Rule Animal Animal Honey Bees Can Learn Recollect Think and Go with Choices

Honey Bees Can Learn Recollect Think and Go with Choices

When the trees and flowers bloom in the spring, the bees emerge from their winter nests and burrows. For many species, it’s time to mate, and some will create new isolated nests or colonies.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to human society. They provide about a third of the food we eat, a service with an estimated global value of billion a year.

But bees are interesting in many other, less well-known ways. In my new book, “What a bee knows: exploring the thoughts, memories and personalities of bees”, I draw on my almost 50 years of experience with bees to explore how these creatures perceive the world and their incredible abilities to navigate, learn, communicate and remember. Here is some of what I learned.

It’s not just about hives and honey

Since people are widely familiar with honey bees, many assume that all bees are social and live in hives or colonies with a queen. In fact, only about 10% of bees are social and most species do not make honey.

Most bees lead a solitary lifestyle, digging nests in the ground or finding leaved beetle burrows in dead wood to call them home. Some bees are Kleptoparasites that sneak into unoccupied nests to lay eggs, just as cowherds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave ignorant adoptive parents to raise their chicks.

Some species of tropical bees known as vulture bees survive by eating carrion. Their intestines contain acidophilic bacteria that allow bees to digest rotting meat.

Busy Brains

For a bee, the world is very different from that of a person, but the perceptions of bees are not simple. Bees are intelligent animals that are likely to feel pain, remember patterns and smells and even recognize human faces. You can solve mazes and other problems and use simple tools.

Research shows that bees are self-confident and may even have a primitive form of consciousness. During the six to 10 hours that the bees sleep every day, the memories are consolidated in their incredible brains — organs the size of a poppy containing 1 Million nerve cells. There is evidence that bees could even dream. That’s what I’d like to think.

A foreign sensory world

Bees’ sensory experience with the world is very different from ours. For example, people see the world through the basic colors of red, green and sapphire. The primary colors for bees are green, sapphire and ultraviolet.

The vision of bees is 60 times less clear than that of humans: a flying bee cannot see the details of a flower until it is about 10 inches away. However, bees can see hidden ultraviolet floral patterns that are invisible to us, and these patterns guide the bees to the nectar of the flowers.

Bees can also detect flowers by detecting color changes at a distance. When people watch movies projected at 24 frames per second, the individual images seem to fade in motion. This phenomenon, called flicker fusion frequency, shows how our visual systems are capable of solving moving images. Bees have a much higher flicker fusion frequency — they would have to read the Film 10 times faster so that it looks like a blur to them-so that they could fly over a flowering meadow and see bright spots of floral color that would not be visible to humans.

From afar, bees recognize flowers by scent. A bee’s sense of smell is 100 times more sensitive than ours. Scientists used bees to detect cancer and diabetes-related chemicals in patients’ breath and detect the presence of explosives.

The bees’ sense of touch is also highly developed: they can feel tiny ridges resembling fingerprints on the petals of some flowers. Bees are almost deaf to most air sounds, unless they are very close to the source, but are sensitive when standing on a vibrating surface.

Problem solvers

Bees can navigate labyrinths as well as mice, and studies show that they are aware of their body measurements. For example, when large bumblebees were trained to fly, then to cross a slit in a board to feed on the other side, the bees would turn their body to the side and put it in their legs.

The experiments of Canadian researchers Peter Kevan and Lars Chittka in England have shown remarkable feats of bee learning. The bumblebees were trained to pull on a string — that is, to use a tool-connected to a plastic disc with hidden get-downs filled with sugar water. They could see the sugar wells, but could only get the reward by pulling the string until the disc was exposed.

Other worker bees were placed in a sieve cage nearby, where they could see what their trained hive mates were doing. Once released, this second group also pulled the strings of the sweet treats. This study showed what scientists call social learning – acting in a way that reflects the behavior of others.

Dusting with vibrations

Even pollination, one of the best known behaviors of bees, can be much more complicated than it seems.

The basic process is similar for all types of bees: females carry pollen grains, the gender cells of plants, from flower to flower on their bodies, while collecting Pollen and nectar to feed themselves and their developing larvae. When the Pollen comes off on the stigma of a flower, the result is pollination.

My favorite area of bee research is studying a method called summary pollination. Bees use it on about 10% of the 350,000 species of flowering plants in the world that have special anthers — structures that produce Pollen.

For example, the five anthers of a tomato flower are pressed together, like the closed fingers of one hand. The Pollen is released through one or two small pores at the end of each anther.

When a female bumblebee lands on a tomato flower, she bites an anther in the center, contracting her flight muscles 100 to 400 times per second. These strong vibrations expel the Pollen from the pores of the anther in the form of a cloud that hits the bee. Everything happens in a few tenths of a second.

The bee hangs on one leg and scrapes Pollen in “basket” structures on its hind legs. Then she repeats the buzzing on the remaining anthers before moving on to different flowers.

Bees also use total pollination on the flowers of blueberries, cranberries, eggplants and Kiwis. My colleagues and I are conducting experiments to determine the biomechanics of how the vibrations of bees expel Pollen from the anthers.

Plants for bees

Many bee species are in decline around the world, thanks to stresses such as pests, pesticides and habitat loss.

Whether you have an apartment window box or several acres of land, there are a few simple things you can do to help bees.

Plant native wildflowers first so that the flowers are available at any time of the year. Secondly, try to avoid using insecticides or herbicides. Thirdly, they provide an open ground where burrowing bees can nest. With any luck, you will soon have new buzzing neighbors.

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