Bee Odd, Bee Even

You can count on … BEES?!?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Let’s split an order of HONEY barbecue wings. Wait. 5 wings, for 2 people…Someone – NOT ME… is getting shortchanged. But are we the only species that can tell odd from even? 

Enter Scarlett Howard and colleagues from Australia’s Deakin University… AND THEIR BEES!

They split the bees into two groups. Then they placed them in front of two screens. They had odd or even numbers of shapes on them. For one group the correct choice was odd, the other was even. If they flew to the correct screen they got rewarded with sugar water. 

When tested on large values, the bees were over seventy percent accurate. Not bad! Interestingly, they were quicker at learning to categorize odd numbers correctly than even numbers. That’s the opposite pattern seen in humans! 

The study shows that odds and evens might be more of a fundamental concept to life than we ever thought.

Forget spelling bees… more like math bees if you ask me.

Reference: Howard, S. R., Greentree, J., Avarguès-Weber, A., Garcia, J. E., Greentree, A. D., & Dyer, A. G. (2022). Numerosity Categorization by Parity in an Insect and Simple Neural Network. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10.