First-Ever Study Shows Bumblebees 'Play'

First-Ever Study Shows Bumblebees ‘Play’

animal behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013″ width=”800″ height=”343″/>
Experimental device for the training phase (aerial view). A nest was connected to a colored chamber via a tunnel. The chamber was connected to a flight arena with feeders supplying sucrose (S) or pollen (P) ad libitum; their positions were swapped each experimental day. The colored training chamber was either yellow or blue. One of the colored chambers contained moving balls and the other was empty. Baffles at the entrance to the colored chamber prevented bees from seeing the presence/absence of objects. Only one stained chamber was presented at a time and they were alternated every 20 min (six times each) for a total of 2 h of exposure for each color. One group of bees was formed with the yellow chamber containing balls and the other group with the blue chamber containing balls. This experimental step was carried out over 2 consecutive days for each bee. Credit: animal behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013

Bumblebees play, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London published in animal behavior. It’s the first time object-playing behavior has been demonstrated in an insect, adding to the growing evidence that bees can experience positive “feelings.”

The research team set up numerous experiments to test their hypothesis, which showed that bumblebees go out of their way to roll wooden balls repeatedly despite there being no apparent incentive to do so. TO DO.

The study also found that younger bees rolled more balls than older bees, mirroring human behavior of young children and other juvenile mammals and birds being the most playful, and that male bees rolled them longer. than their female counterparts.

A bee rolling balls. Credit: Samadi Galpayage.

The study followed 45 bumblebees in an arena and gave them the options of walking through a clear path to reach a feeding area or deviating from that path in areas with wood balls. Individual bees rolled balls between 1 and an impressive 117 times during the experiment. The repeated behavior suggested that ball rolling was rewarding.

This was supported by another experiment where 42 other bees were given access to two colored chambers, one always containing moving balls and the other without any objects. When tested and given a choice of two chambers, neither containing balls, the bees showed a preference for the color of the chamber previously associated with wooden balls.

The set-up of the experiments removed any idea that the bees were moving the balls for a greater purpose than play. The rolling balls did not contribute to survival strategies, such as gaining food, clearing clutter, or mate and were performed under stress-free conditions.

An example of a ball rolling by a drone at speed ×0.5. The bee approaches a colored wooden ball facing it, touches the ball with its front legs, clings to the ball with all its legs, rolls the ball, detaches itself and leaves the ball. The bee approaches a second ball, rolls it and detaches. Credit: animal behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013

The research builds on previous experiments from the same lab at Queen Mary, which showed that bumblebees can learn to score a goal, by rolling a ball towards a target, in exchange for a sweet food reward. In the previous experiment, the team observed bumblebees rolling balls outside of the experiment, without getting a food reward.

The new research showed that bees rolled balls repeatedly without being trained and given food to do so – it was voluntary and spontaneous – therefore similar to play behavior as seen in other animals.

First author of the study, Samadi Galpayage, Ph.D. student at Queen Mary University of London says that “it is certainly breathtaking, sometimes amusing, to watch the bumblebees show something like a game. They approach and manipulate these ‘toys’ again and again. It shows, once again, that despite their small size and small brains, they are more than just little robotic beings.”

“They can actually experience some sort of positive emotional states, even if they’re rudimentary, like other larger or less fluffy animals. This kind of finding has implications for our understanding of sentience and well-being. insects and will hopefully encourage an ever greater respect and protection of life on Earth.”

Professor Lars Chittka, professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, director of the laboratory and author of the recent book The Mind of a Bee, says that “this research provides a strong indication that the minds of insects is much more sophisticated than one might imagine. There are many animals that just play for fun, but most examples are from young mammals and birds.

“We are producing ever-increasing amounts of evidence supporting the need to do everything we can to protect insects that are millions of miles away from the mindless, insensitive creatures they are traditionally thought to be.”

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More information:
Hiruni Samadi Galpayage – Where do the bumblebees play?, animal behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013

Provided by Queen Mary, University of London

Quote: First ever study shows bumblebees ‘play’ (2022, October 27) Retrieved October 28, 2022 from

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