Category Archives: Apis mellifera

Science and photography, facts and fiction: learn more about honey bees.

Bees Can Learn to Recognize Faces

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.

Bees recognize human faces using feature configuration. ScienceDaily.

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.

Bees Recognise Faces Using Feature Configuration by Kathryn Knight
Journal of Experimental Biology 213, i (2010)

Video: Honey Bees Fighting Varroa Mites and Bee Louse

This video, Bees fighting varroa and braula coeca, was made by Ivan Brndušic, an electronics technician (from a long line of beekeepers on his mother’s side) who lives, works, and watches honey bees in the town of Bor, Serbia. When you see the bees’ attempts to remove the pests, it makes it very clear why hygienic grooming behaviour is a desireable trait for breeding in honey bees!
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Honey Bees can Count, Scientists Say

A woman looks at observation hive of honey bees. 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.”
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