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It turns out that bees don’t just fly from one flower to the other, randomly producing honey.
They are able to think and solve simple math problems apt for a four-year-old child.
Last year, a group of scientists from Australia reported that bees have the ‘necessary knowledge’ to understand the meaning of the concept of “zero”.
Now, a new study by the same group of researchers further shows how intelligent bees really are.
A new study, recently published in the journal Science Advances has shown that bees can solve basic addition and subtraction equations.
This came as a surprise.
In the past few decades, scientists thought that such a level of processing was limited to humans and eventually primates.
But since we humans don’t know everything, and are continuing to uncover the secrets of not only the universe but planet earth as well, we’ve now found that animals such as dolphins, crows and even parrots are able to understand basic mathematical operations.
According to associate professor Adrian Dyer from RMIT University, and one of the authors of the new study, “these new findings question the idea that the human brain is something special.”
Understanding the bee brain
Scientists have found that the brains of bees have less than 1 million neurons, which are only a few compared to the nearly 86,000 million neurons in the human brain.
“They have a very tiny brain with an architecture very different from ours,” explains Dyer. But despite this fact, bees were able to carry out tasks that were thought only possible for humans.
To understand how complex the bee brain is, the group of scientists recruited 14 of them.
They were placed inside a Y-shaped labyrinth where they were given from one to five yellow or blue elements.
The bees were then tasked with choosing to fly to the left or right side of the labyrinth, where one side featured one more element and the other containing one less.
Scientists wanted to see if they could learn and perform a rather complex task: if the elements were blue, the bees needed to add an element and if it was yellow, they needed to subtract it.
They were rewarded with sugar water when they chose correctly and were ‘punished’ with a bitter-tasting quinine solution if they got it wrong.
They were trained for up to seven hours after which scientists repeated the test but without using the reward-punishment system.
In two subtraction and two additional tests, scientists found that the bees had chosen the correct answer seventy-five percent of the time.