Most people don’t often think about bees’ brainpower. Bees are generally regarded as tiny unthinking machines, flying from flower to flower, genetically pre-programmed to collect pollen and nectar and make honey.
But bees have some impressive cognitive capacities. Bumblebees and honeybees can count, navigate complex environments, learn concepts, use their uncertainty to guide their decisions, and even display emotion-like behaviour.
Recently, bees have also been trained to solve complex cognitive tasks such as string pulling and cap pushing to gain rewards. But as impressive as these tasks might be, they resemble some of the bees’ natural foraging behaviour. Our research group wanted to test the behavioural limits of bumblebees by tasking them with something far removed from anything they encounter in nature.
So we’ve managed to show that bees can play football. Sort of. We showed that they can learn to move a small ball to a goal to gain a sugary …