Animal intelligence is a thorny area. Researchers do not even like to use the word “intelligence”, preferring to discuss specific behaviors and abilities, rather than the mind as a whole. However, with bees, it is more interesting.
Animal knowledge research tends to focus on human behavior. Partly because it is interesting to us humans, and partly because such behavior is easier to understand.
Some abilities that we do not have – for example, a magnetic field, echolocation – are not necessarily considered by us as signs of intelligence. Because of this, the mind of animals that are very different from us, as a rule, is not rated highly. But the intelligence of bees, oddly enough, people appreciated. New studies from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT, Austria) show that bees are smarter than they ever imagined.
They understand what zero is.
Honey bees exhibit many behaviors that people consider to be “the mind.” Including many of these models are unusual or highly developed. They have a symbolic language or “dance” – movements that convey the distance, direction, and quality of the sources of nectar. They can observe and simulate behavior. Also, the bees demonstrated the ability to count (it seems they understand the numbers).
Previous studies have shown that bees can count. This was done by rewarding bees for stopping, say, in the fourth series of landmarks. Bees were able to do this even when the length between the landmarks and the type of landmark changed. But a new study reveals something even more theoretical: the bees seem to understand the mathematical concept of scratch.
It turns out it’s hard
The concept of zero may seem simple, but in fact, it is quite complex. Researchers who study zero often describe a phased understanding of the concept.
At the first stage, it simply means absence: zero is when there is nothing. The second stage is an understanding of zero compared to non-zero. That is, it is “nothing”, but it remains so even in comparison with something else. The third stage is zero in numerical form: you count the opposite of five and after unity – something else – zero. The final stage is a graphical representation of zero and its use for mathematics.
Bees show a very good understanding of the third stage. Researchers found this by rewarding bees for choosing an image with the least amount of black dots: sometimes it would be two, or one, or three. But even when zero is represented by a blank image – no dots at all – the bees still recognized that it was part of the numerical drawing shown earlier, and chose it. Very few animals have demonstrated the ability to fully understand this concept. So far, only a few primates and the African Gray Parrot have been able to pass this test.
Even people did not always understand the concept of zero. The oldest document showing zero dates back to the third or fourth century. Although other data indicate that various peoples around the world understood this several hundred years before.
The bees are amazingly smart!