Bees count from left to right

(ORDO NEWS) — Experiments have shown that the nervous system of bees can be characterized by the same “mental line of numbers” that exists in our brain. Like us, insects place smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right.

Counting in humans is closely related to the “mental line of numbers” – their arrangement on a line from smallest to largest, going, as a rule, from left to right. So, if you ask a person to arrange grapes of different sizes, in most cases he will lay out a row that increases in that direction.

Bees are also capable of counting, moreover, they understand the concept of zero as less than any other numbers. Therefore, the famous Argentine-French ethologist Martin Giurfa decided to check whether bees also have a mental line of numbers.

The scientist was conducting experiments at home while staying in isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. 134 honey bees participated in its work, and a wine box acted as an experimental chamber. First, the insects were trained to associate a certain number with a reward.

To do this, Jurfa placed cards in a box, on which several – from one to five – simple geometric shapes were depicted. The shape and size of the figures could change, but the number remained constant, and a delicious sweet syrup was waiting in the center of the bee card.

Bees count from left to right 2
General scheme of experiments

Having fixed the association of the number with the reward, the scientist moved on to the next stage. This time there were already two cards waiting for the bees, to the left and to the right of the entrance to the box.

They contained the same number of figures, and the experimenter recorded which of them the insect would fly to first. If the number was the same one that the insect was trained to, then it did not show any preferences and flew to the left or right card with approximately equal frequency.

But if the card corresponded to a smaller number, the bees rather rushed to the left, and if it corresponded to a larger one, to the right. For example, bees that are accustomed to associating a 1 with a delicious syrup chose the 3 on the right 72 percent of the time.

And the test subjects, trained on the “five”, flew to the “three” card, located on the left in their movement. “Thus, the mental line of numbers is their biological representation, common for nervous systems of a very distant evolutionary origin,” the scientists summarized in the article.

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