[ExI] Bees are clever!

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Apr 21 11:31:38 UTC 2015

Two articles about bee cognition.

bees are capable of learning which flowers offer good nectar rewards
based on floral features such as colour, smell, shape, texture,
pattern, temperature and electric charge. They do this through
associative learning: learning that a 'conditioned stimulus' (for
example, the colour yellow) is associated with an 'unconditioned
stimulus' (nectar). Learning simple associations like these is the
basis of all learning - pretty much all animals do it, from humans to
the sea slug which doesn't even have a brain.

Instead a bee might have to learn 'blue flowers have better nectar
than yellow flowers, but only in the morning' or 'this particular
species of blue flower which also has a specific smell has better
nectar than yellow flowers, but another species of blue flower has
worse nectar'.
Honeybees can indeed learn more complex relationships like this.

However, honeybees' and bumblebees' cognitive abilities go beyond
these examples of simply learning about their worlds, be it under a
number of complex conditions. One excellent study showed that bees
could actually form abstract concepts about their world. Having an
abstract concept is the ability to understand a general fact about the
way things are and to being able to generalise that fact to new
situations you might encounter, as opposed to learning relationships
that only hold in one particular situation.
(Complex experiment then described).

Pretty good for such a tiny processor.  :)


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