Walter Farina of Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina experimented training bees to seek out sunflowers more than other plants. He was successful in training the bees to travel to sunflowers and increased the production of seeds by 29 to 57%.
He was able to accomplish this by feeding the bees sunflower scented food in the nest. The team is developing other scents to encourage bees to pollinate a variety of crops such as almonds.
What is also important about the success of this experiment is that it further substantiates the fact that bees have long-term memory. Memory of any kind indicates a thinking process, showing us that even insects are smarter than most people give them credit for.
Since scientists have known that bees understand the concept of zero, they wanted to determine if bees could perform the basic math functions of adding and subtracting. Their tests have shown that bees can do this.
This is very important because solving math problems requires the use of both long- and short-term memory and the complex mental management of numbers.
The team from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia taught the bees to recognize colors that represent addition and subtraction. Once the bees were taught the meaning of the colors, they were able to use the colors to solve math addition and subtraction problems. While this level of math may seem simple to us, it really involves complex thought processes.
In past studies, beekeepers claimed that they did not get stung by their bees (at least not too much) because the bees understood that they meant no harm and were friendly to the keepers. If bees can perform mathematical functions it is certainly reasonable that they could understand their relationship to bee keepers.
What is amazing is that the tiny bee brain can do this. As we discover more ways to communicate with animals and insects, it will open a whole new world and understanding of our animal and insect friends.
The only barrier we have to fully understanding other creatures is the barrier of language. How amazing this finding is because it shows us how much we have yet to learn.