Published: Sat, June 09, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Bees understand the concept of zero

Previous researches revealed that animals with big brains like birds and monkeys grasp the idea of zero, and now, in the latest study, the scientists have shown that insects, particularly bees, are also included in that category.

The researchers believe that the numeric processing ability of the bees evolved as they adapted to stay in complex environments. "And so it's not straightforward, so understanding how a brain [a bee brain, a human brain, etc.] does it is exciting".

For the study, the researchers used pairs of black-and-white sheets in order to train the honey bees to understand the "less than" and "greater than" concepts.

Humans aren't the only species who can ponder abstract mathematical concepts like nonexistence. However, he has weighed in with his views.

The concept of zero is a fairly recent discovery of mankind. Something fantastic happened; the bees in the "less than" group were able to identify that as a lesser number.

They let the bees loose. This realization opened the door to intrigue, and further studies were designed and executed.

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The research was conducted in both Australia and France and involved many control experiments to validate the findings.

The researchers tested whether honey bees can rank numerical quantities and understand that zero belongs at the lower end of a sequence of numbers, and discovered that they can. Across a series of trials, they showed the insects two different pictures displaying a few black shapes on a white background.

"Bees thus perform at a level consistent with that of nonhuman primates by understanding that zero is lower than one", concluded the study.

The bees' understanding of simple math was indeed impressive, but the team didn't want to stop there.

Last October, researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that neurons located in the central complex of bees' brains could detect and remember changes in direction, speed, and distance.

Although they flew more often to an empty card versus one that had one symbol on it, it became easier for them to differentiate when the symbols' card increased in number; for example, they more often flew to the zero when the other card had four symbols than when it had one, according to NPR. The sugar water was a reward for the bees that correctly guessed the card with fewer symbols on it. They were even better at determining the difference between the blank card and those printed with a large number of symbols. The bees successfully identified the sheet which consisted of zero objects. They gathered and recorded data over a three-year period before reaching the conclusion that honey bees do, in fact, understand the concept of zero.

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