Bumblebees play with balls just for fun, study finds


As It Happens6:10Bumblebees play with balls just for enjoyable, study finds

Bumblebees, it seems, are fairly playful — particularly once they’re younger.

A brand new study out of the U.Okay. discovered that should you give bumblebees tiny wood balls, they’re going to spend time shifting them round, seemingly just for enjoyable. And the youthful the bee, the extra time they spend enjoying. 

“We suppose it is rewarding,” bee researcher Samadi Galpayage advised As It Happens host Nil Köksal. “There’s extra to bees than just being pollinators. They have actually attention-grabbing behaviours, really, they usually’re fairly intelligent little creatures.”

Galpayage, a PhD scholar at Queen Mary University’s Bee Sensory and Behavioural Sciences Lab in London, is the primary writer of a brand new study into the phenomenon. The findings had been printed final month within the journal Animal Behaviour

Not about meals or intercourse

The researchers stumbled upon the behaviour whereas engaged on a distinct study, through which they educated bees to push balls in trade for sugary treats. 

But they observed the playful pollinators saved on pushing the balls round even once they weren’t getting rewarded. 

“We noticed this phenomenon and we questioned: What’s occurring right here? Why are the bees doing this? Are there particular bees which can be doing this? Do they do that repeatedly?” Galpayage stated.

“And so we designed these new collection of experiments to check whether or not this may very well be one thing like play.”

In the brand new study, 45 bumblebees got small wood balls. This time, there was no reward system. The bees additionally had unrestricted entry to an “all-you-can-eat” buffet of sucrose resolution and pollen, Galpayage stated.

Still — even with no incentives — they performed.

Here’s the way it seems to be: A bee, Galpayage stated, walks towards a ball and locations its two entrance legs on it. Then, it rotates the ball till it is holding it in all six legs, nearly as if hugging it.

Once the bee has an excellent grip on the ball, it scoots backwards on its butt and pulls the ball in the direction of itself, rotating it alongside the best way. 

“Of course, I’ve to be goal,” Galpayage stated. “But, after all … I am unable to assist however feeling amused by it.”

WATCH | Bumblebees at play:

The study focuses on balls, however the bees seem to take pleasure in all kinds of toys. Galpayage says she’s noticed the identical behaviour after giving them bottles and foam cubes.

“So it isn’t a lot concerning the object itself, but it surely appears to be the behaviour, the motion of this rotation, that appears to be interesting to the bees.”

This rotation, she stated, is just not one thing that bees would do when foraging meals or accumulating pollen, they usually weren’t getting treats for their tips, so there is not any indication that is food-motivated behaviour. 

Nor do they seem like making an attempt to mate with the objects, she stated. Female bees engaged within the play alongside males, although solely males and queens are concerned in mating.

What’s extra, male genitalia doesn’t make an look throughout this playful exercise as it will throughout replica.

The ‘wealthy sensory and cognitive life’ of bees

Still, meals should still play an oblique function in explaining the behaviour, says beekeeper Shelley Hoover, a organic sciences researcher at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge. 

“Bees, significantly bumblebees, forage on various and sophisticated flowers, and so want to have the ability to remedy these flower puzzles to entry the nectar rewards the flowers provide,” she stated in an electronic mail. “Learning is an important a part of being an excellent forager, and play is usually related with studying.”

She says the study highlights yet one more instance of the advanced inside workings of bumblebees.

“There are quite a lot of vital implications of the study, however to me crucial is that we’re beginning to acknowledge the wealthy sensory and cognitive life that bees lead,” she stated.

“Just like us, they use intelligence and studying to resolve issues of their on a regular basis life; they’ve preferences and personalities; and sure, they play.”

A bee grabs ahold to a ball with all six legs, nearly like a hug. (Richard Rickitt)

Sheila R. Colla, a bumblebee ecologist at York University in Toronto, agrees.

“I believe a essential takeaway from this study is that there’s nonetheless a lot to be taught concerning the insect world. Insects are extra clever than we give them credit score for,” she stated. “As a conservation scientist, I hope we hold pollinators round to have the ability to be taught extra from them.”

Galpayage says bees have already got a optimistic repute amongst people for their work as pollinators — however there’s a lot extra about them to understand.

“I hope that with this form of analysis — the place we get on the questions of whether or not bees expertise one thing like pleasure or one thing like ache — that possibly we begin to really feel extra empathy in the direction of bees and different bugs,” she stated.

“A bit like we do with our pets or like bigger animals that we shield.”


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