March 28, 2023
Scientists prove that bees like to play with toys

Bees love to play with toys: See what it looks like

Are bees blocking the path from your house to your car? No problem. New research suggests an interesting and highly entertaining way to fend them off. Give the critters a tiny wooden ball and they might be busy enough to stop terrorizing your morning commute.

On Thursday, a team of researchers presented evidence that bumblebees, like humans, like to play with fun little objects.

After 45 bumblebees participated in several experiments, it became clear that the bees went out of their way to roll wooden balls repeatedly, despite the fact that there was no obvious incentive to do so. In other words, it looks like the bees were “playing” with the balls. Furthermore, as with humans, there seemed to be an age at which bees lost their playful behavior.

A close-up of a bee holding a yellow ball about the size of its body.

A bee playing with a yellow wooden ball.

Samadi Galpayage

According to a paper on the findings published last month in the journal Animal Behavior, the younger bees dropped more balls than the older bees, as you’d expect from children to be more involved with toys than adults. The team also saw male bees rolling the ball for a longer time than female bees. (Not sure if this part translates to human behavior, though.)

“This research provides a strong indication that insect minds are much more sophisticated than we imagine,” said Lars Chittka, professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, who led the study. “There are many animals that play just for pleasure, but most examples come from young mammals and birds.”

It is very big to know about insects like play because it gives us a way to calculate that they probably feel some kind of positive emotion. And that it raises important ethical questions about how we deal with them. Do we respect non-verbal animals as much as we should? Do we even register them as conscious beings?

Frans BM de Waal, author of the best-selling book Are We Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are, sums up part of the problem by saying “since animals don’t talk, their emotions have been denied.”

This may be especially true for bees. A 2011 study, for example, showed that honeybees showed changes in brain chemistry when they were agitated or simply fluttered around researchers. These changes are directly related to anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions we’re used to seeing in humans and other mammals — yet, perhaps because insects can’t talk, let alone cry or show facial expressions, they don’t we often think of them as having feelings.

“We’re generating ever-increasing amounts of evidence … to do what we can to protect insects a million miles away from the mindless, uncaring creatures they’ve traditionally been thought to be,” Chittka said.

I mean, check out the video below to see a bunch of chubby bees rolling around on balls like they’re in a circus. It’s really adorable and especially sweet because we know they’re just doing this because it’s fun.

Chittka and the other scientists basically placed the 45 bombs in an arena and then presented them with different scenarios where they could choose to “play” or not “play.”

One experiment gave the bugs access to two chambers. The first contained moving balls and the other was empty. As expected, the bees showed a preference for the chamber associated with the moving balls.

In another case, bees were given the choice of either walking through an unobstructed path to a feeding area or deviating from the path to go to a place with wooden balls. Several chose the ball pit. In fact, individual insects rolled balls from 1 to 117 times during the experiment.

Yes, that means they chose to play with balls literally he eats.

To guard against confounding variables, the researchers took care to isolate the concept of playing with balls. They did not offer the bees a reward for playing with the balls and ruled out the possibility that they were somehow pressured into the ball-free chambers, for example.

“It’s certainly fascinating, sometimes amusing, to see bumblebees showing something like play,” said Samadi Galpayage, first author of the study and a researcher at Queen Mary University. “They approach and manipulate these ‘toys’ again and again. This shows, once again, that despite their small size and tiny minds, they are more than little robotic beings.”

“They may actually experience some kind of positive emotional states, even if they are rudimentary, like other larger fluffy, or not so fluffy, animals,” Galpayage continued. “This kind of finding has implications for our understanding of insect sentience and well-being and will hopefully encourage us to respect and protect life on Earth even more.”

#Bees #love #play #toys

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