found in the three-way biography of Heard, Wilson, and Aldous Huxley, Distilled Spirits (2012) by Don Lattin (which I have only skimmed).

I don't want to turn this into a biography of him, so I'll leave it there. You can read more about Heard at his official website.

End of post.