They are small, but fascinating. The contribution of bees to the balance of ecosystems is vital. They are studied extensively and something new is always discovered. For example, unexpected intelligence traits that only other mammals have. Human beings are able to find objects with touch in the dark thanks to the complexity of our brain. We store information in such a way that it can be retrieved by different senses. It is a quite exceptional skill. And it turns out that bees have it too. Bees recognize objects with touch.
Not only humans are multisensory
Our multisensory integration allows us to form mental images of the world and underpins our consciousness. This vision-touch recognition is shared only with apes, monkeys and rats. Dolphins use vision and hearing and some fish, vision and electrical sense. It turns out that such a cognitive feat is present in the small brain of an insect.
Researchers at Queen Mary University in London and Macquarie University in Sydney discovered it. Bees recognize objects with the touch they had only seen before.
In the light, but unable to touch the objects, bumblebees were trained to find sugar water in one type of object. They could be cubes or spheres. There was a solution of bitter quinine in the other way. When they were tested in the dark, they preferred the object that was previously rewarding. And they spent more time exploring it.
The bees also solved the task backwards. First they learned to find a particular way in the dark. They were put to the test in the light and again preferred the way they had learned that was rewarding just by touch.
This ability is called intermodal recognition. It allows us to perceive a complete picture of the world with rich representations, the authors explain in the journal «Science».
The other intelligence
«The results of our study show that bumblebees do not process their senses as separate channels. They come together as a kind of unified representation, ”says Cwyn Solvi, lead author of the article.
«We have long known that bees can remember the shapes of flowers. But a smartphone can recognize your face, for example, and it does so without any form of awareness. Our new work indicates that something is happening inside the mind of bees that is completely different from a machine. Bees can evoke mental images of shapes, ”adds Lars Chittka, head of the lab at Queen Mary University in London.
For Selene Gutierrez Al-Khudhairy, co-author of the article, “this is an incredible feat if one considers the tiny brain size of a bee. Future research can help reveal how our own brains imagine the world ».
As Solvi says, “This does not mean that bees experience the world in the same way as we do. But it does show that there are more things in his head than we thought.