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Honeybees being such small insects exhibit an astonishing level of intelligence. They are simple but their brains can learn and remember complex tasks (Zhang, Bock, Si, Tautz, & Srinivasan, 2005). They have a sharp memory to recall the previous locations of food, the scent, and the color where they can get the best nectar and pollen. Honeybees can even detect the time of day when they can get the best nectar or pollen. It has been found that these bees are quick to learn and remember complex tasks such as finding their way in a maze or learning how to group different types of visual objects (Wise, 2003).
Honeybees can keep the memory of scents
Honeybees can learn to discriminate between different scents and keep the memory of the correct scent for a long time. To do this they use the two antennae on their heads. The right antenna can recognize the correct scent after being exposed for a short time, say after an hour. The left antenna gives a significantly higher correct response after being exposed for a long time say a day (Anon, 2008).
Honeybees can be able to sense the flower that provides the best nectar or pollen. For the foragers, the first three seconds on arrival to a flower are vital for memory formation. First, the flower color enters the short-term memory, and later it is converted to long-term memory. This long-term memory can be stored for more than six months but if the short-term memory is disturbed before it is converted to long-term memory, then that memory will not be retained (Reinhard, Srinivasan, Guez, & Zhang, 2004).
Honeybees can locate food sources
Honeybees can learn visual signs to direct them to a food source. Research has found that if honeybees are trained to a feeder with one scent at a given place, then they can be able to find their way back there if that scent is blown into the hive. If they are trained on two feeders with two different scents in different locations, when only one scent is blown to the hive then they can follow it to the feeder corresponding to that scent and not the other one. But it could be difficult for them to locate any of the feeders if a different scent is blown to the hive. This shows that the taste and scent of nectar help the honeybees navigate their way to that food source (Reinhard, et al 2004).
Ability to find their way in a complex maze
From research, it has been found that honeybees can learn difficult tasks such as learning to find their way through a maze. Honeybees have the capability of flying even in a complex maze by the use of a trail of dots that are colored. They are first trained to follow the colored dots on a part of the maze and afterward, they can use that cue to fly to the rest of the maze. Even after removing these dots, the honeybees can still find their way all around the maze (Zhang, Lehrer, & Srinivasan, 1999).
Ability to learn Dance language
Honeybees are capable of learning a language. Although the dance language is one of the most difficult languages in existence, honeybees are capable of learning it without difficulties (wise, 2003). The honeybees can start at any arbitrary location in a familiar area and all of them can be able to fly sequentially to any two specific locations that they may choose.
They can form the rich map-like organization of spatial memory. If the honey bees are captured and then released to an unexpected area, they will initially form straight flights and fly towards the course they were before they were captured. They then make slow search flights in an attempt to get their bearing and finally they make rapid and straight flights directing to the hive or the feeding station (Zhang, Bock, Si, Tautz, & Srinivasan, 2005).
Grouping of visual objects
Honeybees can put together natural, similar, or visual images. This can be through training for example they can be trained to differentiate and group scenes that occur naturally such as plant stems, flowers, and landscape. If testing a few days after the training, they will still remember how they were trained (Zhang, Srinivasan, Zhu, & Wong, 2004).
Honey bees have provided us with evidence that insects are not simple and impulsive creatures but can learn and keep memory just like other animals. The honeybees demonstrate that as simple as they are, they can be able to display essential elements of complex behaviors. Although their brains are small, they can memorize and learn new things. They can be taught how to use rules to navigate through a complex maze and be able to apply these rules (Zhang, Lehrer, & Srinivasan, 1999). They have an acute memory to remember the location of flowers with the best nectar and pollen, the scent and color of such flowers, and the time of day when these flowers can produce the best nectar. They can learn dance language. If the honey bees are captured and then released to an unexpected area, they will initially form straight flights and fly towards the course they were before they were captured. They can also learn how to group visual objects.
Reinhard, J., Srinivasan M. V., Guez D., & Zhang W. S. (2004). Floral scents induce recall of navigational and visual memories in honeybees. The journal of Experimental Biology 207, 4371-4381. Web.
Wise, S. M. (2003). Drawing the line: science and the case for animal rights. Merlyoyd Lawrence Book: Basic Books.
Zhang S., Bock F., Si A., Tautz J., & Srinivasan M.V. (2005). Visual working memory in decision making by honey bees. PNAS April vol. 102 no. 14 5250-5255. Web.
Zhang S., Srinivasan M. V., Zhu H., & Wong J., (2004). Grouping of visual objects by honeybees. Journal of Experimental Biology 207, 3289-3298. Web.
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Zhang S. W., Lehrer M., & Srinivasan M.V (1999).Honeybee Memory: Navigation by Associative Grouping and Recall of Visual Stimuli. Neurobiology of learning and memory 72, 3, 180-201. Web.