1 Tahrcountry Musings: Amazing – Bees can count

Friday, January 30, 2009

Amazing – Bees can count

Nature throws up amazing things in the process of man’s pursuit of ecological mysteries. It never ceases to surprise me. I am overawed and humbled. Here is another one to tickle you. Scientists have discovered that the honeybee can count up to three. Using dots and other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia went about finding whether the honeybees had the ability to count items in their environment. Results were amazing.

Here is how they went about it. Scientists used a Y-shaped bee maze to test their subjects. At the front entrance the bees can see a number of symbols, such as dots. A wee bit further they were presented with two different pathways. One has the same number of symbols as the first while the other shows a different number. If the bees choose the one that matches the entrance they would be rewarded with sugary water. The bees invariably plumbed for the sugary path. Even when the pattern, shape or the color of the dots was changed the bees were bang on target. At the outset the bees spent a lot of time reading the dots, but once they understood the pattern they quickly scanned the number and then zoomed in on the target. According to the scientists this is a process known as 'subitizing' i.e. means responding rapidly to a small number of items. The scientists also believe that this ability to count helps the bees in their travel of several kilometers from a hive in search of food. They are presumed to count landmarks and guide themselves back home.

Dr. Shaowu Zhang, Chief Investigator of The Vision Centre and Australian National University, led the study. The details appear in the latest issue of online journal PLoS ONE

1 comment:

Santha B Nair said...

Truly amazing Mr Mohan