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Honey bees can be trained to count to find food

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Christian Fernsby |
Honey bees
World   The team put bees into a three-pronged maze that had sweet nectar

Scientists, from RMIT University in Australia, trained the tiny creatures in around two hours, suggesting that bees have a unique cognitive ability similar, to that of humans.

The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, follows previous research last year that bees can understand the concept of zero.

The research presents another demonstration that other creatures have numerical ability hough of course not to the same extent as humans.

In the experiment, the team put bees into a three-pronged maze that had sweet nectar on one end and a bitter quinine, used to make tonic water, on the other.

They marked the individual honeybees for easy identification and lured them into the specially designed apparatus.

One group of bees were trained to match a symbol with a specific number of elements.

The second group was trained to do the opposite, matching a number of elements to a symbol.

The bees were shown these symbols or elements prior to entering the maze.

When they got inside the chamber, they were presented with these symbols or elements with the choice of two routes.

The insects then had to match the symbol to the number of elements or vice versa which resulted in entering the chamber with the nectar reward.

For example, if a bee saw the symbol for the number three outside of the maze, the bee needed to locate the room designated by a sign containing three objects, such as three stars.

If they failed, they were punished with the bitter quinine.

After around 50 trials, the bees from both groups were succeeding at finding the nectar between 80 and 90 per cent of the time.


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