How animals understand numbers influences their chance of survival

Image of shapes for counting.

(EurekAlert/Cell Press) From birds to bees and wolves to frogs, animals use numbers to hunt, find a mate, return to their home, and more. Honey bees, for example, can remember the number of landmarks they pass when searching for food in order to find their way back to the hive. “The last common ancestor between honey bees and us primates lived about 600 million years ago. But still, they evolved numerical competence that, in many respects, is comparable to vertebrae numerical competence.”

Common bee virus causes bees to forage prematurely

Image of honey bees with egg cells.

(University of Minnesota) A new study from the University of Minnesota found that deformed wing virus causes a honey bee’s brain to function as though the bee is older than it is. This often leads infected bees to forage prematurely, which can cause diminished spatial memory and colony failure. Additionally, these infected foragers may be more likely to spread the virus to neighboring colonies because of their disoriented state.

Smart single mother bees learn from their neighbors

Image of artificial nests for bees.

(Queen Mary University of London) A new study found that solitary female bees looked for signs of parasite infection in other species’ nests and used this information to select a safe place to bring up their own brood. The scientists found these species were surprisingly intelligent in their observations and able to notice other cues of parasite infection in the surrounding environment. For example, they were able to remember geometric symbols found next to parasitized nests, and avoid nests near these symbols in future breeding periods.