New research demonstrates the power of bumblebees’ brains

Showing the unprecedented power of insect brains, a team of researchers successfully made a few bumblebees to push a ball to the middle of a platform for a sugary treat.

Bumblebee researchers in the laboratory of Lars Chittka in London recently showed in their research that bees could learn to pull a string in exchange of a treat of sugar water.

In the new experiment, Olli J. Loukola and Dr. Perry trained bumblebees to do something more by making them to push a little ball to a platform’s center. It was completely arbitrary because bees do not do anything like this in nature. Thus, it was a totally new behavior for the bees, demanding some type of general ability to learn.

Vivek Jayaraman, a researcher at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said, “I won’t capitalize the C yet, but it’s cognition in some form … They are capable of doing remarkable things.”

Clint Perry, a bumblebee trainer at Queen Mary University of London, said the new research showed small size of insects’ brains doesn’t mean that they are simple.

The researchers reported their experiment in the Thursday (Feb. 24th) edition of the journal Science.