String-pulling bees!
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  1. #1
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    Default String-pulling bees!

    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.

    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/10...ther-bees.html

    http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology...o.1002564.s012

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Interesting, Thanks for sharing.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    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?
    .....
    Thanks for sharing. Atleast in case of robber screens, changed entrances, my experience has been that the bees that "find" the entrance or path-in do this "nasonov dance". And others mostly follow that scent. I observed this every time I stress a bee by blocking entrance for few minutes. Some are so happy that they found entrance, they do this "toddler walk", a hurried walk into the hive while vigorously fanning.

    So I am not sure if its visual learning by other bees or just following chemical scent, in that robber screen example.

    Another interesting thing I saw was that some bees seem to use their legs as hands. For example, a dead bee will be hanging onto a live bee (rather the live bee is 'holding onto" dead bee).

    For this "string experiment", I would love to see a video of the experiment, how the experiment was setup, gravitational force on the string setup. For example, pulling a string in the direction of gravitational force may be a "natural", "easier" thing to learn than pulling the string up, against gravitational force. I think subtle things like that matter.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    How many bees would it take to tow my jon boat to Manila, Arkansas from Champaign?
    Sorry, Couldn't resist.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  6. #5
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    aunt betty
    How many bees would it take to tow my jon boat to Manila, Arkansas from Champaign?
    Sorry, Couldn't resist.
    Probly not many. I tied some broken comb up with cotton thread and when they were trying to remove it from the hive they would get on the end of the string and start pulling. If it caught on something they would kick in the after burners and really pull. I bet you could have played music on the string it was so tight.
    It really amazed me how hard it looked like they were pulling while in flight. I can now see just how much air they could move when trying, while ventelating the hive or something.
    Cheers
    gww

  7. #6
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Can you go off-grid with honey bees ? Our investigation reveals. News at 11!

    :-)

  8. #7
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    How many bees would it take to tow my jon boat to Manila, Arkansas from Champaign?
    Sorry, Couldn't resist.
    Its a thought, but remember that they run on honey. Which costs a lot more than gasoline or diesel around here.

    Besides, they're obviously pretty smart. What if they make you pay via Uber?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    The paper contains links to a number of videos showing the apparatus and how they trained the bees.

    The tests were done on bumblebees, but I see no reason it could not be done with honeybees. The bumbles have been marked with colored dots ... well, we have the technology.

    The apparatus is dead-simple. Colored plastic circles (look like foam) have a well in the center for a drop of sugar syrup. They must pre-train the bees to know these have a treat. Then they slip the disks under a clear plastic cover. Step one is half-covered so the bees can reach the center. Step two is with the center covered so the bees need to pull on the flower to get to the center. Step three is almost fully covered. After that, only the string is exposed and the bees need to tug on the string.

    Two bees figured out how to get the reward without being trained. They sort of stumble on to the string and accidentally discover they can pull the flower.

    The bumbles were tested in a fancy "arena" cage. This would drive honeybees nuts. I expect honeybee experiments would be done outdoors in an unconfined environment. Tracking would be a chore but I'm more interested in seeing them do the trick.

    I'd guess a lot of us have enough scrap lying around to knock out a copy of the actual feeder at no cost, in half an hour. I suspect the "flowers" are made with colored foam sheet for arts and crafts. I have a sheet of Creatology 390076, distributed by Michaels, that appears to be the same color. Now, where did I put my large circle punches?

    This may be a fun project for a warm fall day. I probably have a quarter of a million willing test subjects. I can do better video than this.
    Last edited by Phoebee; 10-08-2016 at 01:56 PM.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    In the news today, apparently another study from the folks who brought us the string-pulling bumblebees.

    This time, they've learned to play ball! The bee is rewarded for moving a ball nearly as big as they are to the center of the "court", which typically has a hole to place the ball in. So it is sort of bumblebee basketball. They learn this by watching other bees do it, or by watching a fake bee do it.

    Yet another trick to teach the honey bees!

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/s...ideo.html?_r=0

  11. #10
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Can we call it the N C Bee A and have a tournament of 65 teams ready by the end of March?
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  12. #11
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Evidently you can train one bee in a matter of minutes, then they can quickly train more, so it should bee possible to put together teams in time.

    So far, all this research is being done with bumbles, on account of them being more amenable to working in enclosed "arenas". Honey bees are notoriously hard to work with indoors, tho' you might be able to do it under polarized lighting.

    I have no doubt honey bees can learn these tricks and more, if the games are held outdoors.

    I doubt you can do five against five competition on the same court, unless you can rig a means of rewarding only the scoring team for making a basket. If you put down a drop of syrup as demonstrated, everybody will partake. You might do timed scoring on two separate courts, to see how many points one team can score, unopposed in 45 minutes.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Oh boy. Just opened my facebook and there's a video of a bumblebee with a little yellow ball. It's trained to put the ball into a little hole. It drags the ball back up because there are holes in the ball and it picks up syrup from the hole somehow (I think).
    Wish I could drag it over here. Made me go "ha ha ha".
    March madness...it begins! LooL
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  14. #13
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Last night I was looking up ways to automatically dispense a drop of syrup. I think a stepper motor driving a syringe will be an economical way to do it. I want to build one of these that dispenses a drop when the bees score dropping the ball in the hole. A new ball will appear shortly at the edge of the court.

    First I would condition the bees to find syrup in the feeder cup. Then I'd see if I could show one honeybee how to do it. Then I'd let a time lapse camera run and see how fast the number of players built up.

    I would also like to see if the bees would score baskets just because it is fun, with no food reward.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    The video shows how the bees were trained. The trainer had a stick with a painted bumblebee. He used the stick to show the actual bee what to do. It picked up on it really quickly so he made a setup with three balls. The bee was so smart it picked the closest ball to the hole to work on showing that they learn shortcuts. Wish I could figure out how to get it off facebook to here. (so cute)
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  16. #15
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    First I would condition the bees to find syrup in the feeder cup. Then I'd see if I could show one honeybee how to do it.
    It would be great if you could set up a camera to capture you teaching that first bee to put the ball in the cup!
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  17. #16
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    It would be great if you could set up a camera to capture you teaching that first bee to put the ball in the cup!
    Absolutely, but Aunt Betty has posted the description and the videos are all over the net. Just run a search on "bumblebee ball experiment"

    http://www.popsci.com/brainy-bumbleb...alls-into-goal

    Just put a fake bee on the end of a stick or wire and show other bees that it pushes the ball to the hole, then syrup appears. Once they discover that the cup may have syrup, they are present to witness the event that makes it appear. That's the really amazing thing about these string pulling and ball-moving experiments: bees can learn by watching other bees.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: String-pulling bees!

    Eggsellent. You found the exact video that I saw on FB.
    Thank you. Great teamwork!
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