It’s not just Tigers and Bears, Bumblebees can play golf too

February 24, 2017

Some bees, including North America’s rusty patched bumblebees, are facing imminent extinction. But it appears surviving Bombus affinis can now spend their remaining years like many American retirees: playing golf.

Yes, you read that correctly. As part of a study published in Science Magazine, researchers came up with a golf-related experiment to test the cognitive complexity of bumblebees’ brains.

In the experiment, researchers cut a golf-ball sized hole in a wood platform and stuck a sugar solution in the hole. The bees needed to move a small ball into the hole to receive the sweet reward. Amazingly, after witnessing demonstrations, the bees had few issues completing the task, even on their first try. They also adapted easily when the ball’s color was changed. (Just like Bubba!)

Here’s a video of the experiment:

According to one of the study’s authors, Olli Loukola of Queen Mary University of London, the surprising results suggest that some insects like bees are capable of a high-level of cognitive abilities previously thought to be restricted to primates and a few other animals: “They don’t just blindly copy the demonstrator; they can improve on what they learned. This ability to copy others and improve upon what they observe, I think that’s really important.”

While this is good news, there is no word yet on how yips might effect bees’ cognitive function.