Bees have language, can solve problems, can learn. Are they conscious beings?They have two languages that we know about: a chemical language of pheromones and the patterned dances with which scouts communicate directions to the best sources of pollen.Bees plan and imagine the future. They can learn from one another. Apparently, it was just arrogance that led us to say they were simple, unconscious creatures that did their work via stimulus and response, with a collective intelligence but no flexibility or adaptive behavior at the individual level. We were fooled by their size.
More than 200 years ago, the blind Swiss naturalist François Huber (working with his wife Marie-Aime'e Lullin and servant François Burnens) suggested that honeybees might display foresight in the construction of their honeycomb.
While honeybees were busy building the (normally two-dimensional) honeycomb, Huber's team placed glass panes into the path of the construction. (Glass is a poor surface on which to attach wax.) The honeybees took corrective action long before they had reached the glass: they rotated the entire composition by 90 degrees so as to attach the comb.
-- Aeon article by Lars Chittka- Advertisement -
Psychology Today article about how deceptive brain size can be.
Most remarkably, bees with tiny brains use abstract thought and symbolic language. Each day they solve an advanced mathematical problem of how to most efficiently travel between multiple sites. They know when to mix medications for the hive and distinguish complex landscape scenes including types of flowers, shapes and patterns. Bees also learn categories and sequences and adjust them for future rewards. They consider social conditions, locations, time of day, and multiple senses. They are masters of mazes and show short-term and long-term memory, ranging from days to entire life spans.