Bee sensible – The curious case of Bumblebee


Bee sensible – Bumblebee

As simple as it may seem, only a select few species are capable of identifying objects across senses. It might come as a surprise that bumblebees do possess a high set of cognitive abilities. Humans do possess the ability to recognize objects through touch alone (provided they have already seen the object).  Humans possess cross-modal recognition, meaning the closely linked visual and tactile ability. Cross-modal recognition is manifested across vision and touch in humans, apes, monkeys, and rats; across vision and hearing in dolphins; and across vision and electric sense in fish.

Bumblebees also possess cross-modal recognition meaning they possess coherent mental images of an object. This allows bumblebees to better adapt to its environment. The small brains of bumblebees do have the ability to recognize objects across modalities. Geohoney came across a few tests and this article describes bumblebee’s ability for tactile to visual cross-modal recognition. The tests indicated that after being able to distinguish objects based solely on one sensory modality, bumblebees were able to distinguish the same object via different sensory modality.

The condition for the test was that the bumblebees could not touch the objects in lighted conditions and could not see the object in dark conditions. The results of the tests indicate that bumblebees integrate information from multiple senses into a complete perception. It means that bumblebees can experience an object using one sense and later recognize it using the other. Cross-modal recognition allows an organism to perceive a complete picture of the world with rich representations. Considering the miniature-sized brain that bumblebees have, Geohoney considers this unique ability of bees to do things that were considered only possible by vertebrates truly unique. It’ known that bees can recognize the shape of flowers but the tests reveal that there is something more going on in their minds than we can comprehend.

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