“We're the only ones who make honey, pollinate flowers, and dress like this!” This famous line of Barry B. Benson from the Bee Movie helped us change everything we think about bees. The story’s morale proves that even the smallest and seemingly insignificant creature can make one heck of a difference this world. However, there’s another breakthrough discovery that scientists have discovered about bees. Far from its 2007 movie adaptation when those bees navigated like crazy, these social insects that live in hives actually navigate through a hit and miss kind of maneuvering. Bees can fly at about 15mph, roughly 24kph but they actually go from one flower to another, revisiting it many times, before moving on to the next.
The outcome of the study shows that the routes of the bees were initially longer and more tedious, travelling from one empty flower to another, even revisiting these flowers a couple of times, yet they learned to refine their travel and modify their routes after gaining the exposure and experience. In effect, these bees were able to reduce their flight distance compared to how they first began.
According to the same article, “The learning appeared to be primarily through trial and error. “Each time a bee tried a new route it increased its probability of re-using the new route if it was shorter than the shortest route it had tried before. Otherwise, the new route was abandoned and another route was tested.”
Whether it’s a matter of heuristics or not, it just proves one point: Bee navigation is still complex because they are able to gain experience from flight, thereby decreasing their senseless time buzzing through the air. These findings may lead to a new cognitive laurel for these small social insects, something that we thought only larger-brained mammals are capable of.