A new study carried out on 14 honeybees demonstrates that they are far smarter than we give them credit for and are actually capable of doing the math. The research has been published in Science Advances. It was carried out by a team of Australian researchers that were being led by RMIT University professor Scarlett R. Howard.
The team provided the honeybees with a set of problems. The series of 100 tests relied on color coding where the blue color represented addition and yellow color denoted subtraction. The bees were placed in a Y-shaped decision tree maze. The maze had been baited with sugar for right answers and quinine for wrong answers.
According to the paper, ‘After entering the Y-maze, bees would be in the initial chamber where they could view the sample number. To solve the task, the bees were required to either add or subtract the value of one to this sample number depending on the color of the elements.’
Each test features a different number of blue or yellow lights. The bees had to opt between blue and yellow puzzles. For instance, if they were at a blue light; they had to choose the lesser value to get it right, and at the yellow light they had to select the greater value. The findings of the study concluded that the bees were able to understand that they had to choose between the greater or lesser value based on the color of the light in a way that has been termed as ‘significantly different from chance.’
The study also pointed out the sort of thinking that is required for bees to make these decisions. They must understand the idea of less as opposed to more via symbolic representation. That’s not all though; they would have to retain the memory of the symbols upon repetition of the test. The researchers have concluded that this way of thinking helps the bees to identify and retain the knowledge of the best flowers.
The paper has also pointed out that this is not the first time that bees have demonstrated signs of complex intelligence. They are also known to possess a spatial awareness of direction, similarity, and size. Furthermore, they are also known for their demonstration of skills including counting.