From drug sniffing wasps to football playing bumblebees
February 27, 2017 10:13 AM   Subscribe

The fact that bees and wasps can be trained to sniff out items is not news, and has thoroughly been researched. But the ability of bumblebees to learn from (and even improve upon) the example of others to perform more complex tasks for rewards is a more recent discovery. And because the research is from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), the promotional demonstration video is all about the potential for bees to play soccer (YT video with captions and instrumental music). Abstract available from Science magazine, full article is paywalled.
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Is this the new thread?
posted by thelonius at 10:14 AM on February 27, 2017 [13 favorites]

Soon, they can start the Flying Insect Football Association and see how bees handle scandals.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2017

This explains some of the dives in the box. Turns out the attackers are not diving, they're just being stinged by an illegal 12th player on the field!

(now I want a couple of wasps with tiny blue and white stripped shirts buzzing around the midfield opening lanes by pestering the opponents. If it worked for Sean Avery in hockey...)
posted by lmfsilva at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2017

I love science, but why?
posted by tommasz at 11:36 AM on February 27, 2017

Someday, Quidditch.
posted by gurple at 11:46 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

NPR used the term "bee puppet" which was great. This seems to have "it puts the polonium in the teacup" potential.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:25 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bees! I just LOVE bees! Really I do!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:34 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love bees. They are endlessly fascinating and sitting in my bee suit, I can sit by my hive and watch them. They clean house, transfer food to each other, bonk themselves on the head (watch for the slo-mo!) and all kinds of other fun things, if you're quiet and watching. I really do love them.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wait. Are you saying I can collect and train my own bee army? All kidding aside, bees are amazing.
posted by pipoquinha at 12:58 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ogre Lawless: NPR used the term "bee puppet" which was great.

To further highlight the difference between UK and US coverage of this study, the NPR piece was titled Could A Bumblebee Learn To Play Fetch? Probably
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on February 27, 2017

and all kinds of other fun things, if you're quiet and watching.

Bumblebees (B. Terrestris anyway) actually rumblestrut (with big wide stompy steps) around the nest doing the whole wings-ungeared Fierce Buzz when they think it's threatened.

I learned this when I shared a bedroom (warmest room in the house) with several boxes of them from my partner's* research** one winter, and baebeesitting them when she went off gallivanting round Wales visiting relatives. Including at one point individually hand feeding them a couple of times a day with honey solution on a cotton bud to get them back to health when their automated sugar feeder either fermented or otherwise went a bit toxic and left them all barely able to move.

(Tip: if you are paying attention you will quite often find knackered semi-dead looking bumblebees (I got some seriously weird looks from a truck driver rescuing a carder queen that had conked out in the middle of the road in an industrial estate last year), and as such should always carry a small stoppered syringe with sugar or honey (lasts longer due to antiseptic properties) to feed them - they recover really well).

Also about the whole setting bees on people thing: A bees stinger is a repurposed ovipositor, which in the case of Apis mellifera (les honeys) are barbed, meaning that if they sting something thick skinned (which includes thin-skinned politicians) then when they pull away, not only is the stinger ripped off, but their insides are ripped out. They die within minutes, presumably not pleasantly.

Also, why on earth would you give bees to horrible people? Being given bees is a lovely. Who on earth wouldn't want more bees?

Might I suggest Bullet ants instead? (I do like ants, but they just aren't as cuddly).

* Here seen being ginger in a cloud of bees

** You can read the paper here: Floral Sonication is an Innate Behaviour in Bumblebees that can be Fine-Tuned with Experience in Manipulating Flowers. The Stirling Uni bee peeps were on The One Show last monday ~24 mins in. I lost so much blood trimming flowers off those "relative of the tomato plants" (IIRC they are some form of (prickly) Mexican solanums).
posted by Buntix at 5:48 PM on February 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

They're all Borussia Dortmund supporters, apparently.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2017

Bienenverein Borussia 09
posted by Kinbote at 5:06 AM on February 28, 2017

obligatory welcoming of our new bee overlords.

also - thanks Sophie1 for that video! I never would have guessed bees could be so... clumsy?
posted by martin q blank at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2017

Bees are not graceful at all. They're like the vaudevillians of the insect world.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:21 AM on February 28, 2017

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