Bees can count, new research


This 11 August 2017 video says about itself:

Bees can count from four to zero. Found by scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne [Australia].

They trained the insects to count shapes on a platform. The bees were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one.

They recognise a platform with no shapes as a smaller number than one with some shapes. Then when the platform had no shapes on it the bees could also understand this concept of the number zero.

From the Queen Mary University of London in England:

Bees can count with small number of nerve cells in their brains, research suggests

Insect-inspired miniature ‘brain’ simulated on a computer with just four nerve cells

December 21, 2018

Bees can solve seemingly clever counting tasks with very small numbers of nerve cells in their brains, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London.

In order to understand how bees count, the researchers simulated a very simple miniature ‘brain’ on a computer with just four nerve cells — far fewer than a real bee has.

The ‘brain’ could easily count small quantities of items when inspecting one item closely and then inspecting the next item closely and so on, which is the same way bees count. This differs from humans who glance at all the items and count them together.

In this study, published in the journal iScience, the researchers propose that this clever behaviour makes the complex task of counting much easier, allowing bees to display impressive cognitive abilities with minimal brainpower.

Previous studies have shown bees can count up to four or five items, can choose the smaller or the larger number from a group and even choose ‘zero’ against other numbers when trained to choose ‘less’.

They might have achieved this not by understanding numerical concepts, but by using specific flight movements to closely inspect items which then shape their visual input and simplifies the task to the point where it requires minimal brainpower.

This finding demonstrates that the intelligence of bees, and potentially other animals, can be mediated by very small nerve cells numbers, as long as these are wired together in the right way.

The study could also have implications for artificial intelligence because efficient autonomous robots will need to rely on robust, computationally inexpensive algorithms, and could benefit from employing insect-inspired scanning behaviours.

Lead author Dr Vera Vasas, from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Our model shows that even though counting is generally thought to require high intelligence and large brains, it can be easily done with the smallest of nerve cell circuits connected in the right manner. We suggest that using specific flight movements to scan targets, rather than numerical concepts, explains the bees’ ability to count. This scanning streamlines the visual input and means a task like counting requires little brainpower.

“Careful examination of the actual inspection strategies used by animals might reveal that they often employ active scanning behaviours as shortcuts to simplify complex visual pattern discrimination tasks. Hopefully, our work will inspire others to look more closely not just at what cognitive tasks animals can solve, but also at how they are solving them.”

Brain size matters a lot when it comes to bees. They have only one million nerve cells in total, so they have precious little brainpower, and must implement very efficient computational algorithms to solve tasks. In comparison, humans have 86 billion nerve cells which are responsible for receiving information and sending commands.

To model the input to the brain, the authors analysed the point of view of a bee as it flies close to the countable objects and inspects them one-by-one.

The results showed the simulated brain was able to make reliable estimates on the number of items on display when provided with the actual visual input that the bee is receiving while carrying out the task.

Professor Lars Chittka, also from Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team in which the study was performed, added: “These findings add to the growing body of work showing that seemingly intelligent behaviour does not require large brains, but can be underpinned with small neural circuits that can easily be accommodated into the microcomputer that is the insect brain.”

Researchers set out to test whether bees could do math, building on a groundbreaking finding that bees understand the concept of zero. The new study shows bees can be taught to recognize colors as symbolic representations for addition and subtraction, and use this information to solve arithmetic problems. The revelation that even the miniature brain of a honeybee can grasp basic mathematical operations has implications for the future development of AI: here.

2 thoughts on “Bees can count, new research

  1. Pingback: Honeybees, more intelligent than thought | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Honeybees can count to six | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.