Bumblebees play with marbles

Science confirms it. Bumblebees play with wooden marbles. They can even receive positive emotions from these games. Is this possible? A study from Queen Mary University of London says yes.

They created a “playground” for 45 bumblebee specimens. There are two paths: one leads directly to the feeding area. The other is full of obstacles in the form of small wooden balls. On one side of the path these balls are fixed, but on the other side they are loose.

The bumblebees play with wooden marbles, of no apparent use.
Bumblebees play with wooden marbles, of no apparent use.

Playing for fun

Because of their curiosity, the bumblebees could not get past the balls. They explored each of them at least once. Each bee rolled the balls as many as 117 times. Most of the insects continued to roll the balls for another day or two. “It’s mind-boggling to see them display something resembling playfulness,” reveals ecologist Samadi Galpayage.

The bumblebees tended to pick their way with the loose balls as if they were toys. Before rolling their first ball, each insect had no particular interest in either of the two possible paths.

“It is possible that they experience some kind of positive emotional states. Even if they are rudimentary.” Juvenile bumblebees tend to roll more balls. We observe the same behavior in the case of mammals. Juveniles need practice, so they are more inclined to play.

The phenomenon of play consists of five criteria:

  1. It is an activity that is not functional;
  2. It is voluntary, spontaneous, and inherently rewarding;
  3. It differs from other adaptive behaviors;
  4. It repeats itself, but it also changes;
  5. It occurs in the absence of stress.

Controversial idea

“We have more and more evidence. And it supports the need to do everything possible to protect insects. They are not mindless, insensitive creatures as they are traditionally believed to be.”

Bumblebees play with marbles. Suspecting the possibility that this reveals a rudimentary sentiment stokes controversy. Especially, in the situation when there is a trend of insect decline. The researchers stress that their findings contribute to the understanding of bees. They believe that in the future it will help people to protect the life of those living on Earth.

Click to rate this entry!
(Votes: 0 Average: 0)

Leave a Comment