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Can Honeybees Count?

If you were asked what a honeybee’s top skills were, math probably wouldn’t be your first answer. We associate honeybees with executing pollination, which in turn provides us with delicious golden honey. But what if we told you that in the midst of their day to day (or rather flower to flower) operations, that bees actually possessed the brainpower to be able to count?

It all started when Australian and French researchers uncovered the honeybees understood the value of number zero. Shortly after that discovery, the question was posed, do bees have enough understanding of numbers, to be able to comprehend basic arithmetic?

“Solving math problems requires a sophisticated level of cognition, involving the complex mental management of numbers, long-term rules and short term working memory. “ Researchers from RMIT University (in Melbourne, Australia) recently conducted a study which proves that bees can be trained to recognize colors as symbolic representations of addition and subtraction, and can use that knowledge to carry out basic arithmetic problems.

This type of problem solving is impressive because requires two levels of processing. The first level involves the honeybee recalling how formulas work, which exercises it’s long term memory. The second is that they then have to apply the recalled formula to a set of values (this is done utilizing their short term memory). Researchers comment, "Our findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be found much more widely in nature among non-human animals than previously suspected. “

To dive into greater detail on this study, or to hear about how these finding tie in with the progression of artificial intelligence, check out the whole article here.