Bumblebees are fascinating creatures for many reasons. For starters, they are some of the largest bees you’ll come across, and their fuzzy bodies and bright colors make them look like they’re wearing furry jackets. But beyond their appearance, bumblebees are important pollinators, playing a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem’s balance.
Bumblebees have a unique way of pollinating flowers that involves a special technique called “buzz pollination.” They vibrate their wings at a specific frequency, which causes flowers to release pollen that they can then collect and transport to other flowers. This technique is particularly effective for plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, and cranberries, which require buzz pollination to produce fruit.
Bumblebees can learn from bees
A new study that SciTechDaily writes about reveals that bumblebees can learn from and adopt new behaviors by observing their fellow bees, and that this behavior can spread rapidly throughout a colony. Researchers designed a puzzle box experiment and found that observer bees overwhelmingly preferred to use the same method they saw the “demonstrator” bees use, even after discovering an alternative option. This preference was maintained by whole colonies of bees, demonstrating the importance of social learning in the spread of bumblebee behavior. The study suggests that bumblebees, like other species, are capable of culture and that complex social behaviors in social insects may have originated from social learning.
Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London, said, as SciTechDaily quotes:
The fact that bees can watch and learn, and then make a habit of that behavior, adds to the ever-growing body of evidence that they are far smarter creatures than a lot of people give them credit for.
We tend to overlook the “alien civilizations” formed by bees, ants, and wasps on our planet – because they are small-bodied and their societies and architectural constructions seem governed by instinct at first glance. Our research shows, however, that new innovations can spread like social media memes through insect colonies, indicating that they can respond to wholly new environmental challenges much faster than by evolutionary changes, which would take many generations to manifest.
Overall, bumblebees are fascinating creatures because of their unique physical characteristics, specialized pollination techniques, and important role in maintaining the ecosystem’s balance.
The new research was published in PLOS BIOLOGY.