THE BEES KNOW WHO THEY'RE GOING TO BITE!

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They recognize faces like humans, research has shown.

THE NEW YORK TIMES, By Sindya N. Bhanoo

PUBLISHED:Fourth 3 FEBRUARY 2010

The bee brain has a million neurons, the human brain has 100 billion neurons. However, as a team of scientists has found, bees can identify faces.

As scientists point out in the issue of "The journal of Experimental Biology" released on February 15, both bees and humans use a specific technique called configuration processing: they combine, as if they were pieces of a puzzle, the components of a face (eyes, ears, nose and mouth) to form a recognizable pattern.

"It's the same ability," points out Martin Ziufra, professor of Neurological Biology at the University of Toulouse and one of the authors of the research, "which helps people realize that a Chinese pagoda and a Swiss chalet are both residences. We have two vertical lines, with some kind of roof on top... It's a house."

Dr.. Ziufra and his colleagues did the following experiment. They drew some images, some of them faces, some not, and placed them all nearby. In front of the faces they placed a bowl of water in which sugar had dissolved. In front of the other images they placed a bowl of plain water. So they found that, after being thrown a few times in the bowls with the plain water, the bees kept returning to the bowls with water and sugar, in front of their faces. Both sketches and bowls were thoroughly cleaned after each visit to ensure that bees used visual signs to find sugar and left no signs of smell.

But the researchers' surprise came even greater when they put faces on all the images and found that bees could distinguish the faces that "supplied" them with sugary water from the faces that supplied them with plain water: after several hours of training, points out Adrian Dreyer, from Monash University in Australia, another author of the research, the bees selected the right faces in 75% of the cases. , i.e. three out of four times. Which proves that they don't just recognize faces, they remember faces.

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