same difference

Honeybees are capable of cognitive performances thought to occur only in vertebrates.

Kenneth Lee(

In the 19 April Nature Martin Giurfa and colleagues at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, show that honeybees can master abstract inter-relationships, such as the concepts of 'sameness' and 'difference' (Nature 2001, 410:930-933).

Bees were trained to enter a Y-shaped maze through a hole at the base of the Y, where they encountered a sample stimulus. The bees then had to choose between the two arms of the Y, each carrying a secondary stimulus, one of which was identical to the sample stimulus. A bee was rewarded with a sucrose solution only if it chose a secondary stimulus that matched the sample stimulus. Giurfa et al found that bees not only learnt to match colours (p<0.0001), but that they could transfer that learning to match other stimuli, such as orientations of black and white patterns (p<0.0005). Bees trained to match patterns were also...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?