Bees are awesome. Full stop. Yet here’s more reasons to marvel at our bewinged friends: despite their tiny little brains, they can adapt their behavior, make use of “tools”, and solve more complex problems than we humans originally thought. All with the help of fellow bees or puppets.
Yes, you heard right. Puppets!
In findings recently published in Science, cognitive scientist Clint Perry demonstrated that bees could learn to roll a ball to a designated location in order to receive a delicious reward of sugar water. And if they couldn’t work it out themselves?
If a bee couldn’t figure out how to get the reward, a researcher would demonstrate using a puppet — a plastic bee on the end of a stick — to scoot the ball from the edge of the platform to the center.
“Bees that saw this demonstration learned very quickly how to solve the task. They started rolling the ball into the center; they got better over time,” says Perry.
What’s more, bees watching their cohorts receive these rewards would then adapt their behavior and find ways to get that sweet sugar water faster and more efficiently.
“It wasn’t monkey see, monkey do. They improved on the strategy that they saw,” says Perry. “This all shows an unprecedented level of cognitive flexibility, especially for a miniature brain.”
Click HERE to read or listen to NPR’s story on these smarty bees. They even suggest bees could learn to fetch!