Beacon Transcript – Next time you relax in a park, spare the bumblebee flying by as the latest studies have shown them to be smarter than we thought. Throughout the years, researchers have developed and run numerous test in order to determine if animals or insects are able to not only learn but also pass down information, but their results have, until now, been inconclusive.
The latest in a series of tests, bees have been the only insects to demonstrate not only a fast learning mind but also the ability to pass down the acquired knowledge.
The experiment started out with a number of 40 bees out of which 23 learned the mechanisms of the test. Their challenge was to draw on a string that would reveal the food hidden by a plastic cover. As the original group’s results were made clear, scientists introduced a new, untrained one into the testing chamber and stepped back to see the results.
The new bees were released one at a time so as to have time to observe the existing flyers. In quite an impressive feat, it was approximated that 60 percent of the newly introduced bumblebees were able to learn and replicate the trained behavior, without any prior human training.
As the final leg of the research, two separate groups were put to the test. The first one numbered among its members the string taught bees who, after being released back into the colony, showed the rest of its members the new, easy way to gather food. In contrast, the second group was left unaided, with no formerly trained bees in their midst.
As the results were gathered, it was made clear that whilst the first group, aided by their human-taught members, was fast to learn to use the plastic disk system, in the second one just 2 out of the 110 bumblebees were able to figure out and set into motion the string system.
As the tests have demonstrated, the specific high cognitive sophistication thought necessary in the handing down of specific cultural references or behavior is neither mandatory nor specific to humanity. This goes to show that the process of cultural transmission is not specific or narrowed down solely to man and that there is more to find out about the brain, be it of a human or of a bee.
So remember, spare the bumblebee buzzing around your head and abstain from killing it, you wouldn’t want its angry friends to come after you or replicate your behavior.
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