The intelligence, memory and planning capabilities, and emotions of Bumblebees

An interesting piece in Fast Company offers an overview of the history on animal cognition research of bees.  Featured is a new study in which researchers taught bumblebees to score goals for food.  Also highlighted is research on their planning and memory capabilities, as well as the emotional world of bees…

Bumblebees score goals for food

Click here to watch the video.


In a recent study of tool use among bumblebees, the insects were required to transport a small ball to a defined location to receive a sugar reward. The bees used social learning to solve the task by watching skilled demonstrator bees: they observed that they could move one of three possible balls (the furthest one from the center) into the central reward area to obtain the reward. When later tested on their own, the observer bees did not choose the furthest ball from the center, but its closest one. They did this even when the closest ball was colored black instead of the yellow they’d been trained on. Importantly, observers had no prior experience with rolling the balls themselves (that is, no opportunity for trial-and-error learning). These results indicated that instead of simply ‘aping’ a learned technique, bumblebees spontaneously improved on the strategy used by their instructor – suggesting that they had an appreciation of the outcome of their actions (‘ball in goal’).


Go here to read the entire piece.

This article was originally published on Aeon


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