Clever Insect: Honeybees Can Understand Numerical Concept, Reveals New Study
In a significant discovery, scientists have found that bees are capable of associating symbols with the numbers they represent. The study has revealed that if trained, bees can understand the numerical symbols. This makes them the first insect to understand the concept of numerical concept.
Since last year, bees have been in the elite club of smart animals after researchers learned that bees could understand basic numbers, including the semi-abstract concept of zero. This year in the month of February, researchers also found that bees are capable of doing basic arithmetic. The new findings published in journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. on June 5 shed new light on the aptitude of these hardworking honey-making insects.
As of now, only humans were the only species that grasped the entire symbolic system to represent numbers, although species with small brains can learn these systems and understand the mathematical symbols. Apart from bees, other animals that were capable of associating symbols with numbers are – monkeys, pigeons, parrots, and chimpanzees.
Andrew G. Dyer, who is an assistant professor at RMIT University, and the author of the Study explained that the skill to learn numbers and their corresponding symbols requires a high level of cognitive ability, which the humans take for granted.
Dyer also pointed out humans have 86 billion neurons in the brain, whereas bees have less than a million neurons. Humans and bees are separated by over 600 million years of evolution. He said, “If bees have the capacity to learn something as complex as a human-made symbolic language, this opens up exciting new pathways for future communication across species.”
What was the study?
For the experiment, researchers placed 20 bees in a Y-shaped maze where they were trained individually to match a character with several elements. Later on, they were tested to know whether they could apply their acquired knowledge to match the character to various elements of the same quantity. Another group of bees were made to match a number of elements with the correct character instead.
Though both groups completed their tasks but failed when their roles were swapped. Dr Scarlett Howard, who experimented the bees, said, “This suggests that number processing and understanding of symbols happens in different regions in bee brains, similar to the way separate processing happens in the human brain.”