Bees outgun humans in making swift, better decisions for things that matter to them: Study
Enter the fascinating world of bees, where these tiny but mighty beings outshine humans when it comes to making swift and superior choices regarding things that matter to them.
Surprisingly, honey bees, with brains smaller than sesame seeds, are capable of making faster and more accurate decisions than humans, a recent research suggested. This study was published in the journal eLife and sheds light on the decision-making process of honey bees, offering valuable insights into insect brains, the evolution of our own brains, and the design of more efficient robots. Honey bees have evolved over millions of years to effectively assess the effort, risk, and reward associated with finding food for their hive.
Led by Professor Andrew Barron from Macquarie University and Dr. HaDi MaBouDi, Neville Dearden, and Professor James Marshall from the University of Sheffield, the study provides valuable information about the cognitive processes involved in decision-making.
The efficiency of Bee decision-making
Professor Barron laid stress on the significance of decision-making in cognition, stating that animals constantly face decisions in their lives. "Decision-making is at the core of cognition," he said, adding, "It's the result of an evaluation of possible outcomes, and animal lives are full of decisions. A honey bee has a brain smaller than a sesame seed. And yet she can make decisions faster and more accurately than we can."
He further added that if a robot were to perform the tasks of a honey bee, it would require the computational power of a supercomputer.
Honey bees face the challenge of working quickly and efficiently, collecting nectar and defending against predators while making decisions about which flowers are likely to contain food.
During the flight, bees are primarily at risk of aerial attacks, but once they land to feed, they become vulnerable to predators, including those that camouflage themselves as flowers.
In the study, 20 bees were trained to recognise five different coloured flower disks. Blue flowers always contained sugar syrup, green flowers contained quinine with a bitter taste for bees, and other colours sometimes had glucose.
The researchers then observed the bees in a garden where the flowers only had distilled water. Over 40 hours of video footage was analysed to track the bees' flight paths and measure the time it took for them to make decisions.
Decoding Bee decision-making
Dr. MaBouDi explains that the bees displayed swift decision-making when they were confident that a flower had food, taking an average of 0.6 seconds to land on such flowers.
Similarly, if they were confident that a flower didn't have food, they made a quick decision. However, if they were uncertain, they took longer (an average of 1.4 seconds), with the decision time reflecting the likelihood of a flower containing food.