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Study finds bees can perform simple maths

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Sunday, 10 February 2019, 1:35p.m.
The study highlights the possibilities for artificial intelligence. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Bees may have brains the size of sesame seeds, but a new study has found that the insects are incredibly clever. 

Researchers at the RMIT University in Australia announced this week that they have trained bees to work out basic subtraction and addition equations. 

Michelle Dickinson says it took only a few hours for them to be trained.

She told Francesca Rudkin that the bees were trained using Y-shaped mazes and images of yellow and blue shapes. 

The bees were presented with an image of coloured squares, and then had to make a choice between two further ones, which either showed more or fewer squares. 

She says they were then tested 10 times each. 

"They found that the bees were correct around 72 per cent of the time." 

Dickinson says that they were rewarded with sugar water for getting the equation correct. 

She says it is a continuation of a study that bees understood the concept of zero. 

While it doesn't reveal that bees are solving equations while pollenating plants, Dickinson says that it does open up the world of technology.

"If you think of how few neurons a bee has, the fact they do relatively complex mathematical problems with rather few neurons, it does open up the world of artificial intelligence to how small you can make a computer." 

A different study previously found that bees could learn ball skills from watching each other. 

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