There’s no two ways about it – bees are pretty darn smart. The knowledge that they are able to communicate the location of food sources to hive mates through a series of movements (a little dance if you will) is pretty well known. It turns out not only are they capable of complex communication – they also have some mathematical capabilities! Talk about top of the class!
Although other animals such as monkeys and even spiders have the capacity to think of things in terms of relative quantities (identifying larger or smaller amounts), bees are actually able to grasp more complex arithmetic such as addition and subtraction. Here researchers used colours to associate with either adding (blue) or subtracting (yellow) and found that bees could not only grasp these concept and but also solve mathematical problems! This means that they could learn, remember, and execute this basic arithmetic. It does bring up the question how many other animals are capable of grasping complex concepts if given the chance?
Tanya Strydom is a PhD candidate at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.