Bumblebees Prove Small-Brained Animals Have Learning Abilities

First Posted: Feb 27, 2017 04:20 AM EST

Anyone who has ever watched the out-of-this-world kind of weirdness that is the Bee Movie would think that bees are intelligent creatures in their own right. But they cannot exactly pull off that kind of society. Although it may not actually look like that, it seems that new studies reveal bees to be more intelligent than the bumbling little insects people think them to be.

In a New Scientist article, it was revealed that bees do have the ability to learn and were able to pull a string to reach an artificial flower with sugar solution. As bees sometimes do pull parts of flowers to access nectar, this type of behavior is not too different from their normal lives. Asking bees to control string may seem like a complex task, but it does show that bees have a deeper level of learning than expected.

In the groups of bees studied, author Olli Loukola of Queen Mary University in London noted that bees do not just blindly copy demonstrators of problem-solving but they also have the ability to find a better solution to problems faced. The study published on Science Magazine led him to believe that this is essential in helping the small creatures forage successfully in different environments. "This ability to copy others and improve upon what they observe, I think that's really important," Loukola shared.

For the most part, humans believed that smaller-brained animals are less intelligent. However, the latest study on bees proved otherwise. "Our study shows it's not true that small brains are not capable of this kind of cognitive flexibility," Loukola further shared.

The cognitive abilities of bees are an area of interest to researchers who looking into artificial intelligence. Some of whom are building computer models of brains to help them understand how complex behaviors in animals are created.

However, at this point, Erik Sovik from Volda University College in Norway noted that humans, so far, have not been very good at designing experiments that can give them a closer look at insect cognition. It is difficult to wrap our heads around their way of experiencing the world.

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