Experiment Suggests Honeybees Can Do Basic Math

  • Experiment Suggests Honeybees Can Do Basic Math

Experiment Suggests Honeybees Can Do Basic Math

The study hopes to get a better understanding of the relationship between brain size and brain power.

Fourteen honeybees were collected by the researchers for the study, who then had them enter a maze where they would see between one and five shapes that were either blue or yellow in color.

Here's how the experiment worked: Bees were sent into a Y-shaped maze.

Humans have relegated insects to the lower levels of the cognitive totem pole, but scientists are increasingly showing it's a mistake to underestimate invertebrate intelligence. In doing the tests, the bees chose correctly between 60 and 75 percent of the time, the news outlet reported. Honeybees Are Smarter Than Initially Thought Honeybees, which have brains that are the same size as sesame seeds, can understand the abstract mathematical notion of zero, a study from the same team found a year ago. Only a couple of species have been shown to do any sort of addition and subtraction besides humans: mostly apes, monkeys, birds, and spiders.

A study has proved that they can add and subtract as well as being able to understand the concept of zero.

Furthermore, these industrious insects have shown their smarts in several other areas, demonstrating the ability to understand concepts like "same" and "different," counting (a trait known as numerosity), and to learn skills from other bees.

"You need to be able to hold the rules around adding and subtracting in your long-term memory, while mentally manipulating a set of given numbers in your short-term memory", said Prof Dyer. One branch of the maze contained sugar water, while the other contained a bitter-tasting quinine solution.

When a bee flew into the entrance of the maze they would see 1 to 5 shapes. The correct answer was changed randomly throughout the experiment to avoid bees learning to visit just one side of the maze. If honeybees can add, what else can they do?

One side had an incorrect solution to the problem and the other side had the correct solution.

In this case, the bees had to work out that two plus one equals three.

Honeybees are central place foragers - which means that a forager bee will return to a place if the location provides a good source of food.

Initially, the bees made random choices, but over the course of 100 trials they learned that blue meant +1, while yellow meant -1. The Egyptians and Babylonians show evidence of using arithmetic around 2000BCE, which would have been useful - for example - to count live stock and calculate new numbers when cattle were sold off. That is, it transpires, a perfectly reasonable question to ask a bee.

That finding suggests that the honeybees miniature brain can, at the very least, use symbols to add and subtract numbers.

Clint Perry, an expert on invertebrate intelligence from the Bee Sensory and Behavioural Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London, disagreed, saying the researchers didn't fully consider alternative strategies used by the bees. Based on basic pattern matching, they should choose the correct image about 70 percent of the time, Perry says, which is line with the paper's findings. "If they learnt this well, their performance should be about 70 per cent-which matches the behavioural results reported quite well". And these are not the only higher-level skills that bees appear to possess.

The way we learn to perform arithmetic operations as children requires us to learn what the symbolic operators (+) and (-) represent.

In a discovery some might describe as un-bee-lievable, scientists have found that bees can actually do maths.