Bee Cause…! October ?

LV Blog Bumblebee Oct. 2016 Bee Cause FF

Bee Cause…! October ?

‘Big-Brained’ Bumblebees Access Tools!

Bumblebees may have small brains, but there’s significantly more happening beneath those exoskeletons than previously thought. Over the last decade bumblebees have proven themselves to be quite remarkable little beings with complex navigational and communication skills, emotions, and even facial recognition.

Now a study at Queen Mary University of London has successfully challenged the long held notion that only ‘large-brained’ beings can maneuver with tools. Cognitive scientist Lars Chittka and his team found that bumblebees could solve tasks and use tools to gain access to nectar. But better yet, they’ve shown bumblebees can learn this task from other bees and hive mates, without ever experiencing these tasks in nature.

Bees watched the research bees perform tasks and get rewarded with nectar through a clear piece of Plexiglas. More than 60% of the observing bees correctly performed the tasks when their turn presented. Most importantly, even after the trained bee died, knowledge of the task continued to spread within the colony’s younger worker bees. This single act meets the requirement of a ‘culture’, which is usually reserved for larger, ‘big brained’ beings such as apes.

Ivo Jacobs, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden commented; “The fact that bumblebees could learn to do so shows their unexpected behavioral flexibility...”

This level of mental flexibility could help bumblebees across the globe respond quickly to emerging problems within their environment. Displaying an innovative thought process is critical in addressing issues such as human-caused environmental changes. For example, the loss of familiar flowering native plants due to the introduction of crops or other new food sources.

Thank you to Chittka and his team for their dedication to better understanding the complex nature of bumblebee culture. Stay calm and buzz on!!!


*Photo by Pixabay

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