FOOT­BALLING BEES SHED NEW LIGHT ON IN­SECT IN­TEL­LI­GENCE

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

“BUMBLEBEES, ALONG WITH MANY OTHER AN­I­MALS, MAY HAVE THE COG­NI­TIVE CA­PA­BIL­I­TIES TO SOLVE COM­PLEX TASKS”

We bet these guys are good on the wing: bumblebees have been taught to play foot­ball by a team at Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don.

The team trained the bees to drib­ble a ball into a round goal in three dif­fer­ent ways: some ob­served a pre­vi­ously trained bee scor­ing a goal, some watched the ball be­ing moved into the goal by a mag­net, and oth­ers sim­ply ‘found’ the ball in the goal. The bees were re­warded with a sug­ary treat for a suc­cess­ful ‘shot’.

Of the three, those ob­serv­ing other bees learnt the quick­est.

“Our study puts the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin of the idea that small brains con­strain in­sects to have lim­ited be­havioural flex­i­bil­ity and only sim­ple learn­ing abil­i­ties,” said re­searcher Prof Lars Chit­tka.

Fur­ther testst showed that the bees were able to ap­ply theirr ‘train­ing’ to var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions, such as balls plaaced in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions and balls colou­ured dif­fer­ently.

“It mayy be that bumblebees, along withh many other an­i­mals, have the cog­ni­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ti­ies to solve such com­plex tasks, but will only do so if een­vi­ron­men­tal pres­surees are ap­plied to ne­ces­si­taate such be­havi­ouours,” said re­searcher Dr Olli J Loukola.

The bees’ team colours are yel­low and black

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