Bees play bumblebees, according to new research published in the journal Animal behavior. The first object of the story is demonstrated behavior in the insect, adding that bees experience positive “emotions”.
Most of the experiments were put together by researchers led by scientists from Queen Mary University of London to test the hypothesis. The bumble bees were shown to roll the wooden balls frequently from their journey, although there was no apparent incentive to do so.
According to the findings, smaller bees involve more groups than larger bees. These events imitated the behavior of human infants and other juvenile mammals and particularly playful birds. Additionally, male bees wrap longer balls than their female counterparts.
Forty-five bumblebees were followed in the study as they walked across the sand. He was given the opportunity to walk along an open road to reach the feeding area or to deviate from this road into areas with wooden balls. Each bee wraps the balls between 1 and an impressive 117 times in the experiment. Repeated behavior suggested that rolling the ball was a reward.
This was also supported by another experiment where 42 different sets of bees were given access to two colored chambers. One room always contained moving balls, while the other did not have any objects. When given a later tested choice between two chambers, neither containing pellets at that time, the bees preferred the color of the chamber previously associated with the wooden pellets. The set of experiments dispelled any notion that the bees were moving the balls for something greater than the game. The rolling balls did not contribute to survival strategies, such as gaining food, cleaning clutter, or mating and were performed under stress-free conditions.
The study expands on previous work from the same Queen Mary lab, which shows that bumble bees can be trained to score goals by rolling balls to targets in return for some food reward. In a previous experiment, the team observed that bumble bees were wrapped in balls outside the experiment, without any food reward. New research has shown that bees rolling balls are often out of practice and without any food to do it – it’s voluntary and spontaneous – so it’s similar to the play behavior that has been seen in other animals.
Samadi Galpayage, first author of the study and a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It’s definitely mind-blowing, sometimes funny, to watch bumblebees show something like a story. They come and handle these toys again and again. It shows again that, despite its small size and small brain, it is more than a small robotic object. They can actually feel some states of positive emotion, even if rudimentary, like other larger furry, or not so furry, animals do. Such a discovery has implications for the understanding of the sentience and utility of insects and will, I hope, encourage us to respect and protect life on earth ever more.
Professor Lars Chittka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioral Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, head of the lab and author of the recent book “The Mind of the Bee”, said: “This research provides strong evidence that the intelligence of insects is far more intelligent than we might think. There are many animals that only they play recreational use, but most examples come from young mammals and birds.
“We have an ever-increasing body of evidence supporting the need for all we can to protect insects that are millions of miles away from mindless creatures traditionally believed to be cruel.”
Reference: “Do bumble bees play?” by Hiruni Samadi Galpayage Dona, Cwyn Solvi, Amelia Kowalewska, Kaarle Mäkelä, HaDi MaBouDi and Lars Chittka, 19 October 2022; Animal behavior.
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