Bees Can Distinguish Odd And Even Numbers, A First Outside Humans

3 mins read

In recent years, research on non-human intelligence has spiked dramatically. We’re learning that we’re not so alone after all to think intelligently beyond our senses. In a recent study conducted at Deakin University by Dr. Scarlett Howard, it was found that bees can think mathematically as well.

Particularly, they showed the ability to differentiate between odd and even numbers. While this may not sound that impressive, being able to identify oddly and even numbers require complex cognitive abilities.

Dr. Scarlett started this research with her team after noticing a lack of scientific literature that studied mathematical abilities in non-animal species. So, she and her team designed research to examine whether or not small-brained creatures (Bees) could think in terms of odd and even numbers.

The study involved separating a sample of bees into two sets. One group was trained to associate the even numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 with sugary water. The other group was trained to associate the odd numbers 1, 3, 5, and 7 with quinine, a medication that repels bees.

Then, the bees were set to choose between feeders marked with 11 (odd) and 12 (even) figures, respectively. The bees taught to go for odd numbers preferred the 12-shape feeder, while the bees taught to go after odd numbers went for the 11-shape feeder.

The success rate was around 70% for this, which means that it was a statistically significant relationship, and the study proved conclusively that bees possess the ability to differentiate between what is odd and what is even.

What the study doesn’t show, though, is how exactly bees differentiate between the two types of numbers. Whether it is by visualizing pairs until one is found left out or whether they actually mathematically determine whether a number is odd or even by dividing it by 2 is unknown.

Whether we can ever conclusively determine how bees think is unknown. But an interesting finding from the study was that the bees that were taught to favor odd numbers learned faster than bees taught to favor even numbers- indicating a predisposition that is opposite to humans (who tend to classify even numbers faster than they do odd numbers).

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