Bees are pretty good at maths – as far as insects go, at least. We already know, for example, that they can count up to four and even understand the concept of zero. But in a new study, published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology, we show honeybees can also understand numbers higher than four – as long as we provide feedback for both correct and incorrect responses as they learn.
In a palace intrigue worthy of George R R Martin, a new study has shown that some bee workers are queenslayers who will rise up and kill their queen if she produces the wrong sort of male offspring. The throne can then be seized by one of her daughters, who will produce the right kind of male heirs – ensuring the survival of the bloodline.
In the summer of 2011, panic gripped a small community in Gatineau, Quebec. Hundreds of small, striped insects were buzzing around a children’s playground. The playground was evacuated and entomologists were called in to establish whether or not the animals were dangerous. The answer was no, but it is easy to see why local residents were concerned. The animals that had taken up residence in the playground were hoverflies, a family of harmless fly species that have built up quite an arsenal of tricks to convince would-be predators that they are dangerous.
An exciting attempt to help honey bees has come about thanks to an unlikely intellectual marriage. One of us is an ecologist who wants to keep an eye on individual bees over their entire two to three-mile range and monitor their behaviour. The other is an expert in micro-electronics. Together, we want to develop miniature bee “backpacks” that will power tracking devices by harvesting the energy honey bees generate while flying and visiting flowers.