August 8, 2022

You can hardly bee-lieve it

A revolutionary new study has detailed how honeybees are the first non-human animals to differentiate between even and odd numbers.

In a study published in the Frontiers in Ecology journal last week, scientists from Monash University in Australia detailed their remarkable findings – and they’ve created quite a buzz.

According to the researchers as per The Independent, odd and even categorisation has never been seen in creatures other than humans, until now. By segregating Appis mellifera, more commonly known as honeybees, into two groups, researchers provided the insects with cards showing up to 10 printed shapes.

Via UnSplash

One group of bees was trained to believe that landing on even-numbered cards would warrant a sugar water reward whereas those that landed on odd numbered cards would instead get quinine, a bitter-tasting compound. The other group in the study was taught the exact opposite.

Scientists soon found that bees chose the correct answer 80 per cent of the time however by incorporating cards with 11 or 12 images, the accuracy of the bees dropped to 70 per cent.

“We show that free-flying honeybees can visually acquire the capacity to differentiate between odd and even quantities of 1–10 geometric elements and extrapolate this categorization to the novel numerosities of 11 and 12, revealing that such categorization is accessible to a comparatively simple system,” the team explained.

Via UnSplashVia UnSplash

Within their study they added: “A large and complex human brain consisting of 86 billion neurons, and a miniature insect brain with about 960,000 neurons, could both categorise numbers by parity.”

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To further explore the breakthrough, scientists then created an artificial brain model with five neurons. They found that the model could pinpoint odd or even numbers with 100 per cent accuracy, which the experts say proves that parity tasks do not require a complex brain as first thought.

More research is now required to better understand the complexities of bee learning.

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