Despite having brains that are .0002% the size of human brains, bees are able to learn skills and teach these skills to others.
According to a new study in the journal PLOS Biology, British researchers were able to train 23 bees out of a group of 40 to pull strings that were attached to tiny artificial flower discs containing food bees like to eat, according to articles on Reuters.com and Smithsonian.com.
These “trainer” bees were then mingled with other bees who hadn’t seen the string trick; after watching the trainers, 60 percent of those bees learned to pull the string themselves. In a group of bees without trainers, only two out of 110 performed the task.
When one trained bee was added to “three colonies of untrained bees … about 50 percent of each colony figured out how to pull the string” once they were paired up with a trained bee, the Smithsonian article noted. Even when “the trainers died, the ability to pull on the strings continued to spread throughout the colonies.”
According to the researchers, “more sophisticated forms of social learning … specific to human culture may well have evolved from simpler forms of learning and cognition.” In other words, even the tiny brains of bees can teach humans about evolution.
Watch a video of the experiment.