Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Scientists Prove Bees Recognize Human Faces


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Scientists have done yet another study that proves bees can be as smart as people. Like recognize faces. Well, as a long time beekeeper, I assure you, we all know bees recognize faces and I will tell you why we know this.

From the Discovery Channel:
Don't be too proud of never forgetting a face: It turns out even a humble bumblebee can distinguish and recall different human faces, say researchers who have conducted experiments on the surprisingly canny insects.
Researchers in the UK have found that bumblebees show a remarkable ability to spot the same human face even days after training.

The training consisted of showing the bees the very same series of black-and-white pictures of faces that are used to test human memory. The bees got tasty or sour rewards for choosing correctly and incorrectly.

The newfound bumblebee ability is likely connected to their ability to recognize different flowers, says discoverer Adrian Dyer of La Trobe University in Australia and Cambridge University.

On the other hand, the discovery is one of a long string over the last decade about various animals which all point to one startling revelation: It doesn't take a huge human brain or even a mammalian brain to recognize individual human faces or do a lot of other complex tasks.
So, they figured out what we beekeepers have said for generations: bees know who is who.

The scientists speculate this is connected with recognizing flowers. This is totally stupid. As a beekeeper who works around hives in tee shirt and shorts all summer long, the bees are perfectly content not because they can tell me from a flower or something but because they know who I am, the person to cleans around their hive, chases away pesky wasps and bears and in general, work like a hive-sister so the guard bees will take but one glance at me and happily buzz in front of the hive. I often walk within 6" of the hive entrance in summer when they are busiest and not one bee will even give me an angry warning buzz.

Oh, they have different sounds for different purposes. When they are angry, they literally turn up the volume of the buzzing. Suddenly, one or two bees will be angrily buzzing in your ear. This is deliberate, they are telling you to go away. Since stinging is a suicide mission, they prefer warnings instead.

But never do I hear that buzz of danger unless I turn criminal. Namely, in the fall, after they work all summer, slaving away, flying around the community, visiting all the lovely flowers, working hard at home to make and stow away as much honey as possible, along comes the beekeeper in hat, veil, suit and smoker to steal that sweet honey.

The fury of the bees is unimaginable! Once, I tried to fool them and put a decoy honey comb on the hillside and ran off with the top box of the hive, all the bees flew to the decoy but one. She followed me into the house, flew back out the door and less than three minutes later, the entire hive was plastered to the kitchen door, buzzing with intense fury. I couldn't go outside.

All day, they buzzed the house, seeking entrance. Lord help anyone who would try rining the doorbell!

After a while, they gave up, grudgingly. But for weeks afterwards, when they spotted me, a few guard bees would buzz furiously in my face, just to tell me off. After that, I gave them daily doses of sugar water colored bright red. They not only forgave me, they became the loving insects they were before the raid.

See? I am still smarter than they! Heh! Fooled them yet again!

But trust me, you have to be on your toes with even insects. They are pretty clever. Smarter than Bush.

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