Saturday, May 20, 2023

Bumblebees show their intelligence by rolling balls and pulling strings for World Bee Day

Happy World Bee Day! Since honeybees have their own day, I'm looking at the other well-known group of social bees today, bumblebees. In particular, I'm examining their more fun behaviors as indicators of their intelligence, beginning with SciShow's Bumblebees Play ... And it's Adorable.

There’s just about nothing better than watching a kitty play with a ball of yarn, but there’s another unexpected animal that enjoys playtime, too! And certain birds appear to have the abilities of self-control!
The last year I took classes for my M.S. degree, I enrolled in both mammalogy and ornithology. One of the things that struck me after taking both classes was that mammals played a lot but birds played a lot less. The textbooks reflected this disparity, with pages and pages devoted to play in the mammalogy text, but maybe half a page in the ornithology text. The same professor taught both courses and I asked him about it and he said that the books accurately reflected the two classes' behavior, with the mammals playing more because they were more intelligent. Birds don't have to be as bright as long as the best solution to a problem is to fly away. No surprise that the most playful birds are the corvids, the same birds the video examined for their intelligence.

What does this have to do with play in bees? I found bees being bright enough to play a good argument in favor of them being brighter than I expected. However, I should have known better, as scientists have been studying intelligence in bumblebees for years. Follow over the jump for three more videos of bumblebees demonstrating their problem-solving skills from six years ago.

Science Magazine described what looks like a precursor to the experiments and finding described in the first video in Bees have more brains than we bargained for.

Bumble bees show an unexpected level of cognitive flexibility when it comes to solving problems in exchange for sugar water.
Those are some smart bees!

Bees not only engage in spontaneous play, they can be trained to play games, as Discovery Canada shows in Bees learn how to play soccer | Daily Planet.

Using the power of reward a scientist teaches bees how to play a game of soccer.
Men playing soccer? Meh. Women playing soccer? Yeah. Bees playing soccer? Yay!

National Geographic examined a different kind of experiment in How to Train a Bumblebee: Scientists Study Insect Intelligence.

Bumblebees can transmit learned skills to each other, a new study shows.
After watching these videos, I'm officially impressed with bee learning and intelligence.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment feature, which should be an update on Disney suing DeSantis.


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