On the surface, bees might not be that smart, but a new study suggests that bees might actually be able to grasp a pretty advanced subject.
What Did Researchers Discover About Honeybees?
Researchers discovered that honeybees have the ability to understand the concept of zero. Previous research indicated that bees can count some numbers.
The findings were published in a study on June 8 in the journal Science.
Very few animals understand the concept of zero. Humans can understand it, but humans' brains have 100 billion neurons. Meanwhile, bees have fewer than 1 million neurons.
How Did Researchers Determine This?
To study bees, researchers trained 10 bees with sugar water that was located under a card that had fewer symbols than the card next to it. The sugar water was a reward for the bees that correctly guessed the card with fewer symbols on it.
Over time, these bees determined what the concept of "fewer" actually means. Eventually, the researchers presented the bees with a card that had zero symbols on it. The bees correctly guessed the card with zero symbols about 60 to 70 percent of the time. They also got pretty good at determining the differences between zero and larger numbers.
The researchers also tried control experiments to rule out that bees were simply attracted to blank cards. After three years, they gathered enough data to reach their conclusions.
Future Implications Of Bees Knowing This Concept
The ability to grasp the concept of zero is very rare in the animal kingdom, but this new study proves that it might actually be more widespread than what was previously thought. With the right training and testing, it might be possible to prove if other animals have the same intellect as the bees.
"We've long believed only humans had the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown monkeys and birds have the brains for it as well," said study coauthor Adrian Dyer. "What we haven't known — until now — is whether insects can also understand zero."
Learning about how the brains of bees work can really help humans understand how our brains work. After all, young children and some ancient civilizations never grasped the concept of zero. That is why it is impressive that bees understood it.
Finally, this study can inspire other researchers in artificial intelligence because it shows how easy it is to get brains to do incredible things.