Michal Paszkiewicz

intelligent bees

In an exciting new study, Sylvain Alem and Clint J. Perry from the Chittka Lab at Queen Mary University (London) have shown that bees can be trained to pull string.

The bees were trained by placing a strung disc with nectar partially under a cover. The bees would feed from it and the disc would subsequently be pushed a bit further under the cover. The bees eventually learned that pulling the disc out helped them with their task. Even though the coloured disc seemed to help to train the bees, some managed to pull strings not attached to a disc.

Not only did the bees learn to pull the string by themselves, they also taught their fellow bees how to do it.

This study comes at an important time for bees, who have been dying out. The UK had over 50 native species of bees in the 1950s, but now there are only 25. Bees are possibly our most useful insect, since they not only make great pollinators (and therefore increase the yield of crops), but they produce honey, wax, propolis, antibiotics and bee bread (which you can also eat). Could bees be taught more tricks that could revive interest in them and therefore help us keep them alive?

published: Fri Oct 07 2016

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Michal Paszkiewicz reads books, solves equations and plays instruments whenever he isn't developing software for Transport For London. All views on this site are the author's views only and do not necessarily represent the views of TfL.