Honeybees Remember Good Times and Bad
We are learning so much more lately about western honeybees, Apis mellifera.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been studying the tiny brains of honey bees. They have found that this amazing little creature is quite capable of remembering negative and positive experiences.
New light has been cast on the cognitive abilities of honey bees and the findings are in a study published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
We know from earlier blog posts that the honeybee is a very sophisticated insect with the ability to engage in advanced thinking.
What kinds of memories do they retain, you might ask? Taking care of their young bees, and fighting off enemies trying to invade their hive. They store these thoughts in different parts of the brain depending on how bad or good the experience was for them.
The following video is only 2:11 minutes long and while this doctorate student at York University is not tied in with the scientific team we refer to in this post (to our knowledge), the video has a short does of some overlapping and exciting information.
This sounds a bit like humans... Vertebrates like us have long been known to store memories, but this is the first time it has been documented about bees.
The scientists on the research team say the discovery is striking since they didn’t expect such spatial segregation in processing social information due to how small their brains are. This study gives experts exciting new insight into animal cognition.
The scientific team indicated they used genes that respond very quickly to new stimuli as markets to discover which parts of the brain are activated per event. They looked at “mushroom bodies” which are parts of a honey bee brain found in invertebrates and are tied to learning and memory and sensory processing.
They found that specific compartments in these mushroom bodies were activated depending on whether the insect found it a harmful or happy interaction.
Scientists are excited about how this will help them further the study of ‘biological embedding’ which will also tell them how information affects the subsequent behavior of the bees. Eventually this could lead to improved health and well being for honeybees.
Honeybee society is undergoing such difficult times these days, it makes one wonder if remembering so many bad times can lead honey bees to be depressed? Perhaps we'll learn more about this soon as things unfold.