Bees can be trained to recognize human faces, so long as the insects are tricked into thinking that the faces are oddly shaped flowers, new research shows. The insects use the arrangement of facial features to recognize and distinguish one face from another.
First, the researchers used an arrangement of dots and dashes to represent the eyes, nose and mouth of the human face, and demonstrated that bees could learn to tell the difference between a face-like arrangement and a non-face-like arrangement. The bees learned to recognize the arrangement of features that makes up a face, and to associate a visit to that arrangement with a sugar reward, while non-face arrangements gave no reward.
But how robust was the bees’ ability to process the ‘face’s’ visual information? How would the bees cope with more complex faces? This time the team embedded the stick and dot faces in face-shaped photographs. Would the bees be able to learn the arrangements of the features against the backgrounds yet recognise the same stick and dot face when the face photo was removed? Amazingly the insects did, and when the team tried scrambling real faces by moving the relative positions of the eyes, nose and mouth, the bees no longer recognised the images as faces and treated them like unknown patterns.
A program by David Suzuki recently aired on CBC January 7th entitled To Bee or Not to Bee. The documentary explores various possibilities for the declining honeybee population in several countries such as industrial beekeeping, poor nutrition from monoculture pollinations, and diseases. Continue reading New Honey Bee Documentaries→
These photographs were taken by Gail Duncan on her property at Yoho Lake, New Brunswick, Canada, the last week of April 2009. Her honey bees were taking advantage of a lovely spring day to forage for pollen in the crocus blooms. (Click on each thumbnail photo if you’d like to view a larger version.)
Researchers in Australia have discovered that honeybees can count. Bees may be a long way from being able to count their own numbers of sisters in the hive, but it has been shown that they can count up to four, at any rate.
“We began by asking whether bees can learn to ‘count’ the number of landmarks that they encounter on the way to a food source,“ said Professor Mandyam Srinivasan of the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), who led the research conducted with a colleague from Sweden, Marie Dacke.
“Individually marked bees were trained to receive a reward of sugar solution after they had flown past a specific number of regularly spaced yellow stripes during their flight through a narrow tunnel.
“Depending upon the experiment, this number was one, two, three or four.
“After training, the bees were individually tested by removing the food reward, and observing their searching behaviour in the tunnel to determine which landmark they had associated most strongly with the reward during the training.” Continue reading Honey Bees can Count, Scientists Say→