New study finds that bumblebees can recognise objects in the dark using the sense of touch.
Results show that bumblebees are able to successfully recognise objects in both directions, sight-to-touch and touch-to-sight.
Cross-modal object recognition has been shown in primates, rats, dolphins and electric fish.
Like humans, bumblebees have been found to recognise objects in the dark using their sense of touch.
Scientists have demonstrated that the insects are able to store information in such a way that it can be retrieved using different senses, a complex cognitive ability known as cross-modal object recognition.
Humans use this ability to recognise something they have seen before, like for example, finding a set of keys by fishing around at the bottom of a backpack.
Apart from bees and humans, cross-modal object recognition has been shown in primates, rats, dolphins and electric fish.
Dr Cwyn Solvi, lead author on the paper who was based at Queen Mary University of London and is now at Macquarie University in Sydney, said: “The results of our study show that bumblebees don’t process their senses as separate channels – they come together as some sort of unified representation.”
But she added: “This doesn’t mean bees experience the world the same way we do, but it does show there is more going on in their heads than we have ever given them credit for.”
The findings are published in the journal Science.
Reader Q&A: Why do bees buzz?
Asked by: Sam Elton, Preston
Bees and other Neoptera insects don’t flap their wings directly. Instead, the flight muscles pull on the springy thorax wall to make it ‘ping’ in and out. Bees also have muscles that can contract multiple times from a single nerve impulse.
Together these adaptations allow bees to beat their wings at 200-230Hz (cycles per second). We hear this as a buzzing tone. Bees also buzz when not flying, to shake pollen from a flower onto their body.
Alexander is the Online Editor at BBC Science Focus and is the one that keeps sciencefocus.com looking shipshape and Bristol fashion. He has been toying around with news, technology and science on internet for well over a decade, and sports a very fetching beard.