The waggle dance isn’t the only way honey bees find resources. This is a new understanding for scientists (in the last 30 years or so).
Part of the equation is that honey bees have a better understanding of flowers than any plant ecologist which translates to foraging efficiency. This is important as efficiency = living through winter.
In fact, we’re learning a lot from honey bees:
- color vision- first animals to have documented color vision
- structure- ants and bees most complex social structures that exist
- genetics– have to produce three different kinds of bees with the same genetics
- dances– communication and several types of dances
- human facial recognition- they have the ability to recognise human faces- scientists thought was impossible for many years!
- sustainable air conditioning and heating- what can we learn from them?
To learn more we conduct brain research of honey bee minds. In this case we’re not looking at their neurons but cognition- investigation of the mind of a bee…
How many places do they know, what types of info do they know, how it this info linked together and how can we find out?
A bee seems to have mental maps of multiple locations in space, similar to how you know your house with the lights off. Think about that. Just like you can usually find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a bee has a similar mental map of their surroundings. This helps to explain why moving them can be difficult!
But how do researchers learn this? Field work research!
First the researchers trained bees to feed at multiple locations. They trained the bees to go to a specific place. And then they analyze the decision making as they go from one location to another and measure their departure directions.
The difference when they know food can be found at another place is obvious. When they aren’t sure about a new place they will simply keep looking around the same area wondering where their food is (like looking for your keys in the same place over and over again). If there’s another option they basically check out the place without food and head directly to the other source. In other words, “I usually put my keys here but sometimes I put them over there… the keys aren’t here, let’s check out over there”.
The bees don’t just go around randomly looking for their “keys”, they start at the places they know already.
Our next post will focus on other things bees know, how they know it and a few other fun facts.