If I was a flower…

Not only are honey bees hardworking, they are also smart. What a combo for a tiny insect, right?

Reading an article on honey bees, Apis mellifera, in the ScienceDaily, it really astounds me to learn that bees are able to recognize facial-like features accurately! Scientists conducted an experiment where they conditioned bees to choose pictures that depicted facial features over those that did not with the incentive of sugar water. Later on, the scientists mixed up the pictures as well as added new pictures that the bees have not seen before. The bees were still able to accurately choose the facial-like picture.

However, this does not mean that bees are learning to recognizing humans though. The research found that “because the insects were rewarded with a drop of sugar when they chose the human photographs, what they really saw were strange flowers.” They used the orientation of the facial features (eyes, nose and mouth) to determine whether this was a ‘flower’ or not. Hence, though bees are able to recognize facial-like features accurately, we cannot presuppose that bees will be able to identify individual human faces.

I think that it is quite amazing that given the size of bees’ brains, they are able to distinguish certain facial features. Such research on the animal kingdom is really quite interesting and useful as it gives people insights from the animal’s point-of-view, from the giant blue whale to the tiny honey bee. Since we share this world with the animals, why not seek to understand them better and by doing so, create a better living environment for us both, animal and man.

Biomedical and Life Science Collection (1993). Memory Dynamics and Foraging Strategies of Honeybees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 32 (1): 17-29.

Journal of Experimental Biology (2010, February 8). Bees Recognize Human Faces Using Feature Configuration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129092010.htm 

Menzel, R. and Erber, J. (1987). Learning and Memory in Bees. Scientific American, 239 (1): 80-87.

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