These Insects Know How To Count!

Research Shows Bees Can Count

Research Shows Bees Can Count

( – When most people think of bees, they think of honey and pollination. Yet, the insects present human tendencies, at least in one very surprising way. A recent study delved into whether the insects followed the same organization patterns as humans and other primates. The results were quite revealing.

The “mental number line,” or organizing items in a line in size order from small to large, has long been an area of research. In Western culture, the line goes from left to right. It’s the same direction we read. However, in Eastern cultures, such as Arabic, where people read right to left, the mental number line changes to fit this pattern. Many experts believe it’s an innate ability, something we do from a young age before we even learn to count. To this effect, researchers wanted to find out if the same held true for insects.

Researchers conducted a study involving a wooden box and pictures showcasing a specific number of items — one, three, or five — because previous experiments have proven bees can count to five. They used sugar water as an attractant to entice the flying insects to an image showing one of the three numbers.

When experimenters removed the attractant and offered passages on either side of the image, 80% of the bees flew into the left hole when offered a picture with a smaller number of items than their trained targets, and they flew to the right when offered a larger number. Experts say this proves the hive insects count from left to right.

Martin Giurfa, an animal research professor at Paul Sabatier University in France, when speaking to Agence France-Presse, then posited that it may be an innate behavior, but it’s certainly something that bees can learn to do in the opposite pattern, and “culture can modify it.”

Does it surprise you that bees can count and learn to place things according to mental number lines?

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