(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.”
(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.
(University of Cologne) Zoologists from the University of Cologne have demonstrated that honey bees have the cognitive abilities to perform so called numerosity estimation, allowing them to solve simple mathematical problems using just a single neuron. This could provide a newer, simpler model for machine learning.
(ABC) Humans are one of very few animals known to be able to recognize objects across senses. This ability exists at least partly because we are able to imagine the object in our brain. Researchers from the U.K. and Australia now report they have evidence that bumble bees can also create mental imagery.
(Financial Times) The researchers are carrying out different experiments to “reverse engineer” bee brains with the goal of designing navigational software for future drones. Bees optimize the distances flown from one point to another. Bee brains can multitask, adapt to new scenarios and learn very fast.
(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.
(Forbes) Do animals have sentience? Do they have a point of view? Can they look out at the blue sky, the flowers, and perceive the objects around them? Can they feel pleasure or pain? An Associate Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science hopes to use bees to answer such questions.
(The Conversation) Bees’ ability to learn number discrimination depends not just on their innate abilities, but also on the risks and rewards offered for doing so. In a structured experiment, honey bees that received feedback for both correct and incorrect responses successfully learned to discriminate between four and higher numbers; bees that only received feedback for correct answers did not show the same success.