Tuesday, March 14, 2023


I read this and it's completely blown my mind: Bees learn to dance and to solve puzzles from their peers.

A few excerpts before we discuss:
For the bees, the Chittka lab designed puzzle boxes that could be opened by rotating a clear lid, either by pushing clockwise on a red tab or counter-clockwise on a blue tab. This would let the bees collect a tasty reward of 50 percent sucrose solution...

A demonstrator bee was trained to perform one of the two solution behaviors and then added to a group of untrained bees. All bees were allowed to forage freely among the puzzle boxes, and their behavior was monitored to see if the demonstrator bee repeatedly "solving" the puzzle box resulted in that behavior spreading through the rest of the group. There were also control groups with no demonstrator bees...

Foraging bees in colonies that had demonstrator bees opened far more puzzle boxes than the control bees, and they used the solution they had been "taught" 98 percent of the time, suggesting they had learned the behavior socially.

So bees (bees!) have the ability to learn problem solving socially. Bumblebees, in this case. And social learning is a distinguishing characteristic of culture. 

Remember when we thought animals were stupid? Then it turned out we were so, so wrong about many of them. Then we thought insects were stupid. Wrong again. 

Also, there were a few bees who found the solution in colonies with no demonstrator bee. These bold souls were called "spontaneous learners," and if a single bee can be a badass, I feel like spontaneous learner bees should qualify. 

It's already been determined that one of the behaviors bees engage in is play. This also shocked me when I first read about it, but it led to more questions, as this new article does. What I want to know is does the behavior of bees change according to their age? Honeybees only live 30-60 days, and bumblebees only make it four weeks (they only sign up for 24-hour subscriptions on Bumble, and I'll show myself out, thanks). 

Do bees continue to learn even as they enter the last third of their life? Do they still engage in play? And how do those averages contrast with how we handle the last third of our lives?

There's no reason I'm asking these questions, of course. None at all. 

Site Meter