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How to BEE a Soccer Player

Luke Lindsey, Staff Wrietr

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A common misconception is that intelligence is based on the size and capacity of the brain, but astonishingly, honeybees are proving us to be beyond incorrect. Honeybees are one of the most enduring species on the planet, surviving for over one hundred million years; so long that the environment itself began to lean on them for support. This alone proves they have something special, and one man took notice. Biologists at Queen Mary University of London have conducted an experiment in which to examine the intelligence of these creatures by teaching the honeybees to play Bee Soccer.

These bees were given a simple task of moving a ball half their size into a goal, if they succeeded, they were given a tasty reward of sugar water. The task was first demonstrated by scientists and then the bees were expected to imitate it. 99% of them succeeded with this, making staggering progress that excelled expectations. Not only are they learning at an impressive rate, but they are teaching one another to play and even adding their own twists to complete the tasks more efficiently.

Once biologists’ suspicions of the true intelligence of these magnificent creatures were confirmed, they began to conduct similar studies to determine and appreciate not only their intellect, but also their nature. The game was changed.

Biologists placed three separate balls each farther away from the goal than the other. Two balls were to remain static and were attached to the table, but the ball farthest away from the goal was mobile. The biologists demonstrated to one bee that the farthest ball was the only one that could move. It completed the task successfully, but when another bee that had spectated set out to complete the same task, it instead tried the ball closest to the goal before moving the one it knew was mobile. This discovery was almost revolutionary.

“If I were given the same task on a basketball course, I would move the ball I knew for certain would move. I wouldn’t want to risk not getting the reward.” Said one of the biologists conducting the study. This decision on the bee’s part to try the closer ball wasn’t an unintelligent decision, and only proves their persevering and innovative nature. This thought process is what has kept their species alive and strong for so long, at least until recently.

As you well know, bees are dying at an alarming rate. This innovation proves hope for bees in their current struggle for survival, and in turn hope for environments world wide. If we continue obliterating the habitats of these incredible creatures, they will inevitably die off. Together, we could change our ways and help bees pull through their hopefully near-death experience (or near-extinction experience). With their outstanding intelligence and innovative nature, and with us and our habits at the helm of their existence, we just might be able to save their species and the world from a terrible loss.

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