Jun 25, 2019 | Updated: 07:39 AM EDT

Intelligent Bumblebee Is The First Insect To Learn Skills From One Another

Feb 24, 2017 05:34 PM EST

Bumble bee sticking its toungue out
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons/Katja Schulz) Heritage Island, Anacostia River, Washington, DC, USA. 30 June 2012.

A recent study on bumblebees concludes that an insect's tiny brain is capable of learning complex things. Bumblebees, one of the creatures having a very small brain size demonstrated its learning capabilities by executing a goal.

According to Cnet, in a new research done by a team at Queen Mary University in London, the bumblebees were seen achieving this incredible feat. In the past, bumblebees have shown the ability to solve problem sets that were part of their normal behavior, but this time the researchers explored the cognitive limits of bumblebees by involving a non-natural object in the task likely to have never been encountered by any individual in the bumblebees' history of evolution.

For the experiment, the bees were divided into three groups that were made to learn to move a ball the farthest, precisely to a small hole or "goal" in the center of a field. The first group observed one of the bumblebees that had previously been trained to move the ball with a dummy demonstrator, receive a reward in the form of food. The second group was trained by a "ghost", a magnet that moved the ball to the goal. The third group did not receive any demonstration of the task, as the ball was already set up in the goal, with a reward, and the bees had to understand that the ball in the center meant getting a reward.

According to Abc News, the researchers saw that group of bumblebees trained by another bumblebee succeeded in not only fetching the farthest ball but also in selecting the ball closest to the hole, thus cutting the extra amount of workload. The group trained by a bumblebee was far more successful than the groups trained by a hidden magnet and the ones not getting any training.

The observations stated that the observer bumblebees were not only copying the behavior of their trainer but also trying to improve on it. This goal-directed behavior of a bumblebee shows a fine amount of cognitive flexibility, especially for an insect.

The experiment shows that how bumblebees fare in complex situations help them to survive constantly changing environments. However, rapid climate change, habitat loss and the use of pesticides prove to be too much, even for the cleverest bumblebees.

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