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PLOS Science Wednesday: Hi Reddit, my name is Lars and I published a PLOS Biology study showing bumblebees can solve a string-pulling puzzle, and share the innovation with their other bees in their colony – Ask Me Anything!
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Hi Reddit, My name is Lars Chittka and I am a professor of sensory and behavioural ecology at Queen Mary University of London. My research focuses on the learning processes, the sensory organs and the social behaviour of bees, and their interactions with flowers. I recently published a study titled “Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect” in PLOS Biology. In this study, we discovered that bumblebees can solve a string-pulling puzzle, where they had to pull on a thread to retrieve a reward from an artificial flowers that was presented under a glass table, so that bees could see it but not reach without pulling the thread. Moreover, we found that inexperienced bees could learn the technique from experienced ones, so that the skill spread rapidly to a majority of colony members, in a manner similar to the cultural spread of new innovations found in humans. I will be answering your questions at 1pm ET – Ask Me Anything! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @LChittka!