Buzzing About Nothing


If you didn’t think honeybees were awesome already, scientists have discovered something new and exciting about these insects. Honeybees have become the first invertebrate to demonstrate that they can recognize that zero is less than one. And while that may sound like a simple thing to you and me, very few animals have ever demonstrated this ability, and even young children struggle with the concept of nothing in numerical order.

To show this, scientists first had to train bees to fly to images of greater or fewer dots. Bees were either trained to go to the highest number or lowest number, and were rewarded with sweet treats for making the correct choice or offered a bitter solution for the wrong choice. When bees trained to fly to the lowest number were given an option of a card with no dots, the majority flew to the blank card. This demonstrated that the bees understood that a card with nothing or zero was in fact a lower number than a card with one dot. Scientists are now wondering if bees are the only invertebrate which can pass the test of understanding the concept of zero. Can you guess what the next possible test subject is? Spiders! Which leaves me imagining how scientists would train spiders. Yikes!

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June 11, 2018

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