Bees are brighter than we thought

24 February 2020

The question has been put by Professor Lars Chittka, who thinks that bees have been under-rated for too long. He has been conducting experiments with bees in pitch-dark rooms, teaching them to learn the difference between a variety of shapes, and then turning the lights on to see if they have “cross-modality object recognition”.

He did the experiment again, but in reverse – teaching them shape recognition in well-lit rooms and then turning the lights out. Again, success.

His conclusion is that nowadays we treat animals such as horses, dogs and primates better because we know that they are more intelligent than, say, worms, beetles and cockroaches. Because bees are brighter than we thought we ought to add them to the first list too, Professor Chittka – who teaches at Queen Mary University in London – argues, “The more we learn about the inner world of the bee, the more we should consider the potential ethical implications”.

We should look after our bees, not just because they do wonderful work pollinating plants, but because they are far more sentient beings than we knew.

This comes as no surprise to us at Haughton Honey. We know only too well that our bees are clever creatures. They wouldn’t be making for honey for us if they weren’t, and now that we know that they are so good at learning about these things we’re going to get them far better toys for their birthdays.

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