Now this is way cool. We know bees communicate geometric information using dance, can solve trig problems, can compensate for the movement of the sun, but this study suggests cultural learning.
The short version is, an apparatus was set up in which bees had to pull on a string to gain access to food. The test was complex enough that they were unlikely to learn it on their own, but needed training to pick up the trick. But once a few bees were trained, other bees observing them could also pick it up, and eventually transmit it to the rest of the hive.
We see simpler versions of this learning. Bees learn to navigate robber screens on their own hive entrances, but who is to say each bee does not learn that for itself. Two of my hives have complex tube-and-foyer entrances, confusing at first to young bees, but experienced foragers navigate these easily. But maybe this is not just trial and error learning by each bee. Maybe they learn to follow a bee that appears to know what it is doing?
Could this level of learning help honeybees open difficult blooms? Ours work things I've been told they won't due to the difficulty in manipulating the blossom.
Other studies suggest bees have genetically-programmed behaviors, transmitted by snips of micro-RNA, that implant as needed in their brains like smart phone aps. But this study suggests they can learn novel skills from watching, too.