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Scientists teach bumble bees to roll a ball


Posted on Friday, 24 February, 2017 | Comment icon 13 comments

Bees are adept at problem solving. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Mark Winterbourne
A new experiment has revealed for the first time just how remarkably innovative bees can actually be.
The study, which was carried out by behavioral ecologist Olli Loukola and colleagues at Queen Mary University of London, involved having the bees solve complex problems to receive a sugar reward.

Previous research had shown that bees were capable of adapting their natural behavior to solve a problem such as pulling a piece of string, so in this case the scientists wanted to see if the insects could learn to do something completely alien to them - a task that they would never do in the wild.

To this end, the researchers produced a simple puzzle that required the bees to roll a small yellow ball in to a circle in order to receive a reward.

Incredibly, the bees picked up the basics of the task straight away and proved highly effective at rolling the ball to the target circle. On top of that, the insects even came up with their own more efficient way of solving the problem by pushing the ball backwards rather than forwards.

When the researchers changed the color of the ball the bees still pushed it in to the circle, thus indicating that they understood the fundamental principle of what they had to do.

"It suggests that bees may be able to respond quickly to novel problems that arise in their environment," said evolutionary biologist Daniel Papaj from the University of Arizona.


Source: Science Magazine | Comments (13)

Tags: Bees

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Dark_Grey on 23 February, 2017, 20:43
We buy our honey from a local bee-raiser. It's fascinating hobby I would love to try one day, backyard/neighbors willing!
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer on 24 February, 2017, 12:52
That's fascinating and all, but would time be better spent on determining why the "free-range" honey and bumble bees are dying off?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Nnicolette on 24 February, 2017, 14:58
Pesticides
Comment icon #7 Posted by Mr.United_Nations on 24 February, 2017, 15:03
Alien bees, chemicals and cimate change
Comment icon #8 Posted by Eldorado on 24 February, 2017, 17:38
I hope some are Scottish. Our national socceroo team could be doing wth replacing our bungling Bs with these bumble ones.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Likely Guy on 24 February, 2017, 18:34
You just have to figure out a way to put those tiny little jerseys on them.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Eldorado on 24 February, 2017, 18:35
As they fly down the wing. lol We could just change our national jersey from blue to black with orange stripes! I doubt our WASPs would mind.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Parsec on 24 February, 2017, 20:09
That is so supercool, nature never cease to wonder.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Ashyne on 25 February, 2017, 0:24
See the experiment they are just following a linear path set for them by use of obstacle borders. If there is no border then i want to know how capable they are in doing same task.
Comment icon #13 Posted by SlayWithTheTruth on 26 February, 2017, 17:36
Wow, that's awesome! I just watched a video of a bee rolling a ball.


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